The Breakers, constructed in the 1920s in Palm Beach, is one of the most lavish and opulent hotels anywhere. One step into the soaring lobby and you’re transported back to the Gilded Age; they really don’t make them like they used to. The hotel’s main dining room, originally called the Florentine Room, is one of its centerpiece spaces, long and flanked with Corinthian columns and a ceiling that architecturally evokes the Florentine Renaissance. It’s a tricky space to run a restaurant in these days, though; its former occupant, L’Escalier, was a prix-fixe gem and winner of the AAA Five Diamond Award, but closed due to (among other reasons) the fact that price didn’t exactly warrant it repeat visits during a weeklong vacation. Its successor, HMF (the initials of The Breakers’ founder, Henry Morrison Flagler), heads in the exact opposite direction, however; it’s intended to appeal to as many people and palates as possible, and it does this very, very well.
The massive space is dominated by low-slung tables and chairs as well as couches and a long bar. It has a trendy lounge feeling, so those who are only looking for a cocktail and a place to relax are covered (the 16 cocktails on the menu run the gamut from modern and complex to classic throwbacks). The wine list is spectacular, and has been ranked by The Daily Meal as being one of the country’s best. The food menu is sprawling and certainly all over the place, but is decidedly a lot of fun. Primarily meant to share, it’s divided into Nibbles and Bites, Salumi & Cheese, Food Truck, Field, Bowls, Hearth & Robata, Sushi and Sashimi, and Dessert. We had the opportunity to sample just about every section, and left very impressed (and full).
Korean short ribs were bite-size slices of seriously flavorful and tender beef, and one of the best bites of food we’d had in a while. Duck bao buns had a hearty duck sausage patty and a sweet ponzu sauce. Wood-roasted asparagus was served with a large and luscious orb of fresh burrata. Elegant hamachi crudo was dressed with a citrus soy and topped with a thin-sliced Thai chile. A pizza oven turns out respectable flatbread-style pizzas, and a bichotan charcoal-burning Japanese robata puts a great sear on churrasco steak, artichokes, salmon yakitori, and Hong Kong-style barbecue ribs. Other menu highlights include warm Low Country crab dip with potato chips, SoCal-style fish tacos, wild boar empanaditas, old-school steak tartare, shrimp pad Thai, and warm chocolate whoopee pie sundae. As we mentioned, the menu is eclectic!
It’s very difficult for a restaurant to be all things for all people, and to do lots of different cuisines very well. In that respect, HMF is a rare breed, with every dish on the menu, be it Asian or Italian, Thai or Spanish, given equal attention, with great results.