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Review: Paradise found at Beach House Pompano

 

★★★½

Far too frequently, an inverse ratio of beauty to flavor is the disappointing norm at South Florida’s high-profile beachfront restaurants. With views so pretty, who needs to worry about the food? Beach House Pompano happily blows that equation out of the water. A stunning, two-story structure that opened in March and cost roughly $6.5 million to build, Beach House Pompano is no tourist trap. It has the makings of a South Florida treasure, a place with a casual vibe, smart decor and simple yet tasty food where locals and visitors should surely flock for years to come.

Truth be told, I didn’t know Brimstone Restaurant Group — the former owners of Grille 401 on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and the recently shuttered Pinon Grill in Boca Raton — had this type of greatness in them. When I peeked at the menu online before my recent visit and saw items with corny labels such as “Walk the Cedar Plank Salmon,” “Sea-Breezy Caprese” and the “Best Damn Filet,” I had my doubts. My natural default setting is not to embrace smooth and sleek corporate endeavors.

And when our server, an earnest and affable college student who said it was his first night on the floor, steered us to order steamed clams “because we’re near the beach and all our seafood is fresh — they’re from Rhode Island,” I thought, “Uh-oh, here we go again.”

But when our meal was done — and the last bite of Key lime pie had been eaten — everyone in my group had the same reaction: We could not believe how much we liked it.

Service was efficient (we were the college kid’s first ever table, he said, and he was remarkably cool throughout), and the parade of dishes that made their way to the table featured quality ingredients prepared well. The proprietors say fish and meat are delivered seven days, and the kitchen makes all sauces and sides from scratch.

About that Key lime pie — it may be the best in South Florida, rivaling the one found at Joe’s Stone Crab, long the gold standard among South Florida restaurants. I did a double take when I took my first bite, because it had the same creamy texture as the Joe’s pie filling, but the Beach House crust, made from graham crackers and pecans, was superior. It was hefty and crunchy. Brimstone culinary director Rick Schwager says his recipe uses fresh-squeezed juice and zest from Key limes.

The food was very good to excellent, but the real stars at Beach House are the beach house and the oceanfront setting. Brimstone acquired a 45-year lease from the city of Pompano Beach to build the 400-seat, two-story property, part of a coastal redevelopment project near the Pompano Beach pier (which is being rebuilt after sustaining damage from Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012). 

The first-floor dining room features furniture from Bali, bamboo floors and teak ceilings, along with wicker chairs and wicker lighting fixtures. Brimstone director of operations Andy Fox says the decor was inspired by touring beach houses and beachfront restaurants around the globe, with elements taken from Costa Rica, Asia and Hawaii. The company spent $350,000 on hurricane-proof, roll-down garage-type windows, and the salt air flows in from an open-air bar overlooking the ocean.

The second floor features a bar with tiered, balcony seating built into the front deck overlooking the beach. Only appetizers and drinks are available on the upper level, with couches and coffee tables spread about the deck. Once the cranes clear out, the views will be stunning. The Hillsboro Inlet lighthouse is visible to the north, and the property is surrounded by coastal dunes and sea oats.

Only a few things marred the experience and prevented me from awarding a perfect four stars. The dining room can be uncomfortable in summer because of high humidity, with the open-air concept also allowing the occasional fly to buzz around plates of food. Fox says additional fans and bug-control methods are on the way. And some of the mismatched chairs were downright uncomfortable (I had to play musical chairs by pulling a more comfy seat from another table after my initial seat was too low and torturous). Cocktail prices veered toward the high side ($14 for signature drinks). Fox says the restaurant will soon lower drink prices, but also reduce pours from 2 ounces to 1 1/2-ounces.

Once we started eating, all discomfort faded. Those steamed clams ($15) were good to the last slurp, briny little necks bathed in garlic and white-wine broth and flecked with bits of pancetta, a light dish with a salty punch that paired perfectly with the oceanfront surroundings. Ceviche ($17) featured hunks of lobster, shrimp and scallops (instead of sinewy mystery fish often found in local restaurants) soaked in leche de tigre mellowed with coconut milk. It was served with crisp and flaky tostones, the best I’ve had in some time. Tuna poke stack ($17) was a round cylinder of minced marinated tuna, diced avocado and chopped, crunchy fried wontons surrounded by a puddle of balanced ponzu sauce.

The emphasis is on seafood, but the kitchen — overseen by Schwager and executive chef Troy Beasley — deftly handled meats and vegetables, too. Burgers, steaks and fish are grilled over a live-oak fire, so even the simplest dishes are kissed with smoky complexity. The daily catch, snapper ($36), was fresh and flavorful. A 16-ounce certified Angus sirloin strip special was pricey at $49 but worth it, excellent and tender beef cooked perfectly to the ordered medium-rare, accompanied by grilled asparagus and flavorful black beans and rice. There was enough to take home for the next day’s lunch. Shrimp and grits ($27) featured medium-size Gulf shrimp with a creamy and satisfying mound of white cheddar grits.

We looked around and pinched ourselves. At Beach House Pompano, diners can have it all.

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

Beach House Pompano

270 N. Pompano Beach Blvd., Pompano Beach

954-607-6530 or BeachHousePompano.com

Cuisine: American with emphasis on fresh seafood

Cost: Moderate to expensive. Appetizers, sushi rolls, tacos, burgers, sandwiches and salads cost $9 to $22, main courses $22-49, sides $6-7, desserts $9

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily (until midnight Friday-Saturday)

Reservations: Not taken on weekends, accepted for seating before 6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Full bar with specialty cocktails, craft beers, limited wine list and sangria.

Noise level: Conversational with background music over speakers

Wheelchair access: Ramp from street level to main dining room, elevator to upstairs lounge (currently under repair)

Parking: $5 valet or metered street

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