|by Blair Fraipont|
|What's Cookin' at Cloud 9?
My heart has always held a special place for Cloud 9. Frequenting the bar often produces a Cheers like quality to those familiar with it. I've always felt at home when I step through its doors. However, something perverse struck me recently: I had never dined at Cloud 9. My mind was devoid of any reasons as to why I had not ventured into their dining experience. Though after tonight, I realized that I would have to make it a personal goal to repeat this glorious experience.
Our server, Greg, seated us at a window seat which permitted the view of the entire front dining area and sidewalk. Hopefully, the denizens and visitors of Rehoboth would be taunted by what we were about to engulf. My guest was Javier who was visiting America for the summer from Granada, Spain. Greg was not only eager to showcase his talents but share his suggestions for dining as he brought over freshly baked olive bread to our table. As Javi and I dusted parmesan cheese and dotted olive oil on our warm and sensuous bread we decided on the tuna tartare and the watermelon salad for appetizers.
For the steaming late summer weather of August, nothing seemed more fitting an appetizer than Bob Russell's organic greens, chilly watermelon, hearts of palm, cucumbers and fresh basil. This was more than an adequate stop over for the quenched thirst: This was a revitalization of the taste buds and soulevery bite of the basil coated watermelon was a renewal for the mouth. The dish was reasonably coated with a watermelon and mint vinegarette. Not only was the salad sensational, but it was a great way to clean and clear the palate to prepare one for dinner.
The tuna tartare had a similar effect on my guest and me. It was coasted with sesame-garlic sauce giving the tuna a more profound teriyaki flavor. Cucumbers and mirco-arugala were added to give a balance to the poignant flavor of the tempting tartare. The four corners of the dish were minimally decorated with radiant portions of green caviar. This when combined with the cilantro oil drizzle and aforementioned ingredients became one tantalizing mouthful! Both of these dishes are strongly suggested.
Making a decision on dinner was a struggle to overcome. Not only were there several specials that evening but a whole menu with various seafood, meat and pasta to investigate. The menu options ranged from the familiar to the contemporary to innovative. The Wild Mushroom Ravioli with tomato, spinach and light garlic-ginger sauce was what Javier chose. This night, he could not have found a more perfect dish to suit his tastes. The succulent ravioli enclosed a variety of diced mushrooms from shiitake to portobella. Their flavor just radiated off of the plate. The subtle flavor of the ginger-garlic sauce was balanced well by its consistency; neither flavor nor the consistency were overbearing to the power of these fantastic fungi.
After a thorough check, I could not have denied the suggestive power of the coconut dusted salmon, with green-curry-rice noodles and Julienne vegetables. The salmon was sweet and tender. The coconut was not chewy and rough, but fresh and gently spread over the salmon, only adding the slightest but invariably valuable flavor to this innovative dish. One must admire the chef for his usage of the green-curry rice noodles. They were a delight to devour. The noodles seemed to exude a flavor that with the salmon created a dish to desire again and again.
Desert was also a challenge! From the dark chocolate tort to the Banana Foster Crme Brulee one would want to sample a little of each. Javier was not familiar with American deserts, so the Fudge Chocolate Chip Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream with Caramel Sauce seemed to be a great introduction to a simple, yet delightful treat.
I chose the Fresh Peaches, Shortbread, Spicy Harbenero-Peach Sorbet with Almond-Peach Cream. This fusion of taste, flavor and consistency was out of this world! Akin to the mode of thought with Thai cuisine whose goal is to affect all the senses of taste: this dish works both sweet and sour buds as well as giving an almost exhilarating burning sensation in your throat. Combined with the fresh peaches this is a dish for the truly adventurous.
Much of what I found exciting about these dishes could be attributed to Chef Marcus Donovan. His specialties are both American southern as well as Asian, and he finds the perfect balance between experimentation and familiarity. For those long acquainted with Cloud 9, Donovan has taken as a personal goal the revival of older favorites while infusing them with his own unique style of cuisine. Look out for a new soul food menu this fall which should be an extension of Cloud 9's Sunday brunch from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Also, a must with any dish is a taste of their wine selections. The Ceja chardonnay, in particular, was a magnificent blend of flavors which accompanied our dinner with an undeniable zest! Much like this chardonnay, Cloud 9 bears repeating.
Cloud 9, 234 Rehoboth Avenue, is open for dinner Thursday - Monday at 5 p.m., Saturday lunch from noon-4 p.m., and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For reservations, call 302-226-1999.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 12 September 16, 2005