Chopsticks Say: Ka-ching!

China Grill brings the show to Lauderdale

By the time you finish your apps, your mouth will be puckered like a koi fish from all the salt and sour, your blood sugar will be off the charts, and if my high-voltage cucumber saketini ($12) was a fair indicator, the room will have begun to rotate. Relax! You've got plenty of time, nobody's going to hurry you out of here — they want you to order another $8 bottle of water, another double-digit margarita or triple-digit bottle of Amarone. The service, it must be said, is thoroughly competent and very nice — one of our waiters (bless you, David T.) was so well versed in the menu he could rattle off the preparations and ingredients, the history of the restaurant, and the pedigree of the chef, without pausing for so much as an "um." And he was completely in the weeds that Friday night.

I have no complaints about the food, not the really delicious duck two ways ($39), served shredded moo-shu style as a confit with julienned vegetables and hoisin, and as a sliced, tender breast drizzled with chocolate orange sauce, accompanied by delightful crepes — spinach, buckwheat, scallion. Or the similarly prepared pork tenderloin ($38), just as rosy and moist, blanketed in an Asian mole seasoned with five-spice powder and topped with more shredded pig tostadas and gazpacho. We loved our fillet of black cod ($42) with Chinese broccoli and yuzu-butter sauce. In fact, the only dish that tanked was the oily, overpriced mountain of crispy spinach ($12, a side dish): the flash-fried leaves dissolve into instant absence on the tongue and leave greasy stains on the silk trousers. This spinach would make a statement as a garnish; as a $12 vegetable it's inscrutable.

I can complain, though, about annoying flaws that after 20 years of business ought to have been ironed out by China Grill management: the sadistic, slippery bowls everything is served in, upon which no utensil will balance, so you end up having to fish your spoons, forks, knives, and chopsticks, thoroughly drenched in sauce, out of your food every few minutes. And those chopsticks are pretty, but they're too polished to allow you to grip anything. I'll complain about temperature: The place is uncomfortably frigid, even packed full of heat-generating sorority girls.

Joe Rocco

Location Info

Map

China Grill

1881 SE 17th St. Causeway
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Fort Lauderdale

China Grill

404 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Music Venues

Region: South Beach

Details

China Grill 1881 SE 17th St. Cswy., in the Fort Lauderdale Grande Hotel, Fort Lauderdale. Open Monday through Thursday 6 till 11 p.m., until midnight Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Call 954-759-9950. Wheelchair accessible.

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And while the "bananas in a box" for dessert ($11) allow for plenty of showmanship (your waiter flips the tall caramel tuile box sideways, cracks it open with a spoon, and tosses the revealed caramelized bananas, pastry cream, and caramel sauce together) — the tuile box is less tasty than the cardboard it's meant to simulate. Ditto cheesecake pot stickers ($11), served prettily in a bamboo steamer with five-spice chocolate dipping sauce — they're all show and no substance.

But this is theater, not dinner. God knows our little burg, now that the spring beakers have decamped for other beaches, could use some spit and polish, a few more cocktails made of Poire and pixie dust, an extra gaggle or two of wasp-waisted girls dressed in little gold skirts. I'm willing to pay full price for a ticket to a show like that.

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