What's happening in food and dining around South Florida.
Butcher & the Burger, Dandelion Grill
Butcher & the Burger and Dandelion Grill, owned by the same company, are the latest pieces in upgrading the mall's food court branded as The Cafes at Boca.
"Our goal is to elevate traditional food-court cuisine," says Joseph Arnold, co-owner of both eateries. "By taking multiple adjoining stalls, we can combine the back of the house, thus reducing our cost which can then be passed on to the customer in healthy, culinary-driven fare using local, sustainable and organic ingredients when possible."
Butcher & the Burger, inspired by an old-fashioned butcher shop, offers non-traditional burger choices, such as a Key West shrimp ($10.50) and bison ($13.50) in different buns or as wraps. They can also be tailored with spices such as curry-coconut-honey, and toppings such as organic duck egg ($2) and truffle mayo ($1). Linger over Cafe du Monde coffee ($1.95) and beignets ($1 each).
Mediterranean signatures at Dandelion Grill are kebabs of prime steak, chicken, fish of the day or lamb with tzatziki ($7.25 to $9) and Greek salad with grilled chicken ($8.50).
Red, The Steakhouse
This sleek steakhouse that feels like a wine cellar has introduced its spring selections and a matinee menu.
"I've been waiting for the spring. It's so fun!" says chef de cuisine Jarod Higgins, who adheres to a made-from-scratch philosophy.
Higgins buys whole fish from fishermen instead of purveyors, such as striped bass from northern Florida, halibut from Georgia and golden tilefish from the Keys. They are simply pan-seared and served with a starch and spring vegetables, such as sugar snap peas, flowering kale, strawberry radish, English peas, and morel or brown beech mushrooms (about $37 at market price). Sides of these veggies range from $8 to $10.
Chocolate ganache on coconut-macaroon crust will run as a special until May, and a chocolate torte with caramel mousse and peanut-butter anglaise has been added to the menu (both $12).
Favorites on the $49 three-course matinee menu from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday are French onion soup, burrata salad ($10 supplement) and slow-roasted 10-ounce prime rib marinated for 24 hours.
"I made the options from a lot of big hits off our menu," Higgins says.
Up next: new cocktails.
Coco Asian Bistro & Bar
1841 Cordova Road, Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-3541, CocoAsianBistro.com
This alluring pan-Asian fusion restaurant in the Harbor Shops has streamlined its menu to make it less daunting, as well as easier to incorporate updates.
"We try to keep everything fresh and rotate things," says owner/chef Mike Ponluang, who hails from Thailand.
He pared back the sushi rolls by half but added a small gluten-free section with pad Thai ($17), red curry ($17) and fried rice ($15). Vegetarians also are not forgotten with grilled tofu in sesame sauce and seared tofu with grilled eggplant (both $17).
Start with new appetizers of salmon salad ($10) and Thai-style tuna ceviche ($15) before moving to lobster volcano with 3 pounds of Maine lobster, scallops and shrimp flambeed table side (about $85 to $90 at market price) and pan-fried foie gras with miso sauce ($35), brought back by demand. Kobe-style filet mignon arrives sizzling on a hot lava stone (about $40 to $50 at market price), which creates a fun experience as you cook the steak to your preference.
Enjoy new cocktails, rum delight ($12) and pineapple lemonade ($10), perhaps on the patio, which has been dressed up with bamboo, a glass fire wall and a fountain.
End with a new dessert, such as black sticky rice with red bean paste and coconut ice cream, garnished as an adorable palm tree ($12).
Swine Southern Table & Bar
2415 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 786-360-6433, RunPigRun.com
You can smell it two blocks away. Your nose alone can lead you to this homage to all things pig in the long, narrow space of the former Les Halles.
From the owners of South Beach darlings Khong River House and Yardbird Southern Table & Bar — both James Beard Foundation semifinalists as best new restaurant — comes this snout-to-tail concept. Yardbird's Southern niche is even more hard core here starring heritage-breed pigs known for their darker, marbled meat.
It's not easy prepping them and other meats such as Black Angus burnt ends with fried corn bread ($16) and spice-rubbed 14-hour brisket ($32). A shift starts at 2 a.m. to smoke, brine and cure new batches for daily lunch and dinner, plus weekend brunch. Stacks of wood on display at the entrance feed the insatiable smoker.
"It's an around-the-clock process," says Jacob Nast, a manager.
Barbecue bone marrow spread onto grilled bread ($18), aka "redneck PB&J" by the staff, will dribble down your chin while humming along to Southern blues. Spiced watermelon is a chilling foil in chicken-fried bacon and waffles with honey hot sauce ($26). "People have made incredible noises while eating this," Nast says.
The rustic food with an upscale twist matches the decor: brick walls, rough-hewn reclaimed wood, corrugated tin ceiling and a loft-like second floor overlooking the buzz downstairs.
Extensive bourbon, rye and rum collections are used to concoct unusual rum-and-rye cocktails such as the Good Ritten Sour ($13). And bacon doesn't fail to show in the Warm Sticky Icky Bun with sweet-potato-pie ice cream ($9).