- By Liz Balmaseda Palm Beach Post Food Editor
UPDATE: Due to a construction issue, the opening of Avocado Grill in the Gardens has been delayed by one day. It will open Friday at 5 p.m., according to a restaurant representative.
Julien Gremaud, the French chef whose fresh, buzzy bistro redefined downtown West Palm Beach dining three years ago, is ready for his new frontier – Palm Beach Gardens.
Gremaud’s second Avocado Grill opens in the Downtown at the Gardens plaza for dinner Thursday.
Sure, there are workmen still constructing what will be a large, fetching outdoor bar area in the former RA Sushi space at the Downtown at the Gardens plaza. But the chef/restaurateur is thinking big picture: a buzzing restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, “a big open kitchen and a vibrant bar scene close to the dining room.”
It’s a vision that has taken a while to come into focus – Avocado Grill at the Gardens has been in the making for a year and a half, Gremaud notes.
“The build-out was very long and complicated. Acquiring the space was very complicated,” he says.
But Gremaud says the work has been worth it for a location that offers everything on his wish list, particularly that outdoor bar area, which is expected to be ready for customers in about three weeks.
Also weeks away: lunch and weekend brunch service. For now, Avocado Grill – or “AG2,” as Gremaud has dubbed it, will be open only for late afternoon cocktails and dinner. (Reservations are recommended.)
“I wanted to bring in the same traits that have made us successful in West Palm Beach,” says the chef, who has hosted two “friends and family” dinners at the new restaurant. “Of course, there is no science to it. You don’t always know why your restaurant is successful, but you can try.”
It will be no easy task in a space that’s twice the size of his downtown West Palm restaurant, he says, but he is equipped with more staff and a solid chef. Gremaud has hired Brad Phillips, a chef who worked his way up the ranks of the nationally acclaimed chef Dean James Max’s restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, Grand Cayman and Dallas, where most recently he was executive chef of Max’s Asador restaurant.
The larger, 4200-square-foot space, appointed in blonde woods, cream-colored booths and seating and dramatic yet rustic lighting, offers room for a dedicated raw bar.
The menu is slightly larger as well – Gremaud has added dishes such as Blow Torch Salmon ($14), a lightly seared dish he serves with cucumber, jicama, mango and charred onion sauce. On the “large plates” menu, he’s added a miso-glazed Chilean sea bass ($42), served with caramelized soy Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, beech mushrooms and crispy lotus root. And there’s a barbecued brisket sandwich ($16.50) that’s served on marble rye with plantain and cabbage slaw, avocado-jalapeño dressing and sharp cheddar, plus fries.
The rest of the menu travels the fresh, healthfully decadent paths of Gremaud’s signature cooking. That means plenty of marinated raw fish takes, veggie comfort dishes (hello, mushroom fricassee over cheddar grits and curried cauliflower with coconut milk and chickpeas, both $13.50), salads, sliders, fancy tacos and heartier plates. And, yes, all manners of the restaurant’s namesake ingredient, avocado.