New Port Rickety, New Port Roxy, New Port Nowhere. Favorite euphemisms for a retirement town on the western end of Pasco County, the County’s largest city. New Port Richey has had a lot of identity changes in its time, but fine cuisine was never on the menu. Until this winter, that is, when Dulcet opened its doors on New Year’s Eve.
The space it now occupies, on Grand Boulevard and Missouri Avenue (just next to Cavalaire Square–more on that later), used to be a Moose Lodge. Now it’s an airy two-story dining room with sophistication. Walk inside and you’ll forget that you’re not in an urban setting. Dulcet’s owners have spared no expense in creating a sophisticated atmosphere nestled in a largely residential sprawl. If you have trouble finding it, just look for the doorman in front–can’t miss it.
“It’s the atmosphere we have here,” said Dulcet’s President, Nelson Ohihoin, “it’s a place you want to go out to with a date.”
On the northern wall are four 4K resolution screens that cast “live” jazz music into the space, and can serve as an eclectic decorative piece when live musicians do perform at the Dulcet. I have to say that they’re quite impressive. The displays are manufactured by a company based in Cologne, Germany, where Mr. Ohihoin attended pharmacy school before moving Stateside–to a little town on the Gulf Coast of Florida–you guessed it.
While Mr. Ohihoin is making sure the atmosphere is pleasing to his patrons (“pleasing to the eye,” he calls it), behind a set of stainless steel double doors is where the real magic is happening. Chef Paul Syms was working with roasted garlic and a massive cut of ribs when I walked in. Chef Syms was trained in London at Alton College and worked at the London Savoy Hotel and worked for Wolfgang Puck at his restaurant in Orlando. Chef Syms said that he has been working in the kitchen for over 25 years. He headlined as Executive Chef for the Park Plaza Gardens in 1998, and later a number of positions at some of Florida’s premiere country clubs.
While Chef Syms was working on some dishes for us to sample, I moved on to inspect the rest of the space at Dulcet. There are two full bars, one downstairs and one upstairs–presumably for private parties like the one that was roaring as I walked about. The staff was courteous and friendly and were working on some quite beautiful cocktails for the guests. Art has a prominent place along the northern wall on the second story, and recessed LED lighting gives a dynamic presence to the atmosphere that Mr. Ohihoin had put together so meticulously.
When I came back to the first floor there was a sampler of appetizers and interesting pieces for me to try.
There was a pepper candied bacon which was meaty, and had an excellent smokey and firm texture. It was very good, and was probably my favorite of Chef Syms’ dishes that night. There was also a crab cake with an excellent tartar sauce that came in a close second. It’s not a surprising choice considering Chef Syms’ family was once stationed in Washington, D.C. where he would have had exposure to Maryland’s famous crab cakes. For the record, Dulcet’s were on par–breaded and fried with a hint of red pepper. A large piece of crab meat accompanied the cake and was excellent.
Next came the sushi–one of Chef Syms’ signature rolls–called the BLT (bacon, lobster, tuna). It was quite good but was probably the weakest of the options. Of the appetizers, last came a mozzerella, tomato, and basil spear–of which I’m sure the basil came from the Dulcet’s living vegetable wall. It was awesome, and there were two! I’m not saying I can be bribed, but…
On came a deviled quail egg, something I can say honestly I’ve never tried before. So a kudos to Dulcet for taking me to unexplored territory. If you’re looking to test an adventurous palate in an atmosphere that will impress, Dulcet is the place to do it. It could, however, make an impression on your wallet at a hefty $26 a plate and up–but maybe the money you save in gas will make up for that, because you won’t find anything near to Dulcet’s attention to detail short of Tampa’s waterfront.
Last was dessert (I will let it be known now that I am not a dessert lover) with a toffee brownie and flavored macaroons that were very good.
Dulcet’s owners have also leased Cavalaire Square from the City of New Port Richey and plan to soon open a patio space with a Caribbean theme, live music, and a separate menu. The patio is expected to seat around 80 people while the main restaurant can handle around 170 diners.
In short, if you’ve got a hot date and more than a few quarters in your pocket, you need to set your GPS for 6220 Grand Boulevard, New Port Richey–right now. Meantime, I’ll be looking for alternate parking downtown because it’s sure to be packed on the weekends now. Darn it.
For more excellent photos of the venue and the food they offer, check out Dulcet’s website.
Want a similar feature of your business in New Port Richey? What are you waiting for? Invite me over! Send an email to jrtietz[at]gmail.com