23 Feb 99 Sea Level at Delaware’s Bethany Beach Ocean Suites: Fresh, Creative Franco-Asian-Inspired Cuisine
After arriving at the superb Bethany Beach Ocean Suites by Marriott in Bethany Beach, DE (read about our excellent adventure here), the fam (two teen pups + my wife Sue) and I thought that it would be wise to dine in the hotel on our first night rather than venture out to explore the town’s eateries. Not that there weren’t lots of great choices in the area, but after driving for almost four hours from northern New Jersey and then unwinding for the rest of the day in our awesome rooms, we preferred to take the most convenient (and least mileage) route to the dinner table.
The hotel’s restaurant, 99 Sea Level, is located on the lobby level. According to its website, the restaurant features “choice meats, local seafood, and creative vegetarian selections.” Its chef “sources local fisheries, farms, and gardens for the highest quality ingredients” to create its dining and bar menus.
While the site’s description sounded appealing, the thumbs up user reviews across the web sealed the deal:
- TripAdvisor – 4 stars out of 5
- Facebook – 4.5/5
- WeddingWire – 4.4/5
- Google – 5/5
- Rehoboth Foodie – “beautiful venue on the boardwalk facing the Atlantic, along with what so far is a great menu and bar”
- The Baltimore Sun – “upscale experience not to be missed” with “creative, lively coastal cuisine featuring lots of fish, seafood and farm-sourced ingredients”
The restaurant’s menu offerings are designed by Chef Danio Somoza, who has been cooking for 14 years. Somoza received his training at two of the area’s premier eateries, Bethany Blues in Bethany Beach and Fins Fish House and Raw Bar in Rehoboth.
Somoza’s dishes reflect his French and Asian-inspired cooking philosophy.
Chef Somoza aims to create fresh, flavorful food that’s also visually appealing.
Along with being a master chef, Somoza is also a trained ice sculptor, and his works are on display each night at 99SL.
The restaurant has an extensive wine and craft cocktail menu with selections for both casual as well as sophisticated tastes.
It’s the newest oceanfront restaurant on the DE coast and the only oceanfront restaurant in Bethany Beach.
As for our marvelous meal, here’s the lowdown on the many delectable and eye-pleasing components that comprised the experience:
99SL’s description: “Selection of cheese from local dairies with coppa duck prosciutto, salmon pâté, rosette de lyon, roasted beet jelly, jalapeño tomato tapenade, fig truffle honey”
Our reaction: A fresh, diverse, and beautifully arranged assortment of savory flavors, rich colors, and pleasing textures (our fave: the irresistible fig truffle honey). A fantastic drum roll to the main meal.
WINTER SQUASH-ROASTED BEETS SALAD
99SL’s description: “Baby kale, spinach leaves, walnuts, feta cheese, pomegranate vinaigrette”
Our reaction: Sue is a HEE-YOOJ fan of both kale and beets, so she found this super fresh melange to be a pleasant and mucho delicioso surprise.
WHISKEY KOBE BURGER
99SL’s description: “Caramelized onions, jalapeño pepper, sunny-side-up egg, broiche bun, honey truffle sweet potato frittes”
Our reaction: Lots of pop from the onions and pepper, and hearty boom from the egg, smoky burger, and airy bun. The sticky sweet frites were indulgent and highly addictive.
ATLANTIC BLACK GROUPER
99SL’s description: “Wilted cauliflower, baby turnips, lentil quinoa, sake miso-carrot-ginger sauce”
Our reaction: An ingenious, multi-hued (blue, white, orange), and exquisite melding of meaty (the grouper), hearty and tangy (the sauce), crunchy (the vegetables), and smooth (the lentils).
99SL’s description: “Crispy leek, roasted shallot au jus”
Our reaction: Massive, meaty (yet tender), and perfectly seasoned with no need for additional salt, pepper, or anything. The crunchy onion straws (aka crispy leeks) on the top were an imaginative and fun extra.
BLUE CRAB CAKE
Our reaction: Sue is a crab cake fan, and she thought that 99SL’s version of the dish was the best that she’s ever had. “A nice kick of spice and lots of crab!” she exclaimed, in between joyful mouthfuls.
ROASTED GARLIC PARMIGIANO BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Our reaction: Mild and satisfying, fresh and crunchy, cooked just right.
We also sampled some of 99SL’s beverage delights, including…
99 MERMAID WATER (left)
99SL’s description: “Parrot Bay coconut rum, Captain Morgan rum, orange simple syrup, pineapple juice, blue curacao drizzle, toasted coconut rim”
My/Sue’s reaction: Light, smooth, fruity (without being overly sweet), and pleasantly drinkable. The oceanic hue meshed perfectly with 99SL’s interiors and locale.
CIDER MARGARITA (right)
99SL’s description: “Mezcal tequila, Cointreau, cider, sprinkle cinnamon”
My/Sue’s reaction: Awesome for autumn and a clever combo of flavorful ingredients. Goes down super smooth and packs a velvety punch.
My daughter had her eye on 99SL’s fresh squeeze mixed berry juice, featuring house-made fruit syrup, fresh fruit, and a splash of soda. It had just the right amount of berryness and she loved its frosty presentation.
With the appetizers, mains, sides, and drinks all in the super slammin’ category, our expectations for dessert were quite high. However, 99SL doesn’t offer a formal dessert menu: Chef Dannio creates new items each night in order to keep things exciting and fresh – and to keep his satisfied diners coming back.
Among the various desserts that were available on the night that we dined were…
CHOCOLATE MASCARPONE CAKE
Pure, over-the-top sin: sinfully dense, sinfully indulgent, sinfully rich. If there’s such a thing as chocolate overshare, this cake is guilty, guilty, guilty – and we loved every crumb, glob, and drop of it.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH CHEESECAKE
Made from fresh squash that was grown in the garden of one of the kitchen staff members, this stunning masterpiece offered a gentle hint of sweetness along with a long finish of flavor that delightfully remained on the palate. We all agreed that this was one of the most sensational desserts we had ever eaten.
- 99 Sea Level’s teal and aqua accented interiors, combined with lighting that’s bright/natural during the day and soft/relaxing when the sun goes down, provide its guests with a lush, calming vibe that meshes seamlessly with its oceanfront location.
- While its menu items are imaginative, scrumptious, and upscale, 99SL offers a beach casual experience that’s fun, relaxed, and unpretentious.
- 99SL’s portions are perfect for sharing.
- Gorgeous ocean views can be enjoyed through the restaurant’s huge windows as well as on its outdoor porch, which get you even closer to the surf and sand.
- The attentive service provided by the energetic and unflappable wait staff was excellent.