It might have been the grilled cream of corn ($7), a simple, shared side dish at the 2-month-old Beauty and the Feast Bar/Kitchen that made me realize that the chef in charge knows his stuff. The corn truly is grilled before being mixed with roasted jalapenos, sweet butter, a bit of cream and plain old salt and pepper. So simple, but so good.
Plenty of people talk about American comfort food. Chef Jeff Vincent nails it. Originally from Charleston, S.C., Vincent cooked throughout the South, in Boston and in Europe before coming to Fort Lauderdale. His experience shows up all over the menu.
Vincent's menu offers temptations at every turn. It's the kind of food you want to feast on. (I don't know why they didn't just call the place Feast. But I will.)
As seems the rage in Fort Lauderdale these days, Feast's strong suit is shared small plates, and they don't get much better than the sea scallops ($15.50). Made with porcini butter, wild mushrooms and herbs, they are as rich as Welsh rarebit. There's a different kind of richness in Fin and Claw pasta ($14.50), with its lightly spicy tomato sauce, garlic, shrimp and crab tossed with angel hair.
Tender skirt steak ($14), with nicely charred edges, is served on a long, rectangular platter with a pile of rainbow chard and mushrooms. Chicken wings ($10) could have been warmer, but there's a nice sweet-and-spicy combination of honey and Sriracha. Like all good wings, these come with ranch dressing, celery and carrots. The only small plate I didn't love is a dish called Wicked oyster ($10.50), in which a battered oyster and sweet-tomato chutney is served on a bun. The oyster needed a bit more time in the fryer, because it wasn't quite cooked.
Vincent gets to show off his Southern roots in a section of the menu titled Slow and Low, which features items that must be ordered two days in advance. Roasted suckling pig with black beans and rice costs $22 per person. Pig and Pint Thursdays features $5 craft beer and all-you-can-eat roast pork. Herb-crusted, bone-in rib roast with roasted potatoes costs $28 per person. We didn't pre-order, but we did get a sample of Vincent's barbecue prowess in a pizza topped with mustard barbecue-pulled pork, coleslaw and chips ($16.50). It's one busy pizza, but the elements worked together expertly.
Eight large plates include herb-crusted chicken ($24.50) and cedar-plank wild salmon ($25.50). We couldn't resist farm-house pasta ($21): spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, goat cheese and cream sauce tossed with whole-wheat penne. We added shrimp for $8 more, and were mighty impressed with not only the restrained use of cream, but also the plentiful seafood.
I would be quite happy eating only vegetables at Feast. Along with grilled cream of corn, there are crispy Brussels sprouts ($7.50) with a bit of bacon, some lemon zest and red-pepper flakes. The sprouts are crispy, but not greasy. They're tender, but not overcooked.
Desserts include excellent bread pudding ($10), fragrantly spicy carrot cake ($10), chocolate-chip creme brulee ($10) and Key lime tart ($10), in which the Oreo crust took over.
We started the evening in the 75-seat Beauty Bar, where bartenders have strong social and bartending skills. It could become a beachside hangout, especially with such specialty cocktails as Dream ($12): Absolut Elyx, red grapes, basil, simple syrup, lemon, sour mix and soda. All the house cocktails have similar names, with Cheat, Scheme, Flirt, among them. There's a concise, unpretentious, 95-bottle wine list and a secondary Captain's List with 10 bottles that start at $190
Service at the restaurant started out very strong, but waned as the crowd grew. While we got everything we needed, it's important that servers sustain their level of energy from appetizers to dessert.
Feast opened its doors in early April in the oceanfront dining room, which has seen two other concepts open and fail in the past decade. First came Trina, which was vaguely Mediterranean with a hotshot New York chef and a bartender with his own bartending book. Next came East End Brasserie, French with another credentialed New York chef looking for a quieter life in South Florida. The brasserie went quiet, all right.
Feast is owned by Society 8, who also operate SoLita Italian in Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The Broward location recently closed and will reopen this fall in a new location. When the company opened Feast, it also opened Ocean Market Grille inside the Atlantic.
So far, Feast has given us one more reason to visit Fort Lauderdale beach.
601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., the Atlantic Hotel and Spa, Fort Lauderdale
Hours: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; Sunday brunch
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free valet