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Michy's Relaxed Dining Lives Up to its Name

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Who is Michy, and why is she so intent on relaxation? When an adjective like “Relaxed” gets shoehorned into a restaurant’s identity, certain questions and expectations emerge. Why relaxed dining? What makes this particular dining experience so easygoing? Owners Richard and Michelle Davis must’ve anticipated such questions when they opened Michy’s Relaxed Dining earlier this year. Their small but bustling storefront, which shares retail space with a Food Lion and Sea Shell Shop, adheres to its own definition of the word. There are no Zen gardens, though Michy’s is designed to appear tranquil. Cushy pillows beckon from the banquettes, along with funky, mismatched chairs (with a few zebra and cheetah prints for good measure). The walls are dotted with swishy, seaside scenes on canvas, splashed in warm, muted tones with the occasional burst of light from a sun-colored jellyfish. Yet, despite the soothing blue surfaces, glowing chandeliers and decorative driftwood, the serenity is all but squashed by a steady crunch of customers in close quarters amid the kinetic buzz of a popular, new restaurant. Stylish, indeed. Relaxing? I’m not so sure. Instead, it’s Michy’s unpretentious and eclectic menu that takes up that mantle. Under Richard Davis’ watch, relaxed dining means old-school, hearty comfort food that’s been sharpened and delivered with finesse. It effectively blurs the lines between upscale and downhome, old-fashioned and modern. It means recognizable standards like breaded chicken Milanese and pork chops with apples, only subtly recast with Parmigiano-Reggiano baked into the poultry and caramelized fennel blended into the fruit. It’s warm tomato soup, buried under shaved cheese and bread, on a rainy night.


photos by ron dubick

Tempura-battered firecracker shrimp.

Grilled swordfish with jasmine rice.

The restaurant’s intended demeanor also applies because there are very few curveballs in the course of a meal. We’ve seen this food before, and we are fans. The boilerplate menu found in dining rooms across Delaware—stand up and be recognized: crab cakes, rigatoni Bolognese, beef with potatoes and green beans, salmon over rice—are all part of Michy’s M.O. And while it sacrifices a few creativity points, the kitchen succeeds by wielding big flavors across the board. Credit Davis, the chef, a veteran to beach-area kitchens. At Michy’s, he seems less focused on transforming ingredients into an original concoction, and more on updating the familiar into a memorable dish. It’s no easy trick, but he pulls it off by padding extra layers of flavor into every bite. Davis also relies on a healthy dose of nostalgia to send relaxing waves straight to the brain. Consider the house signature “forever” braised beef short ribs, enormously portioned and squarely seasoned to conjure memories of Sunday pot roast, only a lot more succulent and tender than you remember. The roasted carrots and potatoes are still there, only they’re coated in a rich beef reduction culled from natural juices. Elsewhere, meaty slices of tuna sashimi withstood a barrage of sauces and dressings to fashion a cocktail of sushi-takeout flavors we know and love—from the cucumber slices, edamame, seaweed and wasabi cream to sesame oil and Szechuan vinaigrette. Such a bounty of flavors teetered on the edge without falling overboard. Firecracker shrimp, on the other hand, fell victim to oversaturation. Battered, fried and smothered in Sriracha mayo, the shrimp nuggets felt too heavy and sweet, especially for an appetizer.

When the Michy’s kitchen exercised restraint, especially while simultaneously painting outside of the familiar lines, the results were typically great. A superb, towering salad was led by juicy pear wedges that had been poached in chardonnay, adding a tart sweetness to bitter endive leaves and pungent blue-cheese crumbles. It was nice to see a lighter touch applied to skirt steak, a tender cut, too often shoved into fajitas or doused in chimichurri. Davis’ team instead paired thin slices of beef with bright, crunchy accompaniments like peppery arugula leaves and apricots to assemble a composed and refreshing salad. Occasional flourishes aside, Michy’s gestalt feels like it’s tailored to resort-area locals—and leaves the whimsy and gimmicks to the tourists. An affordable, approachable selection of wines by the bottle and generous by-the-glass pours bolster the intimate vibe, among the noticeable absence of kids or highchairs. Confident in its culinary mission, Michy’s isn’t afraid to eschew the current trending boutique ingredient, complex flavor combination or molecular transformation. It even has the tragically uncool (but still delicious) molten chocolate cake on its dessert menu. True comfort food never goes out of style, especially when it’s packaged this attractively. Like the umpteenth viewing of your favorite movie or the worn-in groove in the couch, Michy’s cultivates an experience that’s reliable, reassuring and, yes, relaxing. Flavorful cooking, brisk service, friendly surroundings—it’s a formula that’s more sound than safe.

Michy’s Relaxed Dining

19287 Miller Road, No. 17, Rehoboth Beach, 227-0999
www.michysrelaxeddining.com

Recommended dishes:
Braised short ribs, poached pear salad, skirt steak

Prices:
Appetizers $7-$14, Entrées $15-$32

 

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