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The two-page menu offers mostly fried appetizers, plus a trio of flatbreads, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and entrées. Prices range from $13 for a grilled chicken club on multigrain bread to a $32 rack of lamb with a side of shiitake mushroom risotto.
Cooks at Kaluz seem to execute the menu with ease from inside a fish-tank-looking kitchen. Four of them, wearing matching pumpkin-orange chef's coats and tight-fitting black caps, are separated from the restaurant behind tall, thick panels of tempered glass.
At $16, a lamb burger's sweet-salty combination — caramelized onion and goat cheese on top of a juicy, well-cooked lamb patty — lit up the senses. Thin French fries came out crisp and salty with a touch of Parmesan.
Kaluz, 3300 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-772-2209. Open Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Shrimp flatbread $15
Lamb burger $16
"American Style" Kobe beef ribs $33
Diver scallops $29Bread pudding $8
Four fat diver scallops ($29) were crisped on one side and cooked just enough, leaving the center of each creamy and briny. A cold red quinoa salad was studded with sweet dried cranberries, diced red onion, and rainbow bell peppers. The grain, native to Central America and now the healthy ingredient of the moment, was unexpected but made the dish fresh and light.
Baldwin says the restaurant makes an effort to use local produce and seafood from Q Plus Foods in Fort Lauderdale, but he admits sourcing from food giants Sysco and Cheney Brothers.
The corporate touch was obvious in the "American Kobe Style Beef Ribs" ($33) — nine ribs in a sweet but bland barbecue sauce. Educated eaters know there is no such thing as "American Kobe Style." Just as only sparkling white wine from one region of France may be called Champagne, only beef from cows of the black, Tajima-ushi strain of Wagyu cattle, raised according to strict regulations and in Hyogo Prefecture in southern Japan, can be called Kobe. The Wagyu bloodline has been imported to the U.S., and the meat from those cattle can be as juicy and flavorful as real Kobe beef, but the use of the word is a marketing gimmick.
Still, Kaluz makes no bones about the animal it is: not a trendy farm-to-table concept nor a loungey hipster hang but a calm, grown-up restaurant, a good choice for a business meeting or a double date. It's got the same goals as any growth-hungry restaurant company: Find a niche, develop a concept in which the menu and service standards can be replicated, then call in the real estate team to expand.
If you go, make a reservation. And see if you can invest. No doubt this is a place that Darden — owner of omnipresent chains Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille, and more — will soon have its eye on.