296 Royal Palms Dr.,
Atlantic Beach; 372-0052,
Atlantic Beach newcomer offers something for just about anyone.
Walking into Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas on a Friday night was like walking into a friend’s party. It was a loud, bustling brew of beach folk, drinking, laughing, eating and shopping. And the whole room smelled terrific.
The dining area is made up of one long communal table, meant to be enjoyed by anyone who can find an available seat. Large round tables made from giant wine barrels with warm wood tops are off to each side, while high-top round tables with barstools surround the outer perimeter of the dining space. Most of the walls hold an enormous selection of wines, and a huge enclosed refrigerated case housing hundreds of beers illuminates another side of the room. There are also seats at the bar, but those don’t open up frequently, while the five or six outdoor patio tables are almost always packed. This place is definitely a Beaches hangout. Still, to a townie such as myself, I felt welcome and all of the servers were informative and accommodating.
Royal Palms offers an extensive menu, ranging from typical meats and cheeses, to items like tomatoes and mozzarella salad, Mediterranean-stuffed quail with vegetable cous cous and phyllo wrapped salmon. The prices are approachable, ranging from $3-$12. My dining companion and I decided to try something from every section of the menu, knowing the plates would be small enough to share, but also to give us a wide variety of the chef’s offerings.
We began our meal with a Lagunitas IPA draft beer and a hard-to-find bottle of Rogue Mocha Porter. By the time our server returned, we had decided on polenta cakes with oven-dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, along with a whole-leaf Caesar salad with a parmesan tuile and smoked flounder. The polenta cakes were our favorite because they were warm and savory, with a little sweetness from the tomatoes to round out the plate. The salad was good, too, but the flounder didn’t have enough smokey flavor to really shine.
Just as we were finishing, our second courses arrived. My companion chose the gorgonzola and smoked sea salt-crusted beef tenderloin with roasted red pepper coulis, while I settled on the sea scallops in an oven-dried tomato gratin. The presentation of both dishes was nice. The tenderloin was a generous, well-cooked portion, and the scallops came in a bowl that looked like it was just pulled from the oven with bubbling cheese, surrounded by toasted baguette slices which were perfect for dipping into the hot, creamy sauce. The scallops were a bit overcooked, but still delicious.
For dessert, we went with the two specials of the night—the ginger white chocolate bread pudding, and chocolate mousse topped with seasonal strawberries. With a glass of muscato that our server suggested, they were a perfect end to an enjoyable evening.