Athena by the Sea

The new polished interior at Athena by the Sea in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. (Tom Schager/Courtesy / December 27, 2012)

What's happening in food and dining around South Florida.

Karma Sushi Steakbar

346 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, 561-361-3999, KarmaSushiSteakbar.com

The owners of the former Spin Ultra Lounge in the core of Mizner Park have spun a new concept focusing on serious, consistent and artistically presented food in the same edgy ambience but without the volume.


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Executive chef Chuck Gittleman, hailing from favorites such as Max's Grille and The Addison, designed a broad menu for daily lunch and dinner from small plates, such as super-fresh, no-filler jumbo lump crab cake with Creole-lime butter ($16), and sandwiches, such as fried shrimp po'boy ($15), to entrees such as pan-seared scallops with caramelized cauliflower and green beans in truffle brown butter ($32). It's hard to choose from the ten sauces, such as truffle butter or bacon-onion jam, to accompany the eight grilled/broiled meats ($23 to $110 for two). Even the numerous sides are standouts, such as the thyme-roasted wild mushrooms and bacon-onion braised Brussels sprouts (both $7). Most bottles of wine surprisingly are in the $30s.

An upcoming sit-down sushi bar in the back will expand the Chilean sushi chef's creations, such as wasabi-crusted ahi tuna ($14) and soft-shell crab BLT roll ($15).

A fleet of deep semi-private, semi-circular booths now beckon from the dance floor, and a long LED wall with geometric lattice changes colors to fit the mood. A DJ ramps it up after 11 p.m. until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. A narrow side patio offers a retreat.

The Mexican

133 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton, 561-300-5280, TheMexicanByMax.com

This time it's Mexican.

The Max Group is at it again with yet another concept, this one in Royal Palm Place as a lively Day of the Dead-tinged cocina and tequila bar.

"Mexican food is dear to me, having grown up in Southern California during the 1950s and '60s," restaurateur Dennis Max said in a press release. "Border town cuisine is part of California's fabric, much in the way that Italian food is part of New York's culture. I look forward to sharing my intimate familiarity and love of this cuisine with our guests in South Florida."

A large Mexican-tiled indoor/outdoor bar bridges the patio seating and the orange-and-blue dining room, where an intense wall mural and half of a VW bus with working lights and horn anchor other elements such as tequila-bottle chandeliers, cowhide chairs and a pressed tin ceiling.

The drink lineup emphasizes tequila and margaritas ($10-$14), of course, such as the El Mercadito with muddled cucumber and jalapeno ($11).

The menu of all-natural meats and cheeses features requisite tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas and burritos, but innovation shines in dishes such as the chile relleno stuffed with chorizo, cheese and corn ($8), pork belly arepa with chili-garlic salsa ($9), crab and shrimp ceviche tostaditas ($14), and carne asada al carbon with potato hash, chorizo, onion and poblano rajas ($24).

Dinner is served nightly with plans to open for lunch after the New Year. A DJ, live music and a mariachi band will entertain on certain nights.

"The Mexican melds high-quality, sustainable ingredients, like those found at Max's Harvest and Max's Grille," Max said.

Athena by the Sea

4400 Ocean Drive, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, 954-771-2900, AthenaByTheSea.net

This 13-year-old Greek-American restaurant has reopened after closing three months for renovation.