December 21, 2014

New In Fort Lauderdale

Robert W. Tolf | 6/1/1995
Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas, the Boulevard of No Regrets, is also a street of great eats - and it has never looked better. It's a case study of what an enlightened group of merchants can do with a few million dollars worth of landscaped median strips, new planters, lighting fixtures and colorful crosswalks.

Ever since the city allowed on-the-boulevard parking and a couple of imaginative restaurant entrepreneurs put tables on the sidewalk, Las Olas has been busier than ever, attracting strollers, shoppers, lunchers, munchers and late night diners. Even the Chinese and Japanese storefront restaurants now have sidewalk seating.

The excitement has spread along the boulevard and to other parts of the city, spilling over to the renaissance of the beach scene, which is far removed from the rowdy, raunchy Spring Break days of yore. Here are Fort Lauderdale's dining newcomers of note:

Casablanca Cafe
3049 Alhambra St.
Fort Lauderdale
305/764-3500

A knockout oceanfront restoration by the team that designed the Aruba Beach Cafe, Yesterday's and other local dining spots. Eat outside or in, by fireplace or piano, or up the winding stairs on a second floor balcony. The pizzas are terrific, as are the pastas and salads. Try the chicken breast simmered in saffron-infused rice with bell peppers, olives, onions and tomatoes. Caribbean paella is interesting, and beef-lovers will like the New York USDA Choice strip served with crispy potatoes and sweet pepper-aioli sauce. Lunch and dinner, with entrees $4.95 to $16.95, served daily.

Evangeline
211 S. Atlantic Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale
305/522-7001

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow inspired the name, and the local restaurant group - responsible for the excellent Sage (2378 N. Federal Highway) and Mistral a few feet away on the boulevard - inspired the staff and the menu, which features a fine fil? gumbo with chunks of andouille sausage and smoked rabbit, crawfish-catfish combinations and chicken-clam-mussel-shrimp jambalaya as good as found in Creole country. The soft-shell crabs in cajunized meuni?re sauce is also worth writing New Orleans about. Lunch and dinner, with entrees priced $6.25 to $18.95, served daily.

Il Tartufo
2400 E. Las Olas Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale
305/767-9190

Golden Spoon winner Rino Balzano and his wife, Nadine, moved their prize-winning but much too small Il Tartufo to this spacious spread in March, taking over a much-used and often-abused property. It's an ambitious undertaking, but chef Rino is convinced he can capitalize on a greater year-round trade and much-improved parking facilities. What to order? Anything the personable, intensely serious Rino recommends. Ask what night his guitar player Manuel is going to perform; he is marvelous and so, too, is Rino when he shows the vocal side of his many talents. Dinner, with entrees priced $10 to $25, served nightly.

Mark's Las Olas
1032 E. Las Olas Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale
305/463-1000

South Florida's highly visible chef, Mark Militello, spun off this indoor-outdoor gem last fall from his Mark's Place in North Miami, one of the 1995 winners of Florida Trend's Golden Spoon awards for the best restaurants in the state. The menu changes regularly so count your blessings when you can start with a pan roast of white water clams with saffron and chorizo or pan-roasted sweetbreads with tiny asparagus spears in caper-freckled black butter. Then proceed to an oak-grilled center cut pork chop with a palate-awakening Scotch Bonnet barbecue sauce and some mango chutney or white and green angel hair tangled with baby artichokes, herb ricotta and tiny bits of prosciutto. Lunch Monday through Saturday; dinner, with entrees $9 to $19, served nightly.

Oasis Cafe
600 Seabreeze Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale
305/463-3130

This southern shoreline outpost, at the end of the reborn strip, has great outdoor seating and a menu that includes salads, sandwiches and snack stuff. The all-beef franks joined by chili, red onion and cheddar cheese are excellent, as are the turkey sandwiches. Also, try such serious servings as wahoo, blessed with an onion and sweet green pepper-spiked bordelaise and saluted with a pair of lightly grilled Florida lobster medallions. Lunch and dinner, with entrees $6 to $18, served daily.

Canyon
1818 E. Sunrise Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale
305/765-1950

It's off the Los Olas beaten path, but this newcomer is so innovative in a peppery, Southwestern cross-cultural way it is well worth the trip. The menu changes every three weeks, but representative excitements are tequila-christened chicken; grilled pork tenderloin covered with sun-dried cherry mole sauce and served on roasted corn griddle cakes; venison prosciutto tostada softened with white truffled oil; smoked redfish sushi with Thai coriander glaze, over Japanese sticky rice. Then there is "Desert Dusted Brook Trout," which is rolled in blue corn flour before being grilled with green chile and lemon grass butter, then sprinkled with toasted pinion nuts and placed on poblano-spiked black bean mash. Dinner served nightly, with entrees from $13 to $25.

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