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Café Roval

Café Roval is a feather in the cap of Mark Soyka's long and storied career. It began with the now-iconic News Cafe on Ocean Drive and culminates with the conversion of Morningside's coral-rock pump house into the intimate restaurant the Israeli-born restaurateur says will be his last. Beyond the dining room accented with dark wood and bronze furniture illuminated by sweeping metal chandeliers awaits a garden patio that's part Zen retreat and part urban oasis. A weathered bronze Buddha statue sits atop a dribbling waterfall that empties into a rock-ringed pond. Stone pathways snake among towering palm trees. At the far side of the enclosure, a few bistro tables are shaded by the maroon umbrellas that once stood outside the Van Dyke Cafe. Yet Soyka's food here is strikingly similar to the comforts he has long provided the neighborhood at his namesake only a couple hundred yards away. The pricey deboned yellow snapper comes with charred cherry tomatoes that accent the juicy flesh. The paste of garlic, paprika, lemon, and thyme used to season the fish unfortunately prevents any crisping of its skin, but the aromatic runoff does double duty in seasoning supple coins of confit Yukon Gold potatoes. An $18 quarter-chicken is just as well executed, though the price does sting a bit for such a small portion. At least the kitchen has the good sense to send out dark meat, which is gently braised in a Dominican-style sofrito of charred red onion, cilantro, garlic, parsley, and tomato. This yields crackly skin that's ingeniously drizzled with honey. Soyka says Roval is his most ambitious project, yet his ability to offer simple, familiar fare in comfortable surroundings still shines through. Read our full review of Café Roval.