Overall impression: Chef Luci Rosende is a culinary alchemist who expertly blends the flavors of South Florida into one-of-a-kind dishes. Where else will you find an appetizer of Cuban black-bean chili with braised short rib ($8)? Or what about salmon chimichanga ($15)? Wild fillet, black-bean puree, mole sauce and poblano pepper strips are wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep fried until crisp. It was incredible.
Ambience: Elle's is precisely the kind of restaurant you wouldn't expect to find in a plaza on the corner of Flamingo Road and Miramar Parkway. It's a lesson in not judging a book by its cover. The handsome, high-ceilinged, 120-seat restaurant has a long, under-lit, onyxlike bar on one wall with comfortable banquettes and tables for guests on the other side. There's also a large room for private parties.
Starters: Paella croquetas ($8) are described as "lobster, saffron risotto studded with shrimp and chorizo then fried crisp." They were tasty and served with romesco sauce, but we couldn't find any of the seafood. Frita sliders ($9), beef and chorizo sliders topped with Gruyere and special sauce, would be so much better if they were served traditionally with shoestring potatoes. Kurobuta pork belly ($14) was deliciously tender after its five-hour braise. Apple chutney and apple fennel slaw were a nice foil to the pork's richness.
Entree excellence: Greek shrimp salad ($14) was a satisfying meal with the shrimp marinated before being grilled. Steakhouse salad ($20) had all the right elements: skirt steak, butter lettuce, blue-cheese dressing, tomato, red onion and house-made croutons. But the lettuce came uncut, and there was little room on the plate to chop and toss. It was an awkward way to serve a salad. Barbecue half chicken ($19) had a strong jerk element in its seasoning and was made even better with the Caribbean fried rice with pork belly, plantains, onion and eggs. Pork shoulder ($20) was chile-rubbed, but didn't carry the heat of the chicken. Fork tender, it was served over a pool of cheddar grits and topped with poblano rajas.
Sweet!: Only chef Rosende could make this work: rice pudding cheesecake ($8) with Indian spices and mango sorbet. Banana bread pudding ($8) is a classic New Orleans-style creation, topped with salted caramel sauce and served with vanilla gelato.
Service: Good. Not every server has the same skills, but they all know the menu and kept coming back to check on us.
Dining deal: The Perfect 10 Lunch offers almost 20 different selections for $10. It includes a fountain beverage or iced tea. Among the choices are meatloaf melt or the very good Cuban sandwich. Tacos, three to an order, can be filled with short ribs, vegetables and pork belly with kimchi.
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Miramar Square, 12312 Miramar Parkway, Miramar
Cuisine: Eclectic American
Hours: Lunch and dinner weekdays, dinner Saturday
Reservations: Not necessary
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes