Brimstone Woodfire Grill: a red-letter restaurant

Since the summer of 2008, motorists driving past Pines Boulevard along I-75 have had their curiosities piqued by the enormous, bright-red "BRIMSTONE" sign on the facade of a two-story restaurant situated in the most-visible corner of the Shops at Pembroke Gardens. Wonder no longer if you've never visited: Brimstone Woodfire Grill is one of your best options for a special occasion or business dinner in Broward County's casual-restaurant-heavy, southwest corner.

Contrary to popular belief, Brimstone is not a chain, though the owners also operate Piñon Grill in Boca Raton. Nevertheless, the restaurant's concept seems to be designed with an eye toward future expansion. Brimstone's decor and menu are in character for the outdoor malls that have flourished in South Florida. You'll find lots of stacked-stone facades, waiters in long-sleeve white shirts with uniform ties, polished yet cheerful service and an accessible menu intended to target the everyman looking to splurge a bit.

On a recent visit, we had to hunt for a close parking spot in the busy mall. For those people looking to impress or avoid a hike, a valet is available for $6 next to the restaurant.


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Sundown is a great time to visit, as three of the restaurant's walls are composed almost entirely of windows that bring in a nice glow to enhance the dark wood beams in the ceilings and the yellow and melon tones in the walls. Despite the price of the food, the restaurant's nighttime clientele is relatively casual, and included several families on our visit. The tree-filled patio offers a full bar, enormous umbrellas and a view of the mall.

We started off with a traditional mojito ($10), strong on lime and easy on sugar. A blood-orange margarita ($14) with Patron Silver tequila, Cointreau and sour mix caught our eye. It's more powerful than the fruity name implies, yet it's a tasty start to the meal.

Go for the margherita flatbread ($11), with shreds of basil and a tomato slice meticulously placed on each piece. The flatbread features a thinner than usual whole-wheat crust free of the loads of butter or oil found at so many other restaurants. She-crab bisque ($9) had nice chunks of crab meat, and the soup's flavor offered more cream than tomato.

We didn't loathe it, but the crab cake ($13) with corn relish and mustard mayonnaise didn't taste fresh. We were impressed by a large tower of crunchy tuna tartare ($14), perched atop avocado with ponzu sauce. Three Kobe beef mini cheeseburgers ($14) with buttery buns are a tasty choice with drinks or for lunch.

Some carnivores look askance at expensive steak salads (guilty), but Brimstone delivers outstanding flavor with enormous slices of juicy steak on a bed of mixed greens with tomatoes, dried cranberries, walnuts, fried onions and blue-cheese vinaigrette ($18).

The 16-ounce Angus beef New York strip ($40) was perfectly seared in a 1,600-degree broiler with a buttery exterior. Purists may want to ask the kitchen to lighten up on the seasoning, or serve it on the side. Slow-roasted baby-back ribs ($17 for a half slab, $25 for a full slab) offered a punchy, sweet barbecue sauce. The riskiest dish on the menu was a Chilean sea bass with pesto perched on a hill of mashed potatoes sitting in a Thai-chili butter sauce ($35). The amount of competing flavors can be polarizing, but it's a tasty dish, particularly from the excellently cooked fish and the exciting chili sauce. If you don't like potatoes near your fish, ask for the mash on the side, as the elements all blend together as you work your way through the entree. Parmesan chicken ($24) is a serviceable dish with chicken breasts pounded thin and coated with Panko bread crumbs and served with linguine in a mushroom-caper white-wine sauce (not a red sauce).

Desserts at Brimstone are made in-house from scratch. We had a hard time picking a favorite, but we did talk quite a bit about the bread pudding ($8), a melt-in-your mouth dessert served in a tart raspberry sauce. A rich, moist brownie with vanilla ice cream ($7) was served hot, though we would have liked a tad more ice cream to balance the size of the brownie. Consider skipping coffee and instead having a creme brulee trio ($10), with flavors in mocha (our favorite), chai latte and, of course, plain vanilla in three shareable ramekins.

Overall, we enjoyed that the restaurant offers a mix of high-end items with solid, lower-priced offerings, such as its salads and flatbreads. Brimstone is an oasis for an area of South Florida that has been underserved when it comes to both upper and whole-wheat crusts.

 

Brimstone Woodfire Grill

14575 S.W. 5th St., Pembroke Pines

954-430-2333, Brimstonewoodfiregrill.com

Cuisine: New American, steakhouse

Cost: Expensive

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. weekdays, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Reservations: Recommended

Bar: Full service

Sound level: Moderate

Outside smoking: Yes

For kids: Highchairs, kids menu

Wheelchair accessible: Yes