So many restaurants. So little time. I rarely have the opportunity to get back to restaurants I've previously reviewed. But in the next few months, I'm making a point of returning to every restaurant I've awarded four stars.
There aren't many. But Grille 66 and Bar at the landmark Hyatt Regency Pier 66 sprung immediately to mind when I set upon my four-star challenge. Two years after my previous visit, it's still a stunner. Set at the base of the 17th Street Causeway Bridge, it offers views of the bridge, the Fort Lauderdale skyline and the passing parade of boats along the Intracoastal.
The 225-seat, multilevel restaurant has held up well 10 years after opening, although it may soon need refreshing. The wooden finishes and warm lighting reminds me of a luxury yacht. Chef Michael Siegel's menu runs from raw bar to prime steaks, original seafood preparations to some very good chocolate chip cookies.
But what was missing this time from two years ago was service. Service and friendliness.
"I'll be right with you," are not the first words I want to hear from my waiter. He had a birthday cupcake that needed its candle ignited. When he finally got around to us, he turned out to be the most aloof server in town, a 180-degree difference from the sommelier who helped us with wine.
That said, it would be difficult to have a bad meal at Grille 66. Oysters ($18 for six Blue Points) arrive with three sauces: Scotch bonnet ginger mignonette, Bloody Mary sauce and mango-cucumber salsa. They seem like uniquely South Florida sauces, with their nod to Caribbean flavors. Likewise, the Maryland crab cake ($16) is accompanied by two sauces: sweet-corn-jalapeno relish and classic remoulade. The crab is so rich, however, that you won't need a sauce.
Much attention has been paid to salads. The Signature ($12) is a combination of chopped iceberg, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, apple-smoked bacon, spice pecans and Gorgonzola vinaigrette.
Every cut of beef, from barrel-cut filet mignon ($39, 8-ounce /$49 12-ounce) to a 22-ounce bone-in rib eye ($49) is represented here. The restaurant takes steak seriously with its 28-day, dry-aged, prime, corn-fed beef. It's a grill, after all. The Signature Steak ($35), a 12-ounce New York strip, is the best steak frites in South Florida, served with Parmesan fries and maitre d'butter.
Among the incredible sides is potatoes au gratin ($12). The sauce is plenty creamy, but the potatoes aren't overcooked. Jumbo peeled asparagus ($12), likewise, still have a gentle crunch and are served with a tiny pitcher of Hollandaise.
On this visit, we were drawn to the chef's specialties, and weren't disappointed. Veal Milanese ($36) so often arrives with overdressed arugula, but this was a perfect example of chefly restraint. Jumbo fried shrimp ($32), that most American of seafood preparations, were freshly breaded and fried, and about the size of a man's thumb. They're served with very good coleslaw and tartar sauce. The only disappointment was grilled Irish salmon ($32) with edamame-bean succotash, grilled asparagus and chipotle-chile butter. The fillet was overcooked.
The restaurant also serves some very fine American desserts, including tart Key lime pie with cream ($10) and a three-layer chocolate cake with raspberry sauce ($12) that's worthy of a glass of cold milk.
Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, 2301 SE 17th St. Causeway, Fort Lauderdale
Cuisine: American steakhouse
Cost: Expensive-very expensive
Hours: Dinner nightly (closed Sundays until October)
Reservations: Suggested, required in season
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Quiet
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu items on request
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Self parking or valet