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.
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.
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.
"This year with the remodel we will have the biggest New Year's Eve party in our history," owner Louis Marchelos says. "Our customers are in awe when they see the remodel while walking around town."
The face-lift opened the front to open air, installed cypress wood ceiling beams and columns chiseled from limestone imported from Greece, and expanded the bar along with a frost rail to chill drinks and the ability to keep liquor between 0 to 5 degrees and serve beer at 32 degrees.
A kitchen redesign has expanded the menu selections, such as roasted Mediterranean peppers with a spicy feta blend ($9), Athena pizza salad ($15), Louie's barbecue ribs with apple bourbon barbecue sauce ($22), pork osso buco ($22) and lamb kebab ($25).
Marchelos has extended the hours to midnight during the week and until 2 a.m. on weekends.
Mediterraneo Cafe & Grill
420 N. Federal Highway, 754-222-9174, Pompano Beach
A family from Illinois has brought its heritage of Sicilian cooking to Broward County.
"After many years my parents retired, and my brother and I hope to continue the family tradition here in Pompano Beach. From time to time my parents will come in and start cutting some garlic to prepare an old Sicilian recipe to delight our customers," says Michael Maggiore. "We are a happy family, and we make our customers feel just like at home."
Lunch and dinner are served daily, except Mondays, amid Greek and Roman columns and rustic wood. For lunch, the caponata with eggplant, olives, capers, celery and onions ($7.25) is one of the specialty sandwiches. The dinner menu showcases a dozen pastas, such as smoked salmon farfalle and swordfish gemelli with mint and tomatoes (both $18.99). The Sicilian trio platter of sausage, chicken and pork ($25.99) is one of the grilled specialties.
"Each recipe, there is a story, so we want to delight our customers with stories from the ancient world," says Maggiore.