Beach Eats: The Global Gastronomique

You don’t have to travel the globe to find international flavors. Ethnic restaurants offer a little something from everywhere.




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The Japanese sea bass at Celsius is wrapped in a banana leaf and served with turmeric pappardelle.
photograph by Keith Mosher

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Owners at ethnic restaurants in the beach area have some surprises in store for offseason diners this year, including Tasmanian salmon and a rooftop lake. Many restaurants run specials during the fall and winter to compensate for the drop off in visitors, which makes it a great time for a day or evening trip.

The most dramatic change this year didn’t have anything to do with the menu at The Cultured Pearl (301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493). Owners Susan Townley Wood and Robert Wood opened a new location in July to replace the former Wilmington Avenue site. The interior keeps the same bamboo forest look of the old location, while a Koi pond and waterfalls greet guests as they enter. Susan’s pride and joy is a lake on the roof, complete with five gazebos. “I just love the water,” she says. “Everything I’ve ever done has been on the water and there’s no waterfront in Rehoboth, so I say, ‘You know what? I’ll build my own.’”

An enlarged sushi area and redesigned kitchen gives chefs room to experiment, which is reflected in a new, dynamic menu filled with strong, spicy flavors. One of the house favorites is blueberry-smoked duck salad, which includes bleu cheese, candied pecans and Mandarin orange. “It’s got a lot of big flavors,” Robert says.

Diners who crave fine Italian cooking need look no further than La Rosa Negra (1201 Savannah Road, Lewes, 645-1980). “We cook like we eat at home—big portions, big appetites,” says owner Bob Cirelli. “What people like about us is our prices are very reasonable and the portions are good,” he says. “In today’s world, getting your money’s worth is getting harder to find.”

The restaurant dips into several international styles, but Cirelli says it’s the Italian meat sauce that makes the meal. Preparation is meticulous. Cirelli is usually in his office by noon, taking reservations and starting to prepare what will become masterpieces by nightfall. “Our meat sauce takes a good six to eight hours to make,” he says. “It’s an all-day process that makes a flavor you can’t put in a jar.”

That’s the only way he knows to cook. Growing up in an Italian-German family, the day centered around the kitchen. The kids came home from school and sat down at the kitchen table to do their homework while Cirelli’s mother whipped up fragrant Italian cuisine and desserts. She showed the family that a good meal is worth the wait. Cirelli learned well.

The perennially popular sushi bar
Abstractions (28 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4199) gives diners a reason to try something new. Owner Spencer Derrickson encourages customers to forget about Atlantic or Pacific salmon, urging them to try the Tasmanian variety, a brilliant orange fish that gets its color from Pacific shrimp.

The art of sushi started as a hobby for Derrickson. He would take private lessons from chefs, then throw sushi parties for friends. Now sushi is a full-time endeavor that has yielded a menu of 100 sushi rolls with everything from mackerel to eel to sea urchin.

Sushi isn’t the only choice at Abstractions. Dishes from tempura bok choy to South American “mojo” beef are all popular. There is something on the menu for everyone, but an adventurous spirit makes dining out a little more fun. “Of course we have teriyaki. Of course we have that kind of stuff, but try something different,” Derrickson says.

If you are ready to branch out, there are plenty of flavors to try, things you won’t necessarily be able to make at home, including a carpaccio appetizer of Kobe beef. “You’re not going to go to the grocery store and get some good Kobe beef, but we can get it,” Derrickson says. “And if you’re on vacation, so what if it’s $15 for an appetizer? It’s going to blow your mind. That’s what we put into every menu item.”

Espuma (28 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4199) and owner-head chef Jay Caputo might serve international flavors, but they still stay in touch with their Sussex County roots by serving local produce. “We only sell tomatoes when they’re in season locally,” Caputo says. “It’s good for the local economy. I think our guests know and expect they’re going to get something fresh.”

By working with local providers, Espuma creates a unique niche among beach restaurants. Two Houston farms provide organic eggs, while milk and yogurt often comes from less than half an hour away.

That means that the menu evolves based on available produce. Dishes vary from season to season as ingredients for the glazes or sides change. Diners might enjoy a side of butternut squash in the fall and asparagus in the summer.

Staples stay the same, however. Ordering the ever-popular Three Day Pork means ordering a piece of meat that has been cured 24 hours, cooked for eight and marinated for another 24.

At the end of summer, Caputo offers special wine dinners and pre-planned meals to attract visitors and reward loyal customers. “I never wanted to have a seasonal restaurant,” Caputo says. “I know we’re in a seasonal area, but there’s a great year-round clientele around here that’s very supportive.”

If you’re looking for a menu that is as traveled as your passport, try some of these Delaware ethnic restaurants:

At Adriatico Italian Restaurant (

18585 Coastal Hwy.

, Rehoboth Beach, 645-6160) sample a taste of northern Italian cuisine, especially veal, seafood, chicken and pasta. Don’t leave without trying the house specialty, the veal Adriatico: a lightly breaded veal cutlet crowned with mozzarella, diced tomato and mushroom served in a tomato broth.

At Café Zeus (37 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-0400) sink your teeth into a selection of neo-Mediterranean dishes like grilled rack of lamb or salmon steak with pistachio butter. The Crab Cakes Zeus keeps customers coming back for more. But don’t expect the regional favorite. This lump-meat dish is spiced with paprika, cumin and mustard, and is served with asparagus and saffron rice.

The menu at Celsius (50-C Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-5767) doesn’t just pull inspiration from one part of the globe. There are flavors from around the world in the dishes. Locals know to try the sea bass, which is topped with coconut shrimp and served in a mango beurre blanc sauce.

At Dos Locos (208 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3353) delight your taste buds with a fusion of American and Mexican flavors. There are domestic favorites such as the cheesesteak wrap and Alaskan king crab legs. But the south-of-the-border-infused dishes like the lobster quesadilla and grilled tuna taco can’t be replicated anywhere else.

There’s a wide selection on the menu at
Restaurant Salero (511 N. Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach, 227-8630), but most noshes have a Mediterranean flavor. The prosciutto-wrapped chicken is a current favorite with diners. It’s stuffed with spinach, caramelized onion and Asiago cheese, and is served with vegetables, goat cheese and scallion mashed potatoes.

La Tonalteca (4578 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 644-3994) will satisfy your cravings for authentic Mexican with fajitas, carne asada and tacos. There’s a selection of combination platters, so you don’t have to pick just one dish.

Stoney Lonen (208 Second St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2664) makes Irish fare, seafood and steaks the cuisine of choice. Be sure to try the corned beef and cabbage for an authentic taste of the Emerald Isle. Diners also delight in the grilled Gaelic chicken, which is served in a fresh fontina cream.

It’s all Thai, all the time at Seaside Thai Cuisine

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