|Planet X CafIt's Heavenly!
Planet X (35 Wilmington Ave.) has been one of my all time favorite restaurants at the beach, and Lori Kline has been one of my all time favorite people on planet Earth, so what better combination for a perfect dinner? As we strolled down Wilmington Avenue Planet X was a standout with its new bright blue paint job.
Entering through that wonderful big porch dining area we noticed immediately that the place has undergone a face-lift. The walls are bright orange with hand-sponged blood red accents. It's an unusual combination of colors that works amazingly well. Slate, our attentive and knowledgeable host, told us that the work had been lovingly done by himself, owner Justine Carpenter and chef Billy Joiner. I want to go on record to say that anything Justine Carpenter turns her hands and active imagination to will just have to knock your socks off. First we had the amazing Planet X Caf, followed last year by the breathtaking Venus on the Half Shell in Dewey. Will there ever be a thirdbringing syzygy to the beach?
I toyed with the idea of having one of their killer exotic Martinis but decided to stay with an iced tea. Lori, still in the mood to celebrate her birthday which was the day before, thought a glass of wine would be great and ordered a glass of Bonterra Chardonnay. Slate told us it was one of several organic wines on the list. Since I had no idea what made a wine "organic," I asked. The first obvious thing is it's made from certified organic grapes and is bottled without any preservatives. Sulfur dioxide occurs naturally in winea good thing. Organic grape growers fertilize by adding organic compost, but are basically fed by nutrients in the ground in animal-free vineyards. To control insects, biodegradable sprays may be used or biological controls, like ladybugs which eat vine aphids. Whew, a lot of work for a great tasting wine.
That said, we settled in to check out the menu. Specials of the day were Roasted Red Pepper/Butternut Squash Soup and a tempting Braised South Indian Duck Breast over Saffron Rice with Coconut Ginger Sauce and Roasted Vegetables. What proved to be irresistible starters was Planet X's classic Stacked Eggplant sandwiched with Herbed Boursin Cheese, Putanesca Sauce with Shaved Parmesan Reggiano for me, and Duck Confit, with Wild Mushroom Risotto (three days in the making), Grilled Purple Kale and kissed with a Balsamic Reduction. Lori and I decided in advance that we'd split each dish down the middle so we both could savor each bite of everything. To quote her, "The eggplant is awesome, but the lamb is perfection. The kale has the right slightly bitter taste, the duck is moist and the risotto just fing fantastic!"
On to entrees. Planet X's menu always pays special attention to vegetarians and seafood lovers. It's always difficult for me to resist the Red Thai Coconut Curry with Lobster and Giant Prawns, sided with seasonal vegetables and Basmati Rice, topped off with Crispy Wanton (these may be wonton, but wanton says it all for the whole dish) Sticks. This is such a wonderful, rich dish with a complexity of flavors that should please most everyone. And, there's certainly no skimping on the huge shrimp and lobster chunks. Lori ordered the Crab Imperial Stuffed Halibut with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Sugar Snap Peas sauced with Buerre Blanc. The halibut was done to perfection and the crab imperial was truly imperial for the taste buds. Both arrived as plated works of art, topped off with a fresh pansy.
While we were just finishing up, chef Billy Joiner came to our table and told us that he's doing a little experimenting this year, he hopes to add some Ethiopian and Indian dishes in his repertoire. That afternoon he had been working on some Naan, that wonderful Indian flat bread, and he asked us if we'd like to try it. He brought out a couple of warm pieces seasoned with poppy seed and turmeric, with a mango chutney and sauce of coconut almond crme for dipping. It was wonderful and could be a preview of a new direction for part of the menu. Stay tuned.
Billy also told us that he had just taken fresh strawberry tarts out of the oven and recommended we try that along with a slice of the Key Lime Pie. No way were we going to turn that down. The strawberry tart was made with a buttery crust and filled to the brim with a pureed strawberry filling and topped with a blueberry sauce. The Key Lime pie was the perfect combination of silkiness and tartness that all Key Lime pies should be but seldom are. A great ending to a fabulous meal.
Give yourself the treat you deserve this summergo to Planet X Caf for one of the best meals you'll enjoy all year.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 4 May 20, 2005