El Tamarindo Cafe II
3100 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, 954-480-9919
Alex Amaya and his three siblings have opened the third offshoot of 7-year-old El Tamarindo Cafe on State Road 84 in Fort Lauderdale. This time, in the former Charms Cafe, the twist is Peruvian and sushi, following Latin/Italian concepts in Hallandale and Deerfield Beach.
"Alex's vision of the El Tamarindo restaurants was variety with each one offering something different," general manager Michael Suarez says.
The cuisine is not the only surprise. The decor has taken a sophisticated upscale turn: black granite L-shaped bar tiled in earth-toned mosaics, brown leather chairs and booths, and a beautiful flagstone-colored tiled floor resembling wood. An elegant crystal chandelier, large orchid photographs and gentle music lend softness. A wood deck in front provides alfresco dining.
The two departures are due to the demographics in Lighthouse Point, they say.
"I've got to be unique and have something no one else has around here," says Amaya, the chain's head chef and the first of his El Salvador-born siblings to immigrate here. "When you're in this industry, you have to know a little bit about everything."
The sushi and Peruvian sections are fairly short, but Amaya plans to expand them based on feedback. Peruvian standouts are lomo saltado ($17.95) and the green aguadito soup, a Peruvian version of their signature eight-seafood mariscada soup from El Salvador, except with cilantro, parsley, veggies and rice (both $19).
In addition to requisite soy and wasabi, plates of sushi arrive with an unusual artist's palette touch with four dollops: remoulade, spicy mayo, eel sauce and sriracha. The remoulade pairs perfectly with the California roll ($14).
Latin dishes round out most of the daily lunch/dinner menu, along with salads such as Thai steak or chicken ($12). Don't miss the tres leche sponge cake with fruit ($5).
Up next: a Latin-American outpost in Pinecrest in the fall.
Hot & Soul
3045 N. Federal Highway, 60B, Fort Lauderdale, 754-206-2155,¿ HotAndSoul.com
Christy Samoy felt she had failed her mother by not opening a restaurant before she died in 2010. So, this new international soul food spot in the former Danny's Pizza & Sports Pub is Samoy's tribute in realizing her dream.
"The intended niche is people who love good ethnic food, craft beer and good smaller winery wines in a casual restaurant with a neighborhood feel," says Samoy, co-owner with husband, Mike Hampton, who both cooked bold cuisine at New Orleans restaurants for seven years.
Signatures are chicken, andouille, and ham hock gumbo ($16), chicken adobo stewed in soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, bay leaves and peppercorns ($14), handmade Gnaughty Gnocchi with San Marzano tomato sauce, braised oxtail and basil ($16) and dulce de leche custard with candied cashews, caramel toast and banana jam ($8).
Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday, as well as Sunday brunch, amid an industrial, Californian ambiance with peacock colors, high-top communal table and tiled bars with wood counters reclaimed from Kentucky tobacco barns. Sidewalk seating is available.
You have a couple of weeks left to try chef Lindsay Autry's spring dishes before she transitions to summer.
Autry, a "Top Chef: Texas" finalist and resident chef at Swank farm in Loxahatchee, has instilled freshness and seasonality at this lush oasis and banned frozen food since taking the reins last fall.
"We took the time to educate our staff in not only how to describe the new items, but to develop a new culture of service, and of course, teaching the kitchen a new style of cooking," she says.
She and her new pastry chef, Sarah Sipe, who Autry worked with at Michelle Bernstein's namesake restaurant at The Omphoy Ocean Resort in Palm Beach, are taking advantage of the gifts from their trademark tropical garden: exotic fruit and spices, such as allspice, bay leaves and cinnamon leaves. Out of 600 trees, more than 100 bear exciting possibilities.
These botanical flavors are striking in cocktails and a new rum garden punch infused with jaboticaba, ginger flowers and calamondin ($8), which will change by season. The jaboticaba reappears in Sipe's sorbet accompanying her ricotta cheesecake with pine-nut brittle and salted caramel ($9).
In addition to the changing regular menu, Autry features daily seasonal specials, such as Swank padron peppers filled with whipped cheese and wrapped with serrano ham ($8). She also is launching a spontaneous chef's tasting in June for $55 to $65. Each of the five courses will be a surprise.
This classy Euro-fusion gem is featuring 10 items for $10 on its weekday lunch menu for summer.
Favorites are the open-faced omelet of the day and chicken paillard with tomato-and-basil salad. The shrimp salad sandwich often sells out by the end of lunch, general manager Krista McCracken says.
"We decided to broaden our lunch menu and offer more bang for the buck during the quieter summer months," says owner Mel Lechner. "Our 10 for $10 provides delicious choices and great value. And our customers really enjoy the free soft drink with their lunch."
New summer dinner selections are chilled, white-wine poached mussels with horseradish cocktail sauce ($13), salmon tartare ($14), pan-seared lemon sole with watermelon gazpacho ($28), chicken breast stuffed with sage and fontina with lemon caper berry sauce and caramelized onion farro risotto ($28) and pork chop grilled with steamed mussel broth ($29).