But the eatery and the lounge are not really for the visiting hotel guests. They are for South Floridians, according to the owners.
“We don’t want to be a hotel restaurant,” says co-owner Andy Masi. “It’s going to stand out on its own. It’s less for the tourists and more for the locals. We want to give the locals a great grill where anyone living in Delray can go there three times a week if they wanted to…because we’re creating something that’s not on the Avenue.”
Already there is buzz about The Ray, which will reportedly have a floating glass cube event space, living walls and large sculptures throughout, and each of the 141 guest rooms/suites will have a balcony or terrace.
Later on, perhaps this fall, chef Akira Back will open an eponymous modern Japanese restaurant, bringing Delray Beach its first Michelin-level chef-led restaurant. Masi and Back have previously teamed up for Las Vegas’ Yellowtail Sushi at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino and Kuma Japanese Restaurant & Bar at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
The swanky 141-room boutique hotel — built with local and sustainable materials — sits on a lot that was formerly the Esplanade Plaza strip mall and is the result of a partnership with Delray Beach-based developer Menin and the Curio Collection by Hilton, a portfolio of idiosyncratic luxury properties.
“First and foremost, South Florida is booming,” adds Masi. “I was blown away…at all the great local customers that go out two or three times a week…from Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, West Palm, everywhere in and around Delray. There’s this incredible group of people looking for some new restaurants to come in and shake things up a bit.”
For the Ray’s Ember Grill and Rosewater Rooftop, Masi brought onboard executive chef Joe Zanelli, who has worked with chefs Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, Daniel Boulud and dynamic duo Annie and David Gingrass in San Francisco, New York and Las Vegas (where he cooked for the likes of John Mayer, Katy Perry, U2 and Metallica).
“Sometimes the best ingredient is the one I leave off the dish,” Zanelli says. “I think that’s something that goes back to sourcing. When you source stuff that is good, you just have to take care of it, treat it right…so it will accentuate and bring out the flavors of that dish. You know, when you’re young you often add three or four ingredients, to be a little more soigné. But you learn that if those ingredients aren’t exactly helping the dish, then let’s take them out and let the other ingredient be the star.”
Masi says that after working together in various properties in Las Vegas, “We learned how to have incredibly high quality food, but done in a way that is approachable.”
So there will be a burger, but it will be a special “proprietary blend burger.” He also says, “Chef Joe does the greatest Peking duck on the face of Earth.”
Other dishes include Porterhouse Steak for two, Lobster Cobb and sides such as Adult Mac and Cheese and charred broccoli.
The average lunch check would be in the $20-$25 range per person while the dinner check would be around $40-$45 per guest.
Masi says that the Rosewater Rooftop lounge/bar will be “a great place to have a drink. One thing we learned during the pandemic…people love to eat outdoors. And we have an indoors for when the weather is not great or too hot. You can go with a bunch of your friends, get some cocktails, get some shareables — it’s going to be global street food.”
Zanelli adds that Rosewater’s menu items would include kabobs, Spanish octopus, chicken meatballs, bacon-wrapped dates, sushi handrolls, sliders and a few vegetable-driven dishes.
“It kind of jives with how people want to eat now where they want to try multiple dishes,” Zanelli says.
Zanelli has been in South Florida for just shy of two months, overseeing the restaurants and finding a home for his family to join him here, so he’s been busy. But already he has a good feeling about the decor of Ember Grill.
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“I really like this room. It has a warm feeling to it.”
Masi adds, “The central focus to Ember is this open kitchen with a wood-burning Josper grill [imported from Barcelona, Spain]. There is this open, beautiful kitchen…with butcher block tops all around.”
As for Rosewater Rooftop, Zanelli says, “After touring some of the rooftop places in West Palm Beach, we thought the feeling is a little bit cold, all stone and concrete. Here you walk up and it’s trees and plants and the floors are wood. The lattice and the overhang is wood. To me, it has this cool, comfortable feeling. If I wasn’t working, that’s the kind of place I would want to go and hang out at.”
- The Ray Hotel’s Ember Grill and Rosewater Lounge will be located two and a half blocks north of Atlantic Avenue in the Pineapple Grove Arts District at 233 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach.
- For more information, go to EmberGrillDelray.com and RosewaterDelray.com.
- For more information on the hotel, go to TheRayHotel.com.