There’s something that occurred to me last night while walking into the new downtown supper club Delilah. Centenarians aren’t exactly the target market, so nobody here will actually remember the 1920s, the era that served as inspiration for the bygone design and vibe.
Anemoia, it’s called, a nostalgia for a time you’ve never experienced. (It’s like Gen-Zers dressing up for an ‘80s party.) Delilah is a restaurant that’s as glamorous as Ella Fitzgerald, graciously serving well-executed, nostalgic dishes.
Walking up the marble stairs and into the dining room, it struck me that the well-lit photos I saw before visiting do Delilah no justice. The place is a gorgeous collection of booths and tables with big armchairs, all covered in mismatched fabrics as if sourced second-hand. The mirror behind the stage, the thick drapery, the dim chandelier lighting, the pedestals that rise up here and there, it all looks repurposed from the Rhode Island estate of a 19th century industrialist.
Famously, and supposedly because of its celebrity clientele, Delilah has a no-pictures policy, and there’s something refreshing about this. We barely spotted a phone out anywhere all night. They’ll make exceptions for people, like me, who ask to take pics of dishes and promise not to snap shots of anybody else.
Not long after we sunk into our armchairs, the house band took the stage, a few minutes before 7. They replaced a staid jazz soundtrack with soulful Adele and Amy Winehouse, the strawberry-haired singer like a cosplay for Jessica Rabbit. A pair of dancers in slinky, sequined black dresses seductively encircled the space and then danced on small stages in the dining room, fanning feathers and twirling faux fur boas.
Servers matched the decor, wearing a combination of tuxedos and more tasteful versions of the outfits worn by women who sold cigarettes at these clubs back in the day. The staff here is at pro level, executing well-choreographed deliveries. When I asked for a wine recommendation, the server passed along my food order to a manager who radioed the sommelier, who arrived already knowing what pairing to recommend.
The hospitaly company that owns Delilah, a Miami newcomer called h.wood Group, honed Delilah in Los Angeles before cloning it in Vegas, and the menu in Miami is similar to its sister restaurants. Parts of the menu read like a kid's menu: chicken fingers, a hot fudge sundae, pigs in a blanket – but they’re not the ones mom brought to potlucks. These are more like wagyu hot dogs wrapped in flaky poppy seed pastry, a criss-cross of slivered cornichons on top, a sweet honey mustard underneath.
There’s a bit of Miami, too. The Cubano fritters are reminiscent of ventanita croquetas, little balls of gooey aioli and jamon and roast pork and swiss, fried crisp. The stone crab salad is caesar-adjacent, spiked with stone crab meat, bread crumbs, fish roe and the Japanese mint shisho, on crunchy little gem.
This is a supper club, so of course there’s a serious steak section, including a $317 tomahawk. I went for the more reasonable $120 strip with a $32 add-on stone crab claw. It arrived, well charred and seasoned, beautifully sliced and fanned-out, dry-aged Australian wagyu that’s almost purple in the center, tender and decadent. The stone crab is shredded on top. There’s a choice of sauces, but our server steered me toward a truffled gravy that did very good things to the steak and stone crab, a glorious surf and turf. With it, we ordered the roast chicken, declared by my dining partner as the best she’d ever had; it’s a pretty little airline-style cut, strips of crisped skin dramatically angled upward between the pieces.
At the end we had Kendall’s Slutty Brownie (yes, named after that Kendall), a gooey hunk of chocolate with a scoop of ice cream and two half circles of Oreos on top. It’s as sweet as a child’s Valentine’s Day card, but too cloying for an adult to eat more than a few bites, honestly.
As we left, the band had just returned to the stage after a short break, the vibe still at peak 1920s supper club level. The long bar in the back was three-deep. At about 11, they say, the vibe upshifts when the DJ takes over, although still not quite to Miami club-restaurant level. It will always feel in Delilah like a spot-on impression of an era we all wish we could have lived through. But at the least, we can live through it for just one night.