Johnny V's New Kitchen

Johnny V moves waaay up and dishes out an organic, from-the-local-land recipe for success

In fact the Sundy House's De La Tierra, which means "from the earth," is groundbreaking in more than a gastronomic sense. Delray Beach has long been on the South Beach path of redevelopment. The main drag, Atlantic Avenue, started to undergo a renaissance about five or six years ago with the advent of tony joints like Dakotah 624 and 32 East, both of which are still on the upscale Palm Beach diner's permanent dance card. They set the beat for a hipper rhythm, which now includes $3-million venues like Sopra and outposts like Aura, where the staff comes from South Beach. Old-fashioned corset shops have moved out (hear that, Miracle Mile?) and art galleries in. Located on offshoots of Atlantic, distinctive, historic houses -- not candy-hued Art Deco but more like charming Southern-style homes with wooden shutters and wraparound porches -- have been rescued from neglect or demolition by forward-thinking small-business owners. Now they're places like DaDa and Falcon House, funky lounges and supper clubs geared toward a gay clientele.

Like Falcon House, which incidentally is owned by the bartending-management team that launched the then-innovative 32 East, Sundy House is a revamped property that retains the name from its initial christening. Sundy is just about the oldest one on the block, at nearly 100 years, and it's also the most beautiful for both its setting and its décor. Tables are available indoors but are also scattered throughout the grounds, and I find it quite appealing to bite into something as kooky as baked stuffed baby conch dressed with a sauce that comprises habanero chiles and 7-Up soda while sitting in a tropical arbor hoping those scaly, monstrous jackfruit fall on the lee side. And dishing up the goods on Villeroy-Boch china and serving them with Christofle utensils doesn't hurt either.

Even more significant, perhaps, is that Sundy House is giving Delray what it doesn't already have -- a place for tourists to resort. Dharma Properties runs a simply stunning resort in Taos, New Mexico, and already have taken major steps into making Sundy House an upscale traveler's destination. Swimming pools with fish. Individually decorated rooms and suites with so much attention to detail I'm willing to move in. And Johnny V, who conforms to the vision of Dharma Properties by serving as much from the land -- including American ranch-raised bison and Tibetan yak -- as he possibly can.

You couldn't ask for a more organic experience. Unless, of course, you want to pick your own jaboticaba to munch -- and practice saying -- at the table.

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