After a $100 million renovation, there was no way the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach would set up a middling culinary cafe for its well-heeled patrons. Rather, its new light-filled eatery, designed by Foster + Partners, is a refuge for digesting art and artful dishes.
Ahi tuna tartare features avocado, rice pearls and tempura shiso.
With indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the Pamela and Robert B. Goergen Garden, it can handle up to 165 guests. On Friday nights, locals flock to the cafe and the museum for the popular Art After Dark series. “We want to be a community destination,” says executive chef David Schiraldo. “The Restaurant at the Norton is a modern eatery with global influences, fine wine, inventive cocktails, locally grown produce, fresh seafood and eye-catching desserts.”
External evening view of The Restaurant at the Norton.
Schiraldo, 34, a New Jersey native, sharpened his skills at Morimoto (New York City), Cafe Chloe (San Diego) and Souzai Sushi & Sake (Atlantic City, N.J.) before joining Constellation Culinary Group. Along with Constellation’s regional executive chef, Aaron Janus, Schiraldo tailored the menu with input from the museum and its board members. “It was a collaborative process that resulted in food that is clean and approachable,” he says.
And it’s visually spectacular: Careful consideration has been given to color and form, down to the black or white dishes used. Appetizers include a single charred and curvilinear octopus tentacle resting on a splatter of white bean puree and saffron aioli dollops. Salad standouts include Walt’s Tomato & Quinoa with whipped burrata. The juicy heirloom tomatoes are sourced from board member Walter Ross’ Farmhouse Tomatoes in Lake Worth. Another starter is the refreshing herbed edamame puree with roasted caulilini in myriad colors and served with pumpernickel toast points.
Grilled mahi tacos, with lime napa cabbage slaw and chipotle aioli in a flour tortilla.
Popular entrees include a loaded burger with a bistro tin of crisp fries; a pasta primavera in a Parmesan broth with squash, microzucchini and peas; and a six-ounce chicken paillard with shaved vegetable salad. But perhaps our favorite is the grilled miso-coated salmon suspended atop toasted quinoa, cashews and edamame. It’s decorated with ribbons of dark-emerald seaweed that resemble papel picado.
Desserts are not an afterthought. The brownie sundae with housemade marshmallows and hot fudge is classic fun. The pièce de résistance, though, is a passion fruit “floating island.” It harks back to the heyday of beehived housewives pouring over Julia Child concoctions. “We wanted to take an old-school dessert and make it modern,” Schiraldo says. It’s a light-as-air canary yellow passion fruit- and mango-infused meringue adrift in a sea of white chocolate and passion fruit sauce, sprinkled with crunchy almond streusel. Edible flowers and fresh berries in hot pink and violet pop against the dish’s ebony plate. It’s the kind of art that Warhol would have been all over. 1450 S. Dixie Highway, 561.268.0500