Jordan and Ivette Naftal, owners of the sensational, 6-month-old Jordan's Steak Bistro in Wellington, moved to South Florida in January.
By April, they'd opened their restaurant, and they've gone out of their way to use as much local beef and produce as they can find. It was at Jordan's that I was served my first-ever New York strip steak from Jackman Ranch in Clewiston. The prime, 16-ounce, grass-fed beauty ($59) had a clean, beefy flavor and was chewier than grain-fed beef. It was a revelation to know that the Sunshine State produces this kind of quality.
I enjoyed my steak with a glass of ale from Due South Brewing Co. Boynton Beach. Sometimes, it takes a couple of outsiders to introduce restaurantgoers to our nearby treasures.
The Naftals, the striking couple you meet at the door, have had long careers in the hospitality industry. He started washing dishes as a teenager in Long Island. She worked in some of Manhattan's finest restaurants. He has worked for independent operators and as director of operations for multi-unit companies such as Disney and Hard Rock International.
Their first Jordan's, in Ellicott City, Md., had an eight-year run until 2009, when the recession got the best of business, and the Naftals closed the restaurant. After a foray into the fitness industry, Jordan Naftal realized his heart was still in hospitality. The couple started looking for spots in New Jersey and New York, but were drawn to Wellington, home to his father, Alan, for the past decade.
The connection the Naftals make with guests is as important as the food they serve. They hire for hospitality first. They figure they can teach their staff about food and wine. It shows in every aspect of service.
The "steak bistro" designation perfectly describes Jordan's menu. There are just four steaks on the regular menu along with a burger ($12) and a sliced tenderloin sandwich ($15). They pay just as much attention to seafood with blackened salmon ($22), broiled tuna with ginger-lime rub ($26) and a daily fish special. They also have a vegetarian section, where you'll find a veggie burger ($12) and tofu-based vegan terrine ($11).
Dinner starts with house-made garlic bread. The same dough is used in the crust of the Brussels sprouts flatbread ($22), an outstanding rendition of what has become a bistro staple. Here, the pastry has a crispy, buttery, pielike flavor, and the vegetables retain their crunch.
Caesar salad ($9) doesn't get much better than the grilled version at Jordan's. The romaine hearts get a gentle char before being drizzled with creamy garlic dressing and plated with oven-roasted tomatoes, pine nuts and shaved Parmesan.
The Naftals moved into a fairly well-equipped restaurant, but purchased an infrared broiler that cooks steaks at 1,800 degrees. The result includes the 18-ounce, bone-in rib-eye ($39), which is nicely seared, tender and unadorned. It's every bit as good as the Jackman Ranch strip steak. This one, of course, is buttery tender and rich.
Jordan's is located across the parking lot from J.C. Penney at the Mall at Wellington Green. While the restaurant can seat 90 inside, the Naftals have it set for an intimate 64. Its windowed walls might have given the room an institutional strip mall feel, but they have been cleverly covered with silky chocolate curtains. You can still see out and in. The bar end of the dining room is painted bright orange. A wooden wall is covered with accolades from the Naftals' Maryland restaurant. There's room for another 50 people on the patio.
Desserts are made in-house, and include impressively presented chocolate or espresso martinis ($5, $12). But my favorite is chocolate pate ($5). It's perhaps not the most-attractive sweet, but it's chocolate at its best. Semisweet chocolate is mixed with heavy cream and Chambord raspberry liqueur. Once it becomes solid again, it's drizzled with Licor 43.
But what I like best about Jordan's Steak Bistro is the feeling that Jordan and Ivette are never far away. You leaving knowing you've put money in the pocket of a real person and not a faceless corporation.
And despite my pricey, Florida-grown steak, Jordan's doesn't always have to be a splurge. You can come in for a burger or a $9 grilled cheese made with Gruyere, pear and candied onions. If it were in my neighborhood, I'd go in for that $9 grilled Caesar and add some chicken for $8 more.
Welcome to South Florida, Jordan and Ivette Naftal. I believe your restaurant is here for a very long time.
Hours: Dinner daily
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot