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34° Good Evening

The Phoenix

THE PHOENIX, Seaford Spicy peanut soup, made with


Spicy peanut soup, made with jalapeno grape salsa and garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds and crispy sweet potato.

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Credit: Steven Sunshine

The Phoenix is rising. In a red and black space that evokes a retro rock club, the high caliber of cuisine may come as something of a surprise. Credit chef Ryan Augusta, who cooks with both skill and confidence.

Here, a spoonful of spicy peanut soup topped with grapes, pumpkin seeds and fried sweet potato curls unleashes a rapid-fire explosion of flavor. Chicken noodle soup may not be what Grandma would make, but I'd imagine it's what she would fancy: a ginger and lemon-infused broth rife with shredded poultry and fresh lo mein noodles. Then, there's a terrific crispy-thin flatbread pizza topped with BBQ duck confit, cucumbers and scallions. I can't fit my mouth around the hearty roast pork sandwich, so I use a knife and fork.

At night, when the bar is jumping and Otis Redding plays on the sound system, a menu of New American tapas predominates. One small plate holds coffee-rubbed pork medallions, fork-tender, beautifully nuanced. Another features fat "angry" shrimp, incensed by their hot bacon Creole mustard sauce, the heat cut by cool pickled cucumbers sharing the plate. Delectable seared scallops come with rice cakes and a roasted tomato cream sauce. How rich and tender the oven-charred octopus comes out, plated with Yukon Gold potatoes. By adding bacon, Augusta brings a smoky note to Brussels sprouts in a rice wine-honey vinaigrette. A mini Mason jar holds pickled beets; they're very good, even if they are a bit overchilled. Braised meatballs in chipotle BBQ sauce, however, are overcooked, grainy. But the creamy grits underneath are devoured in mere moments.

Since the "core" lunch menu also is available at dinner, I order another flatbread pizza, this one opulently capped with Yukon Gold potatoes, mushrooms, caramelized leeks, Casa Bolo cheese and truffle oil.

Desserts fly just as high. Vanilla custard with coffee syrup is sprinkled with a toffee-chocolate crunch that introduces an ingenious salty note. A cobbler of rhubarb, sweet potato cubes and berries is warm and appealing.

So, too, this singular new restaurant.

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