Madisons New York Grill & Bar
This Montreal-based chain has unveiled its first U.S. outpost in the short-lived Stéphane's.
"We skipped New York and came straight to Boca because we're the landlords of this property," says founder/owner Steve Tsatas, a Montreal native with Greek roots who dreamed up the concept during a visit to New York City. "I was with my lovely wife on Madison Avenue, and I felt inspired by that. So, I just picked the name by looking at the street sign."
American classics followed, such as best-selling prime rib au jus ($32), baby back ribs ($25) and kale salad in a peanut oil dressing ($5, or free side with entree). Besides entrees, the lineup is sandwiches, entree salads, and appetizers such as a tower of delicious grilled vegetables ($10). The Key lime pie with a loose crumble crust is a must ($7).
Tsatas kept the open-kitchen, two-tiered layout from Stéphane's, the wine cellar and the amber onyx lit wall behind the bar but changed everything else, such as new steakhouse-style tufted leather burgundy booths.
Lunch and dinner are served daily with patio seating as an option. The lunch menu is similar, except for a few more sandwiches such as lox–smoked salmon ($13).
Up next: An Intracoastal Waterway location in Pompano Beach next year.
Hardy Park Bistro
21 SW Seventh St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-652-1475, HardyParkBistro.com
Chef and owner Phil Darmon is back on land.
"I've been cooking for 25 years, the last 11 on yachts all over the world," the Aussie says. "That's what brought me to Florida and how I met my wife."
Their New American bistro with Mediterranean and Asian flairs serves lunch and dinner daily, except Mondays. It has an open kitchen design with light-gray interior, the former home of Greek Corner Grille. An herb garden surrounds the front patio seating.
About four daily blackboard specials, such as duck confit salad with white asparagus chorizo ($26), accompany a weekly menu of five starters and five entrees.
The H.P.B. burger with cheddar, fried onions and tomato chutney is a staple ($14), and the grilled octopus salad with arugula, roasted tomatoes, garlic and eggplant ($13.50) has had a long run. Other examples are porcini soup with salsa verde ($11), Asian grilled quail ($13), grilled grouper and jumbo shrimp with cauliflower puree ($28) and veggie Thai red curry ($21).
"We're always mixing it up and doing fun stuff," Darmon says.
About five house-made desserts ($10) are available, such as chocolate mousse, sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce and creme caramel with passion-fruit sauce.
"We're one of the few restaurants in Fort Lauderdale that's going to the effort that we are with desserts," Darmon says.
From the owners of the Lemongrass Asian Bistro mini chain comes The South East Asian Kitchen, known as The Sea, in Addison Place plaza.
It's as elegant inside as out with heavy earth-tone drapes, pendant lighting, wood floors, and caramel tufted banquette seating. Brick-weave wall sections resemble tapestries lit in frames. Sidewalk seating is cozy with heaters.
The dining room may be small, but the menu is big with a mix of Lemongrass favorites, such as ahi tuna pizza ($14), lobster monster roll ($24) and Boca Shore Chilean sea bass sautéed with ginger, veggies and cashews ($26), and dishes unique to here, such as lobster shrimp shumai ($9), Cajun seared tuna topped with spicy blue crab ($14), Hong Kong noodle soup ($13) and toro special with yuzu wasabi sauce ($19). Sliced Wagyu beef arrives with a hot stone burner to sear yourself ($19).
Artistic presentations are exquisite, and service is quick, even when packed.
"Lemongrass is more focused on Thai and sushi. Here, we expanded across the continent to Malaysian, Vietnamese and Chinese," says co-owner Art Niwat, who hails from Thailand. "We're trying to suit the demographics for people looking for something more upscale."
Dinner is served nightly. Lunch is available weekdays.
Racks Downtown Eatery & Tavern
This 3-year-old trendy retreat in the core of Mizner Park recently spent $75,000 to remodel and expand its raw bar with a quartz top, LED lighting, TVs, a dozen red seats and ceramic tiles to mimic fish scales.
In addition, a sushi chef has been hired to craft rolls such as Blue crab and the Southern with sea bass, spicy tuna, jalapeño and avocado (both $16).
"Due to the overwhelming success of our sister restaurant, Racks Fish House + Oyster Bar in Delray Beach, we began planning our reintroduction of the raw bar to Racks in Boca now known as the Raw at Racks bar," founder Gary Rack says. "Our standards have grown and developed into superb dining experiences for the locals and travelers."
Raw bar additions include ceviche ($12) and mussels ($14). The Grand Mizner platter now includes clams and ceviche ($126).
Buck-a-Shuck has been added to happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. daily, which hands out oysters for a $1 each. Fridays begin at 11:30 a.m.