First impression: When I heard Tundra is "the nation's first ice-art-infused restaurant concept," I expected it to resemble the Ice Skating Rink at Rockefeller Center. Instead, the ice theme is so understated here that I practically missed the two ice sculptures: one near the bar in the 45-seat inside dining room, and another near the sidewalk in front of the 85-seat patio. The restaurant's gimmick aside, chef David Berman and co-owner Alex Podolny have high ambitions that mostly succeed.
Ambience: The inside boasts supper-club chic, even though the kitchen is a bit too open for my tastes. Most guests choose to sit on the patio under the awning, where it's comfortable, but not a good match for the fancy food.
Background: Open since October in the former Mancini's space, Berman has owned the Sculptured Ice Company, a custom-ice-sculpture business, for the past 15 years. Using state-of-the-art technology, the company can create anything in ice.
The menu: With the menu divided into six categories — cold plates, hot plates, salads, lighter fare, pasta and featured entrees — we opted for the Tundra Tour. At $59 per person, the special includes samples of 10 of the chef's favorites. Those favorites are also available as a-la-carte menu items. It's probably more food than any one person needs to eat. Everyone at the table has to take the tour.
The tour: Lobster cappuccino ($8 a la carte) is served in a demitasse, and comes complete with cappuccino-style foam. While it's a bit salty, it's much less rich than traditional bisque. Ceviche ($12) with rock shrimp, red snapper and scallops had spent just a little too much time in its brine. Kobe-beef meatballs ($12) are sauced with black-truffle Madeira sauce. I'm quite sure the artichoke fritters ($11) started with a canned artichoke heart. They were good, but would have been better had it been a fresh artichoke.
While I recommend the tasting, my favorite dishes were those I wanted more of. Curried crab prawns ($15) worked wonderfully with the combination of refreshing jicama slaw, coconut and sweet-chili sauce. Hudson Valley Drunk Duck ($34) is a perfectly cooked breast and leg with plum wine and currants. Ricotta and pecorino tortellini (421) is sauced with pancetta, sun-dried tomatoes, pearl onions, basil and shallot cream. Chef Berman starts with high-quality beef in his three-peppercorn-and-pommery-crusted filet mignon served with grilled vegetables, roasted garlic mash and port-wine demi-glace.
Sweet! Desserts didn't match the high ambitions of the savory side of the menu. Still, fried strawberries with white chocolate anglaise ($8) and warm white-chocolate cheesecake brulee ($8) satisfied the need for a sweet ending.
Service: We were clearly served by a professional, who oversaw the arrival of 10 different dishes while making sure the previous course was cleared.
Liquid assets: The bar's signature concoctions include the Tundra-tini, with basil, mint, Key lime and organic honey.
Tundra Las Olas
1017 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Cost: Expensive-very expensive
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily
Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu items on request
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot in back weekdays, $5 valet on weekends