Review: A sinking feeling at 3030 Ocean

 

★★

For a place that is supposed to be one of Fort Lauderdale’s showcase restaurants, 3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Marriott left me feeling soaked. It specializes in seafood, yet two fish entrees were overcooked and the mignonette served with raw oysters wasn’t very good, more cloying than bracing and vibrant. A $39 pork chop from Palmetto Creek Farms in Avon Park was a study in disappointment, with overcooked leathery meat nearly obscured by bone, fat and mustard sauce.

Not all was bad. There were some tasty bites and pretty plates at the start, with a tuna poke appetizer that popped and a creamy housemade linguini with chunks of smoked wahoo and crunchy bread crumbs that was different in a good way. Desserts were fine.

Chef Adrienne Grenier obviously has talent. But she needs to get her kitchen in line. In a followup interview, Grenier told me she wasn’t there on the night I dined, and that the restaurant got “slammed” with nearly double the usual volume. No matter how crowded or who’s in the kitchen, the prices and expectations remain the same. A seafood restaurant that doesn’t cook fish properly is hard to recommend, especially when those fish dishes run $34 and higher.

I suppose that sums up my 3030 experience. Upon reflection, the most memorable part of the meal was the bill. It was one of those moments when I shook my head and said, “How did that happen?” Our party of four rang up a food tab of nearly $400, including tax and tip. That’s easy to do when a grilled sliced tenderloin entrée costs $55. There are some restaurants where you say an expensive meal is worth every penny (see: Bazaar Mar by Jose Andres), and then there are places that leave you stewing, even when paying with other people’s money.

There was just no excuse for some of the basic culinary miscues at 3030 Ocean, even if it was a busy weekend night in high season. All the hickory rubs and fancy farm pedigrees don’t matter if the cooks murder the meat. Compounding the problem, Grenier later told me: Palmetto Creek has been using substitute, scrawnier pigs from a neighbor’s farm because wolves and dogs have harmed some of their stock. And servers are supposed to explain that it’s a “rustic cut,” butchered by the purveyor, with an extra-wide ribbon of fat for better flavor. Whatever. I’ve had more satisfying pork chops at Waffle House.

I had high hopes going in, which made the disappointment that much greater. Grenier, a South Florida native, worked under 3030 predecessors Dean Max and Paula DaSilva, and won a 2011 episode of Food Network’s “Chopped.” Of all the bites I sampled last month at the Seaside Eats event that opened the 2017 South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Grenier’s seared rare cobia with citrus, olives, mint and chilies was the best.

But that appetizer wasn’t on the menu the night I dined at 3030 Ocean. There was a wahoo sashimi ($16) that wasn’t as good, a plate that shimmered with bright green chives, purple watermelon radish, black garlic and golden crispy shallots. But the fish itself was dull and lifeless.

Grenier, 33, was DaSilva’s sous chef at the highly regarded 1500° at the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach. In 2013, she followed DaSilva back to 3030 Ocean, where they started under Max last decade. In 2015, 3030 Ocean closed for an extensive remodeling, DaSilva left — she recently opened Artisan Beach House at the Bal Harbour Ritz Carlton — and Grenier was promoted to executive chef.

Three years ago, my predecessor gave 3030 Ocean a glowing, 3 1/2-star review, praising DaSilva’s food but griping about the “bland and tired” dining room. Dining critic John Tanasychuk was heartened by the prospect of the redesign. “It's about time,” he wrote in his March 2014 review. “I don't want to hear cheering sports fans as they watch the TVs above the bar, not when I'm eating food created with this much skillfulness. DaSilva and her crew deserve a better canvas for their hard work and creativity. After that renovation, this could very well become a four-star restaurant.”

Unfortunately, 3030 Ocean has gone in the opposite direction. And it is not just the kitchen’s fault. You can still hear those cheering fans and see the bank of televisions above the bar. The redesign has brought darker tones and hardwood floors to the oceanfront room, along with modern, angled, metallic lighting fixtures overhead. The tables are black, with woven placemats and glowing, fake-candle centerpieces.

Service started well, but our waiter disappeared for long stretches in the meal, overtaxed with too many tables spread too far apart. Bussers were slow to pick up empty plates, unacceptable for a fine-dining establishment. Perhaps management needs to ramp up staffing.

The bigger problem is that no matter where diners sit, they will still feel as though they are plopped in the middle of a Marriott. Some of the better hotel restaurants I’ve been in lately — JWB Prime Steak and Seafood at the Margaritaville Resort in Hollywood, Bazaar Mar at the SLS Brickell in Miami, 954 Steak at the W Fort Lauderdale — have carved out their own little worlds, with separate spaces apart from the hotel bustle.

Not so at 3030. Restrooms are shared with guests who come traipsing in from the beach and terrace, some boisterous, beery and clad in swimsuits. While I washed my hands, an older guest bumped into me to plop his plastic beer cup on the sink counter before taking care of business. Ah, the Elbo Room at 3030.

It would be easier to forgive these shortcomings if the food soared above it all, but it didn’t. Fresh oysters from the East and West coasts ($3 each) were good, but marred by the off-kilter mignonette made with champagne vinegar. A basket featuring Gran Forno Bakery bread would have been better if the bread were warmed. A whole roasted snapper ($36) was overdone, and the accompanying roasted potatoes tasted old and languid. The coriander-roasted cobia ($34), had a flavorful exterior and came with good sides — fennel and a bacon-and-sweet-potato hash — but the fish was dry and firm, overcooked by a few minutes.

There were some bright spots. The creamy linguni with wahoo appetizer ($17) featured firm, well-cooked, pasta tinged orange from sweet piquillo peppers. Bread crumbs gave the wahoo a good crunch. Smoked fish dip ($12) was fine. The vibrant tuna poke ($17) had halved macadamia nuts for crunch, sambal for heat and cucumbers and avocados for coolness. The sliced tenderloin was cooked properly to medium rare, and featured good horseradish-whipped potatoes.

There are some inventive new cocktails from sous chef Brooke Mallory. We tried Playing With Fire ($15), tequila infused with jalapeno (it worked), and a Pear Tree Martini ($15), pear vodka with pear juice (a bit too sweet for my taste). The wine list is extensive and decently priced, and when our server discovered that the Goldeneye Pinot Noir ($85) we ordered was out of stock, he offered a fine replacement at the same price, Flowers.

Desserts were a high point, including a Key lime pie with coconut sorbet ($12) and a generous cheese plate ($15) that creamily soothed our disappointment. Grenier was gracious when I spoke to her a few days after my meal. I hope her crew soon finds equal grace around the stoves, grills and ovens, and brings 3030 Ocean back from the depths.

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail.

3030 Ocean

3030 Holiday Drive, Fort Lauderdale (inside Harbor Beach Marriott Resort)

954-765-3030, or 3030Ocean.com

Cuisine: Seafood, modern American

Cost: Expensive-very expensive. Appetizers $12 to $19. Mains $25 to $66. Desserts $12

Hours: Dinner 6-10 nightly

Reservations: Accepted

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Full bar with craft cocktails, extensive wine list

Sound level: Conversational

Wheelchair access: Ground level

Parking: $6 valet with validation

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