August 27, 2020

Lionfish restaurant opens soon

By Lionfish restaurant opens soon in Delray Beach with focus on sustainable seafood

At the start of the year, restaurant and nightclub developer Andy Masi planned to open a spinoff of his award-winning San Diego restaurant, Lionfish, in downtown Delray Beach in the spring. That was then.

But despite the pandemic crisis that has devastated the local dining industry, Masi did not scrap the opening altogether. He plans to debut the stylish, sustainable seafood-focused restaurant Sept. 21, accepting reservations as soon as Sept. 8.

Masi says he’s inspired by the reopening scenes on Atlantic Avenue, where Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine has transformed the space formerly occupied by Luigi’s Coal Oven Pizza.

“We believe people are going out and enjoying themselves and being very safe. Staff’s being safe; guests are being safe. We think it’s a good sign,” says Masi, whose Clique Hospitality group opened the original Lionfish in San Diego’s Pendry boutique hotel in February 2017. The restaurant has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation’s “Smart Catch” program that honors restaurants committed to sustainable seafood.

Butter-poached king crab leg with caviar, leeks, lemon and roasted garlic butter at Lionfish. The San Diego-born restaurant debuts in Delray Beach this spring. [Provided by Clique Hospitality]

Lionfish San Diego top chef and partner JoJo Ruiz has been busy during the past few months finalizing the Delray Beach menu with the upcoming restaurant’s executive chef. He is Johnny Demartini, former executive chef at Delray’s Death or Glory. Demartini’s experience also includes positions at the now-closed Max’s Harvest and Max’s Social House restaurants in Delray Beach and The Cooper in Palm Beach Gardens.

Lionfish Delray's executive chef is Johnny Demartini. [Photo by Scott Diel]

The Lionfish Delray menu focuses on local fish and seafood presented in that mashup of global flavors and preparations dubbed “modern.” For example, a Peruvian-inspired yellowfin tuna crudo ($16) is served with a Thai-accented leche de tigre. Key West shrimp get a Mexican makeover in a Baja-style aguachile dish ($18). Coal-grilled cobia ($31) is dressed in Japanese tosazu sauce and served with savoy cabbage and butter-confit wild mushrooms.

More:Award-winning seafood restaurant coming to Delray Beach

Yes, there’s lionfish on the menu as well -- it’s offered in ceviche form ($16) and also fried whole ($36) and served with charred greens and Italian-style bagna cauda sauce.

There are menu options beyond seafood: half roast chicken ($25), grilled lamb chops ($36), 30-ounce and bone-in ribeye steak ($75). These dishes share the menu with some more playful and interactive items, like beef tartare ($15) that’s inspired by In-N-Out Burger’s “Animal Style” classic, served with griddled onions and shoestring fries, and tableside hot-rock-cooked wagyu steak ($25) and oyster mushrooms ($18) entrees.

Lionfish, an invasive fish considered to be a delicacy, is on the menu at Lionfish Delray. [Photo by Mas Appetit]

Although the restaurant is months late in opening, the Lionfish crew has not been idle. The chefs have spent the past weeks tweaking menu items and trying them out on various small parties, says Masi.

“We’ve had time to really work on the food, work on the ingredients and on local sourcing. It’s been a fun process and it’s been effective,” he says.

Lionfish is located on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach's dining district. [Photo by Eric George]

The reservation line opens just as Palm Beach County moves toward a version of Phase 2 of the reopening process. If the state’s Phase 2 guidelines are approved countywide, it could mean restaurant will be permitted to reopen their bars, continue to operate at 50 percent indoor occupancy and at full occupancy in outdoor dining areas.

Masi says that works for him.

“We’ll open at 50 percent. We’re ready for it,” he says. “We’re all getting a little itchy to open in Delray.”

He notes that Lionfish in San Diego is open only for outdoor dining as indoor dining is still prohibited there. “But people are having a good time and business is solid.”

Lionfish Delray

  • Planned opening: Sept. 21
  • Location: 307 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, 561-639-8700,
  • Hours: Monday through Friday from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Weekend brunch will be offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
  • Reservations: Will be accepted starting Sept. 8 at 561-639-8700 and via

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