If the restaurants on Fort Lauderdale beach ever hold a beauty contest, Tsukuro will blow away the competition. At night, the multilevel restaurant glows Noxzema-bottle-blue, with shimmers of red and purple. Some big money was spent on the carved lighting fixtures that seem to float below the ceiling like Mondrian paintings. There's a gorgeous bar up front for cocktails and a sushi bar at the back with a display of fresh seafood that shows what Tsukuro is all about.
I can't find fault with the sushi, sashimi and rolls that open the menu. The raw bar includes large stone-crab claws ($11), oysters ($2-$4 each), Alaskan king crab ($79 for two pounds) and caviar starting at $48 for half an ounce of Siberian sturgeon.
Look beyond the raw bar, however, and Tsukuro's menu reveals itself as just more of what you expect from a beachfront restaurant. The food is amateurish and, like the groovy interior, designed for visual instead of gustatory delight.
Dishes are presented dramatically on oversized white plates, with most of the menu designed to be shared family-style. Kataifi shrimp ($13) features three skewers of shrimp wrapped with the shredded phyllo dough known as kataifi. Each shrimp is served in a puddle of mild curry cream with drops of hot oil. The texture of the shrimp could only mean they were frozen and perhaps refrozen. They tasted like, well, nothing.
It was hard to find the braised chicken or stir-fried vegetables inside the chicken taquitos ($7). We felt as if we were eating fried wonton wrappers, with the filling acting as a condiment rather than the star of the show.
Lacquered chicken wings ($8) were billed as crispy, but they were so overcooked they practically fell apart. Unappetizingly dark brown and covered in wasabi seeds, they looked like they'd been rescued from a burning oven. Too bad they weren't at least hot. Like the wings, Tsukuro baby-back ribs ($9) had the same unappealing, overcooked quality. The meat was barely hanging on to the bone. Had they been boiled? Fried Thai barbecue calamari ($8) tasted of uncooked batter.
I did find a few worthwhile dishes on the menu. There was some very good fried rice ($5) with egg, ginger, garlic, Napa cabbage, carrot, bok choy, sugar snap peas, scallion, Brussels sprouts, red pepper and soy. And Brussels sprouts ($6) were good.
Service was a big step up from what I've come to expect from beachfront restaurants. Food comes from the kitchen as it's completed, but what we thought would be the centerpiece of our meal arrived 25 minutes after the other dishes. Crispy whole hog snapper ($45), prepared Thai style with Thai basil, cilantro, bird chilies and Swiss chard, was nicely crispy, but we'd lost our zeal for it by the time the lovely but lonely plate arrived.
For dessert, chocolate ganache cake ($7) had a nice, fudgy, cupcake quality. Asian pear cake with sake-lime-coconut tres leches ($7) was dry and crumbly.
I expected more from veteran restaurateurs A.J. Yaariand Lior Avidor, who own three other beach restaurants: Spazio, Sangrias Mexican Cantina and Rock Bar. Tsukuro is the first restaurant where they had a hand in everything from concept to design and menu.
No matter. Tourists won't be able to resist this beauty.
225 S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: $10 valet