Seduction is instant at Hullabaloo, restaurateur Rodney Mayo’s hip new spot on Clematis Street’s eclectic 500 block.
If the well-curated beer and wine lists don’t entice you, the starter items on the menu will.
Consider the Oven Roasted Double-Yolk Farm Fresh Egg ($8), which arrives in a crock of melted Gruyère that’s layered atop an heirloom tomato slice and punctuated by crisp bacon strips. Spoon that goodness on toast wedges and pair it with a Duvel (Belgian golden ale), and there you are: plunged into gastro pub mode.
Seduction here can also mean an orb of creamy homemade burrata cheese ($12) that’s sinfully rich. Or an order of succulent, fried green tomatoes served with smoked pork belly that’s cured in-house ($14) – a combo that’s both brightly acidic and smoky rich. Or it can mean a dish of flame-roasted marrow bones with Florida orange marmalade on the side ($14), if you’re lucky enough to put in an order before they run out.
As one bold dish after another steams out of the kitchen, they carry a sense of familiar comfort that mirrors the shabby-fresh setting.
Clematis dining district regulars may recognize this soulful cooking: Hullabaloo’s chef is Fritz Cassel, formerly of the popular, now-closed Gratify pub. (And, yes, his famous fire-roasted, bacon-accented Brussels sprouts, $8, are on the menu.)
If Cassel’s new hit parade of dishes is any indication, a good chef is now even better.
This is evident in the elegant seared sea scallops ($24) we sampled on a recent visit. It’s a gorgeous dish in its balance and restraint, a lineup of three plump scallops served atop a creamy corn and tomato risotto, with a basil pesto.
Chef also does a mean duck confit ravioli ($22) in a light duck jus, topped with microgreens and spritzed with a lemon vinaigrette. The fire-roasted rock chicken ($18) is somewhat compact yet smoky and flavorful, although a touch dry in the white-meat parts. It is served with a couple of fluffy zucchini pancakes that are delicious enough to eat on their own.
All this on a menu that also offers pizza, sandwiches, pastas and heavier meat dishes.
One must-have that’s not on the menu: the hot banana bread pudding ($5), a dreamy dessert hinting of caramelized bananas. It’s huge and perfectly shareable between two or four diners. And certainly it’s worth waiting for, which is a good thing – because, chances are, you will have to wait.
If there’s a downside to dining at this two-month-old hotspot, it’s the wait. On my first visit, we waited quite a while for one of our dishes, though it didn’t go unnoticed by one of the managers, who later brought us a dessert to make up for the wait.
But there are far worse places where you could be waiting. At Hullabaloo, with its speakeasy feel, its indoor and outdoor dining options, its spare walls hung with moody black-and-white photographs (rock on, Sid Vicious), the wait seems almost effortless.
In this spot (in a space formerly inhabited by The Lounge), there’s always good craft beer and 4-buck bar nosh orders of toasted almonds, marinated olives or pickles to nurse in this setting that very quickly feels like home.
ADDRESS: 517 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach
WEBSITE: sub-culture.org; on Facebook, search “Hullabaloo”
PRICE RANGE: Moderate
HOURS: Open daily from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.
CREDIT CARDS: All major credit cards
RESERVATIONS: Accepted for parties of six or larger; walk-ins welcome
HAPPY HOUR: From 4 to 7 p.m. daily, half-off anything from the bar
SUNDAY BRUNCH: Served from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes, including restrooms
WHAT THE GRADES MEAN:
A — Excellent
B — Good
C — Average
D — Poor
F — Don’t bother