TANZY Artisanal Italian: A Star is Born

Tanzy Boca Raton

By Kenny Spahn

“Dinner and a Movie” has entered a whole new dimension in Boca Raton, thanks to Tanzy restaurant and iPic Theaters. In case you’ve been living in a cave or something the past few years, iPic Theaters (located in Mizner Park) provides the ultimate movie-going experience, with reserved seating and First Class service including blankets, pillows, and a full food and drink menu, delivered right to you, in an ultra-cushy, fully-reclining seat. Tanzy certainly holds its own as a spectacular restaurant, with or without a movie. And, being strategically set at the entrance level of the theatres, Tanzy is also the ideal locale for pre-movie and/or post-movie dining, drinks, and socializing.

The Set. Enter Stage Tanzy, and you’re suddenly transported to a mystical, arboreal recluse, resplendent with earthy tones, comfy banquettes, natural woods and petrified trees, and subdued lighting. The convivial front bar provides a perfect launching point for your Red Carpet entrance, and/or catching the after-party action. Turn stage right to the main dining room for a more intimate setting; or to the covered outdoor veranda for a verdant al fresco setting amidst Tanzy’s own organic herb garden. Either way, you gotta check out the front “Cocoon Lounge,” a ‘secret hideaway’ entangled within trees, branches, and wood. It may seem more reminiscent of Sherwood Forest or Middle Earth than a restaurant — and you might even expect Robin Hood or Frodo appear (especially after visiting the bar!).

The Performance. No matter where you sit, you’re in for a great performance. GM Frank Donnelly and Manager Lee Hoechstetter direct the action with seamless editing — their well-rehearsed cast of servers performing on cue every scene (while remaining ever-cognizant of starting movie times when applicable). But the real Special Effects take place behind the scenes, where Executive Chef Brian Nelson and his backstage crew consistently deliver all-star performances. Tanzy’s focus on “Artisanal Italian” sets it apart from your typical Italian joint. Don’t expect the same-old-same-old ubiquitous “Italian” menu here — instead, you’ll find authentic regional specialties enhanced with creative contemporary inspiration, delivering some very compelling plot twists…

Previews. The show begins with a complimentary amuse-bouche. On our night, a taste of Copa (Italian salami) with oven-roasted tomatoes and artichoke hearts on bruschetta — a perfect precursor, ideally suited to “tease the taste buds” as intended. Tanzy’s focus on “Artisanal Italian” is witnessed by its signature Parma Board menu, featuring charcuterie-type Italian meats and cheeses, with six fresh Mozzarella offerings, including the sacred Burratta (hand-crafted fresh mozzarella with a creamy center) straight from Puglia, served with poached pears, apricots, and Italian figs.

Opening Act.  Cast Iron Mussels, still-sizzling in a succulent white wine-garlic sauce, is an A-list Appetizer; as is the Sicilian Stack, a well-orchestrated ensemble of fresh eggplant, tomatoes, authentic bufala mozzarella, arugula, and basil pesto. Other notable starters ($8-$14) include Pan-Seared (NOT breaded & fried) Calamari, fresh Salads, and a unique Crispy Brussels Sprouts, kicking the otherwise-uninspired cruciferous up a few culinary notches with a toasted cumin tempura crisp and garlic aioli drizzle. But the most memorable first act was a limited-engagement special, Grilled Octopus Salad. Tender morsels of the grilled fresh cephalopod bear the distinctive charred ‘crust’ and earthy characteristics of the grill, arriving (still warm!), artistically presented atop fresh salad greens, all surrounded by a swirl of smoked paprika vinaigrette. Bravo!

Braised Boneless Beef Short RibMain Attraction. Large, perfectly seared fresh Atlantic Scallops garner standing ovations, with creamy parsnip puree, sautéed wild mushrooms, and exotic truffle oil playing supporting roles. Boneless Braised Short Ribs also gets ‘Two Thumbs Up,’ basking in a captivating red wine demi-glace, accompanied by garlicky spinach and pillowy soft housemade gnocchi. Other Critics’ Choice nominations ($18-$37) include Chilean Sea Bass Livornese, Pan-Seared Branzino (with a toasted sunflower seed & Pecorino Israeli cous cous presented in a Roma tomato), slow-roasted Veal Ossu Bucco, and of course, Pasta dishes. I’d wait in a ‘Standing Room Only’ line for the Mediterranean Chicken Penne, starring grilled chicken breast and penne pasta, along with a star-studded supporting cast of fresh asparagus, artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes, Kalamata olives, toasted pignoli (pine nuts), garlic spinach, and crumbled Feta.

The night’s most outstanding performance however was an inspired guest appearance, Chef Brian’s special Lobster Francaise. The generous (8-oz.) butterflied beauty came delicately flash-fried to enhance its South African succulence, highlighted with a lemon-butter-white wine reduction, accompanied by sautéed spinach and vegetable orzo. Braised Short Rib Ravioli (another nightly special) are perfectly al dente homemade pasta pockets encasing the aforementioned braised short ribs, luxuriating in a rich red wine a jus reduction. This simple-yet-complex creation brilliantly combines two familiar favorites into one plate-licking, totally satisfying, ultimate “comfort food.” (Chef Brian, these are both Academy Award winners — sign them on to the regular cast!). For a memorable matinee, the Lunch menu offers some lighter entrees, along with a variety of healthy salads (try the Quinoa and Almond-Crusted Goat Cheese Salad) and sandwiches, with most items around $8-$15.

Intermission. From the well-scripted wine list (125 labels, most $50-$65), we savored a special Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso 2011 from the Veneto region. The Ripasso is an artful amalgamation of double-fermented Valpolicella grapes, infused with semi-dried pressed skins (“ripasso,” or meaning “repassed”) of the Amarone, hence the moniker, Baby Amarone. This ruby-red beauty presents rich up-front notes of dark cherry and plum. Its complex structure gently unwinds to reveal hints of raisin, vanilla, and spice, with soft tannins leading to a smooth, drinkable finish.  The wine is very food-friendly and pairs well with just about any dish, but I think this bottle of Bertani was produced just for our Braised Short Ribs!

Meanwhile, the lively bar shakes up some killer specialty cocktails. For an unforgettable 3-D effect, try one of the signature Liquid Nitrogen specialties, made right at your table. The Raz Berri features fresh muddled raspberries, Grey Goose Black Cherry vodka, and Chambord (raspberry liquor). Your tableside mixologist/alchemist then performs some molecular gastronomy, adding the potent Liquid Nitrogen to instantly freeze the entire concoction (don’t try this at home, kids!). The result is a perfectly frozen (and delicious) sensation appearing like a frozen margarita — but there’s no ice involved (and therefore no dilution), because the liquid nitrogen actually freezes all the ingredients, even the alcohol! Prompted by a finishing flourish of Champagne and fresh raspberries, the frozen ‘snow cone’ slowly melts (actually, it reverts back to its natural liquid stage), so you will probably switch from “eating” the drink with a spoon, to sipping it through a straw. (“Movie?— What movie?!”)

The Finale. An insanely tasty Rosemary & Olive Oil Gelato is worth the visit alone. And with other housemade finales like Red Velvet Bread Pudding and Luxardo Cherry Brownie Sunday, you’ll forget about all about those Raisinettes and Twizzlers.

Tanzy delivers an all-star performance — one you’ll see again and again! {stb}

Located in Mizner Park (301 Plaza Real) in Boca Raton. Serving dinner nightly and lunch on weekdays, plus a great weekend brunch. 561-922-6699. tanzyrestaurant.com