The Back Porch Café
59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth, 227-3674, backporchcafe.com
cauliflower chaud-froid, rabbit with cacciatore, lamb porterhouse
Starters $7-$16, entrées $28-$36
I sheepishly admit I’d never been to this icon, which opened in 1974 and helped lead Rehoboth’s culinary revolution. But longtime chef Leo Medisch’s reputation was well-known. Apparently, he’s taught protégé and chef de cuisine Tim McNitt well.
McNitt, the primary chef for nearly 10 years, is unafraid to take chances. Cauliflower chaud-froid was a silky cake of horseradish-and-lemon-infused cauliflower. Salmon caviar added a briny pop.
McNitt was equally successful at pairing grilled asparagus with a five-minute egg. The yolk spilled into a lemon-parsley vinaigrette that complemented a curl of prosciutto. It was salty, tangy and savory.
From Medisch, McNitt developed a taste for hearty Mediterranean cuisine. Witness the cacciatore surrounding a rabbit leg and thigh. McNitt, who butchers in-house, stews rabbit offal and ground rabbit with celery, onion, carrot, leaks and some tomatoes—not too much—for a robust sauce. A tangle of fresh fettuccine was prepared to order.
I loved the grilled lamb porterhouse, marinated first in rosemary, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil. It was a tender island in a moat of artichoke-potato risotto, a toothsome accompaniment.
There were some temperature misses. Eggplant polpetti—
breaded eggplant meatballs—lacked heat. Likewise, a garlicky black bean hummus cooled the pan-seared grouper beneath it. But I liked the fish and the hummus, so I happily made do.
The Back Porch Café falls in the higher-price range, but the portion, preparation and ingredients justify it. It took me too many years to get there, but I will definitely be back.