There's no denying the old-fashioned appeal of the Pelican Grand Beach Resort. What visitor to Fort Lauderdale wouldn't love its design, which is meant to evoke 19th century Florida with tin-roofed turrets and shingle siding?
The lobby has an island vibe, with cane-back lounge chairs and a coffered ceiling. The 250-foot, oceanfront veranda set with white rocking chairs is a vacationer's dream.
While long-timers will remember the tiki bar that once sat in this spot inside the Mark 2100, we newcomers now have Ocean2000. Yes, there's no space between "Ocean" and "2000."
The Pelican Grand epitomizes a kind of laid-back, quiet coolness that its owner, Noble House Hotels and Resorts, cultivates in all its properties. I've seen it at Little Palm Island Resort and Spa, and at Ocean Key Resort and Spa. They celebrate their locations and sometimes scrimp on updates.
The paneled, 88-seat dining room looks as if it got it a quick makeover with the addition of white banquettes, driftwood candelabra and round, metal lighting fixtures that bring a little disco to the British West Indies. If you want your oceanfront resort with glitz, head south on the beach. Ocean2000 definitely feels like a hotel dining room.
Updating the menu was no doubt the task given to chef Todd Lough when he was brought on board almost a year ago. He took his time, adding a few Latin influences and paying more attention to our seasons. Like the restaurant's setting, Ocean2000's menu opens the door to trendy but always comes back to familiar territory. I wish there were a bit more innovation.
House-made chorizo ($8), served with manchego and arugula, is the kind of appetizer that makes you anxious to see what would come next. Some very nice oversize Gulf shrimp ($14) are served alongside tomatillo cocktail sauce. Baked goat cheese arrives with roasted piquillo peppers and Kalamata olive. Lough's ceviche ($12), which I believe was made with snapper, could stand a little more chili along with its cilantro, red onions and lime. Guava barbecue ribs ($9) are a hit at our table. They were tender, deeply flavored and gone before we knew it.
I'm not a fan of flavored butters, so the lemon butter during bread service was particularly off-putting. We got some regular butter.
I can't imagine coming here for roasted Cuban pork shank ($32), but I'm sure many diners with expense accounts do just that. Instead, I ordered roasted chicken breast ($26) with mushrooms, tomato fricassee and polenta sticks. It was cooked perfectly, but the chicken was oversalted. Grilled salmon ($26) with eggplant ragout satisfies the I'm-on-a-diet guy in the group. The generous, 24-ounce New York strip steak ($42) is a good fit for the meat eater. Steaks can be ordered with a choice of sauce: guava barbecue, chipotle bearnaise or chimichurri ginger butter. Great sauces, but again, a bit salty.
Florida yellowtail snapper a la plancha ($28) is described on the menu as being served with roasted tomato and mashed potatoes. I think of anything cooked "la plancha" as being grilled, but out came a roasting pan with snapper drowning in tomato sauce. Those tomatoes were hardly an accompaniment, but a main component in the dish. It was good, but not at all what we expected.
With just two steaks and a lobster tail among the grilled items, it's odd to find five steakhouse-style sides: Brussels sprouts with shallot confit and maple honey ($8); sauteed spinach ($7); grilled asparagus ($8); creamy mashed potatoes ($7); and lemon-lime risotto ($8). That risotto brought back the memory of the lemon butter with bread.
Dessert — a brownie ($8), Key lime pie ($8) — is fine. But the better after-dinner treat was the walk we took outside on that veranda. From inside, you'd never know there's an ocean out there and room for another 58 people. It's a four-star setting.
2000 N. Ocean Blvd., Pelican Grand Beach Resort, Fort Lauderdale
Cost: Expensive-very expensive
Hours: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; brunch Sunday
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes