3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale: Beautiful Food, Mindful Sourcing, Dated Dining Room

3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale: Beautiful Food, Mindful Sourcing, Dated Dining Room
CANDACEWEST.COM
Executive Chef of 3030 Ocean, Dean Max. Check out more photos here.

At the bar, behind a glass plate, kusshi oysters live on a bed of fresh-shaved ice, announcing their pedigree on a hand-penned placard next to $40 Maine lobster and New England littleneck clams. Like most of the clientele in 3030 Ocean, a restaurant tucked inside the oceanfront Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, the shellfish aren't from around here.

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, these farmed oysters are tiny and briny and sweet, each mollusk in a sea of delicious liquor. They're among the finest you can slurp. At $30 a dozen, they should be.

A spiffed-up line cook wears chef whites and a tall toque into the dining room to deliver a dozen of the kusshi to a couple at the bar.

3030 Ocean's  $15 grilled octopus with Dutch potatoes and an arugula salad.
3030 Ocean's $15 grilled octopus with Dutch potatoes and an arugula salad.

"Why you wearing that hat?" the man asks.

"It's tradition," the cook says sheepishly.

The guy at the bar shakes his head. The question is awkward but apt. In an era when fine dining is on the wane, few chefs wear tall hats and formal garb. It seems out of place, even in this white-tablecloth dining room.

Tradition denotes quality at 3030 Ocean, and quality is what drives chef Dean Max, who has shaped the menu here since he was hired in 2002. His celebrity status lures customers from Bayonne to the Bahia Mar, and his reputation comes with the promise of beautiful seafood, locally sourced produce and meats, skillful technique, and stunning execution.

A Stuart native who grew up on Virginia's Eastern Shore, Max developed a fondness for seafood and an eye for sourcing from his father, who had been a produce broker. Max served as executive chef at fine restaurants from San Francisco to Atlanta before taking the helm at 3030 Ocean. Over the years, New Times has awarded the restaurant and Max three Best of Broward/Palm Beach awards, and Max, who lends his name to four restaurants from the Cayman Islands to Cleveland, was nominated for a James Beard Award last year.

Tradition may have helped Max earn acclaim in his cooking, but it makes the dining room feel stodgy. Past the host stand, ones and twos sit at caramel-colored bar tables that rest atop sand-colored marble floors. A businessman from Tampa plays with his phone, resting his elbow against glass that's frosted in a pattern of waves. Another guy sits at the bar corner alone, wearing flip-flops, a Hawaiian shirt, and shorts.

Behind him, the room opens to the dining area: not quite dark but as dim as the blue hour. White-layered tables are filled with groups of threes and fours — a trio here in après-beach attire, a four-top in the corner in conservative suits.

Walking into the bar area is akin to walking through an airport causeway. Diners might feel lost in this sea of staid, a room awash in monochrome. Except that back in the kitchen, Max's skill puts Technicolor on the plates.

His first step to compelling cuisine is buying fresh ingredients from local suppliers. He's been doing this for years — since long before farm-to-table became a culinary practice among highbrow chefs. "Farm-to-table is the way sourcing used to be," notes Max. For the past decade, he has supported small farmers such as Swank Farms in Loxahatchee. With his support, this small farm started on a half-acre growing few crops and has since expanded to four acres, accommodating dozens of produce requests of South Florida restaurants.

Speaking by phone later, Max says part of what makes farm-to-table so difficult here is that it contrasts with the norm: Most of the agricultural land in South Florida is run by big agribusiness and is used to grow crops for major supermarkets from around the country. And when it comes to the rise of local farmers' markets, he notes that many of them are selling remarketed produce from big corporate farms rather than goods farmers have grown themselves — ultimately benefiting big business instead of the little guy.

Max's attention to sourcing is evident in a $13 duck confit, presented between leaves of a pinwheel: homemade pasta sheets, cut and folded as triangles on a plate. The dish is made by curing duck overnight in salt, sugar, and water, with thyme, garlic, and spices such as clove and star anise. It is rinsed, then slow-cooked in duck fat at 225 degrees for several hours. The duck is finally pulled from the bone and presented between pinwheel leaves, with a purée of local carrots and a side of sautéed spinach, then garnished with a celery foam and a duck jus drizzle. It's a decadent starter that expertly balances the rich confit, sweet vegetables, and the silky egg in the homemade pasta.

As much as he supports local farmers, Max dips outside of our boundaries for superior products. He tops a $13 frisée salad with Benton's bacon, the gourmand's go-to from Allan Benton, who is based in rural Tennessee. "I love that guy," Max says of the celebrity farmer.

Still, the salad isn't as beautiful as the confit, because the ingredients lack interplay. Apples are sharp; the frisée head of hair is unwieldy; the lavender isn't a match for the ingredients. Yet the beautiful orange yolk and the bacon pairing sing.

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39 comments
michaelinmiami
michaelinmiami

thanks for a good review not strewn with un-important personal tastes comments like Lee Klien gives.

Just keep writing like all food reviewers should write....stating what one might find when they go to a restaurant.

 
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