a(MUSE), located at 44 Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth Beach, is the latest in a growing number of chef-inspired restaurants at Delaware’s best known beach resort. Hari Cameron, owner and head chef, spent many years as the head chef at the popular restaurant, Nage, before venturing out on his own less than three months ago.
The name for the new restaurant came about slowly. Originally, Hari and his wife planned to open a larger restaurant and name it “Roost,” which would focus on a more family-style service. However, when the location they wanted didn’t come to pass, they chose a smaller, more intimate location and had to create a different name. The name a(MUSE) has multiple meanings. The couple wanted food to be fun, or amusing, but also wanted it to be their “muse,” and Hari set about creating menu items focused on the food itself, the techniques used to create recipes and to bring out the natural flavors found in all foods.
One unique feature of a(MUSE) is also another meaning for their name. Amuse-bouche is a French term which literally means “mouth amuser,” and, in restaurant terms, are single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres that are not ordered from a menu, but served at the chef’s selection. As part of a(MUSE) six and eleven course tasting menus, guests are able to sample these smaller, more intensely flavored dishes, and allows guests to share a variety of menu items.
Hari asks each guest three specific questions when they visit his restaurant in order to determine the best ingredients for their food selections. Guests inform him if they have any allergies or intolerance for types of foods; what ingredients they love and what ingredients they dislike. This allows Hari to create better food on the fly, and expand the menu significantly to provide a unique dish for every diner.
Hari is surrounded by great chefs, as his brother is a chef at 11 Madison Avenue in New York, a highly rated restaurant and his current sous chef worked at the third best restaurant in the United States. Hari himself attended culinary school in Philadelphia, and worked as a sous chef while attending college, enabling him to help other students at college with his culinary knowledge.
In addition to his abilities as a chef, Hari is proud of his relationship with local farmers, including Bob and Barbara Russell of Milford, who have allowed him to pick his own herbs, vegetables and other items on their farm. Hari’s cooking style is a Progressive American Style and his menu changes often depending on the season.
At this time, a(MUSE) will be open all year, depending on the ability to continue to get fresh, local produce, meats and seafoods. Hari focuses his purchases on a 200 mile radius around Delaware beach resorts, and only uses seafood available in Atlantic waters. One recent dish on the menu included large live scallops that he marinated and served live, still moving in the shell. He uses both traditional and modern cooking techniques, including liquid nitrogen to offer guests a buttermilk snow rather than simple buttermilk dressing and poaching shrimp for a unique take on shrimp cocktail.
Hari himself was a vegetarian for many years, but now enjoys cooking with every part of an animal. His walk-in freezer is neatly organized with many fresh meats, and a(MUSE) also composts foods, feeding pigs at a local farm rather than tossing waste into garbage cans.
Every menu item at a(MUSE) has three things in common – delicious taste, visually appealing and entertaining. Menu items have included everything from a venison dish reminiscent of what Native American’s may have eaten in this area, to a pork dish that was designed around what pigs eat.
Like other chef inspired restaurants at Delaware beach resorts, a(MUSE) is proud that there is very little competition among the restaurants in the area. He credits Back Porch Café and Blue Moon with putting the Rehoboth area on the map as far as chef inspired, fresh, local restaurants.
Hari enjoyed cooking so much, that while working at Nage, he spent one week of his two week vacation each year in large cities such as Chicago, New York and other areas of the country, working in top restaurant kitchens for free to learn new techniques, ideas and tips. He also writes a blog about cooking, offering recipes and tips as well, titled “The Comb & Whattle.” Hari loves creating food, and even the large tattoo on his arm consists of produce found at local farms. Not only does Hari love eating and dining, but it is clear that he is a master at creating unique, interesting food items that are sure to bring visitors to his newest venture.