Bao Bar + Asian Kitchen
1200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-530-4176, BaoLasOlas.com
Simon Bai takes pride in his chefs' handcrafted noodles, dumplings and spongy bao slider buns, hence the name of his new restaurant in the former Wild East Asian Bistro.
"We are focusing our efforts to be the first true pan-Asian restaurant," says Bai, who was raised in Suriname. "There is a plethora of Thai-sushi restaurants training people to believe Asian food is your typical California roll with a side of pad Thai or pork fried rice full of MSG. We aim to change that mindset by using grass-fed beef, all-natural chicken, fresh fish and absolutely no MSG."
Signatures include Chinese shrimp dumplings called har gow ($10), Thai charred octopus ($14), Tokyo ramen soup with pork belly, poached egg and fish cake ($12,) Korean rib-eye bulgogi ($29) and Filipino pancit Canton noodles ($21), a nod to the Filipino heritage of executive chef Mark Rivera, who helmed Tatu Asian Restaurant at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Lunch includes rice or noodle bowls with choice of protein ($12-$14).
A surprisingly sophisticated wine list accompanies specialty cocktails ($12-$15), craft beers, and of course, sakes.
"The ambiance is cozy due to the earth tones we've used to be an extension of our food — all natural," Bai says.
Wood imported from Indonesia was fashioned into tables and a wavy bark-edged bar, punctuated by white emu booths. Alfresco dining beckons on the semicircular patio overlooking the canal or down on the dock with oversized lanterns and mini fire pits.
A DJ spins Thursdays for ladies night, and musicians perform Friday and Saturday nights. Lunch and dinner are served daily with Sunday brunch to come.
Sweet Nectar Charcoal Grill & Spirits
1017 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-761-2122, SweetNectarBuzz.com
Four months after opening, this Southern-flaired retreat with an enticing patio on the city's prime street has launched weekend brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"While we try to highlight innovative brunch items like charcoal grilled duck bacon and honey-pecan mascarpone cheese made in house, we also wanted familiar and comforting dishes like traditional eggs Benedict and grilled cowboy steak and eggs," says Peter Cumplido, director of operations.
That sinful honey-pecan mascarpone pools atop the challah French toast with berries ($8). Other highlights are steel-cut oatmeal with peach compote ($6) and red salsa chilaquiles ($12). A limited lunch menu offers hits such as roasted Brussels sprouts with kimchi vinaigrette ($8), sea scallops swimming in sweet red-pepper butter on an escargot tray ($12), crispy soft-shell crab BLT ($13) and octopus, cooked sous vide for 18 hours and then char-grilled ($12).
Bloody Marys, mimosas, bellinis and sangria ($12-$14) complement, but you might try the new Smitten with Boodles gin ($14). Cocktails and beer are served in frozen mason jars.
New desserts include croissant bread pudding with peanut-butter fudge ice cream ($10).
Insider tip: Reap the free parking out back.
This quaint historic house with a front-yard oasis has overhauled its wines to pair with new specialties.