I know, it's a strange title for a review on a new tapas restaurant, but with martinis such as the French Kiss (topped with creamy pineapple juice and brewing with Stoli Vanilla vodka, Chambord and champagne) I would be remiss if I didn't mention the drinks at Relish Modern Tapas first.
Besides, Relish's martinis are so filling they can be meals in and of themselves.
If you're a more traditional sort looking for something heartier than martinis for dinner, the menu at Mason's Relish Modern Tapas probably has something for you, no matter your taste. Rather than traditional Spanish tapas, Modern Relish offers New Age tapas, familiar dishes from around the world, but with an emphasis on American and Asian fare with a little Mediterranean and Italian thrown in for good measure.
When my partner and I stopped by on a recent Saturday night, the scene was buzzing with an international crowd (interesting for Mason) sitting amidst the zigzag of tables in Relish's rather geometrically wild space. A young guitarist, perhaps age 12 or 13, dressed in a white oxford and khakis, was serenading the crowd. (We found out later that he was the manager's son and this was his big debut; we only suggest that next time he bring a tip jar.)
This original, authentic edge is what might make Modern Relish the bomb in Mason. Not to mention it's next to the Deerfield Towne Center movie theater, which makes it the perfect "grab-a-quick-bite-and-see-a-show" place. In fact, the only thing that might hold Relish back is the pace of the service.
While our server was wonderfully personable and accommodating (he returned with answers to all of our questions), he (or the bar) was spread a bit thin, and my second martini arrived with my food, 25 minutes after I ordered it.
As we searched the menu for petite plates to begin our meal, some choices were inspiring, others less so. The Hummus Du Jour with Crostinis ($3.25) seemed like something I'd fix myself at home, so I steered away from that in favor of something I could never see myself having the imagination or ambition to cook, such as the Potato Spheres ($4.25) blended with shrimp and cilantro and served with wasabi sour cream. Made with the freshest wild-caught shrimp and perfectly deep-fried (not greasy at all), the spheres were lower on shrimp than potato flavor. The wasabi sour cream added that kick of flavor they needed without being sinus-burning.
Our second petite plate, which came out at the same time, was Ditalini Pasta ($3.75), something I could probably cook for myself, but the stuffed Spanish olives sounded good. Mixed with olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese, the pasta was a bit of a disappointment. The garlic was imperceptible, the olives few, the Parmesan scant and the flavor simply missing. While some wilted bits of parsley were thrown in, this didn't give the dish the depth it needed, as maybe fresh oregano could have.
Wanting to give the small plates another chance, we ordered Zucchini Tips with garlic and sautéed roasted red peppers ($3.75). These were extremely garlicky, which I loved, but my dining partner, who also loves garlic, shied away from the intensity.
When faced with choosing big kid plates (Relish entrées), the decision-making process was difficult. Truly the most inspired part of Relish's menu, the big plates included such delights as wasabi rubbed petite Filet Mignon ($16.25) with demi glaze, carmelized onions and blue cheese with a wedge of boule and Serrano Ham ($14.25) imported from Spain.
We decided on stuffed Breast of Chicken ($14.50) with asparagus, mozzarella, fresh herbs and prosciutto served with the house beurre blanc and Wild Salmon ($13.25) stuffed with crab meat, also served with house blanc, along with fried red tortillas and micro greens.
Fortunately, the house beurre blanc was wonderful; the wine, vinegar and shallot reduction was neither swimming in butter nor too rich. The presentation of the chicken was elegant, really beautiful. Arriving as six individual rolls, a la sushi, the tender chicken breast was wrapped around sweet, slightly moist, velvety prosciutto with a center of chopped, fresh asparagus and peppers for texture. The entire presentation, texture and taste experience was stunning.
Though his dish was considerably smaller than mine, my partner was also happy with his Wild Salmon -- mostly because it was really wild Alaskan salmon, which is hard to come by in restaurants these days.
All in all, the Relish experience was a nice way to spend a Saturday evening. Variety and a lively atmosphere made up for the sometimes slow service and our poor petite plate choice. It's a good find for those who like variety and for couples with completely different tastes.
RELISH MODERN TAPAS
Go: 5947 Deerfield Blvd., Deerfield Towne Center
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Payment: All major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Seafood
Accessibility: Fully accessible