Cay: Making designs on lunch

The ladies who lunch — and can afford to shop the showrooms of the Design Center of the Americas in Dania Beach — were nowhere to be found last week at Cay. There wasn't a real housewife in the house.

Instead, the folks eating at the charming, 3-month-old restaurant inside the atrium lobby of one of the DCOTA buildings were decidedly just like the rest of us.

While there has long been a restaurant at DCOTA, Cay is not only located in a more-central building than the old eatery, but it has a brand-new, state-of-the-art kitchen that serves both the restaurant and outside caterers for center events. The atrium can handle a sit-down dinner for 450 and has hosted everything from weddings and bar mitzvahs to charity fundraisers and corporate dinners.


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Cay, however, is set underneath a modern, white pergola, an 87-seat oasis within the 775,000 square feet that make up DCOTA. It's Key West with a French accent — whitewashed tables; wide-striped upholstery on the banquettes; French metal cafe chairs; and a big, communal, bar-height table set with stools. Even though you're inside an office building, there's so much light and bright-blue flooring, it feels as if you're outside.

Thierry Isambert, of Miami's Thierry's Catering and Event Design, who has been cooking for five-star events for more than two decades, oversees the kitchen and catering events. Like many caterers, Isambert has a way with presentation, but his food tastes as good as it looks. It's solid, and just interesting enough to appease the design crowd.

We started, for instance, with ceviche ($11), a not-too-spicy corvina mixture served with crispy tostones. Two-to-an-order Wagyu beef sliders ($11) are a bit underseasoned, but maybe that's the point. Let the beef flavor shine. And it did.

Cay serves plenty of salads — Caesar ($11), steak ($17) and tuna Nicoise ($18) — along with sandwich and entree sections.

I went for a Jamaican jerk-chicken sandwich ($14), tender from a 12-herb marinade, but not nearly as spicy as I'd hoped. It's served on a simple bun with lettuce and tomato. Accompanying fries are of the fresh-cut-thick variety, crunchy on the outside and creamy inside. Isambert also offers a Cuban sandwich ($14) and tarragon-chicken-salad sandwich ($14).

All but one entree — the 5-ounce filet mignon ($27) — are priced below $20, and these are generous lunchtime servings. Plantain-crusted mahi-mahi ($19.50) sits on roasted squash on a plate decorated with habanero-grilled pineapple salsa. Island pasta ($18) combines fettuccine with shrimp, mussels, squid and lemon-wine Alfredo sauce. It thankfully relied more on lemon and wine than cream and butter of old-fashioned Alfredos.

The jumbo chocolate-chunk cookie ($5) was tough from overbaking, but that didn't stop us from eating it. Be sure to order one of the house-made ice creams or sorbets. We had a scoop ($1.50) of vanilla with that cookie. Strawberry Napoleon on crispy wanton ($8) was also good, but a little light on the Grand Marnier Bavarian cream. Pineapple upside-down cake ($7) is an individual cake about the size of a dessert plate. While it didn't have that burnt-sugar quality of many of these cakes, it did have a very nice pepper Anglaise. Cay makes an exceptional cappuccino ($5).

The only real disappointment at Cay was the service. Perhaps our service was well-meaning, but it was disorganized and amateurish. This is too bad, since Cay offers anything but amateur food.

jtanasychuk@southflorida.com or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at SouthFlorida.com/sup and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.

DCOTA, 1855 Griffin Road, B Building, Dania Beach

954-362-5512, DCOTA.com

Cuisine: American

Cost: Moderate

Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays

Reservations: Suggested

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Beer and wine

Sound level: Quiet

Outside smoking: No

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: $3 self-park; $2 more for valet