Yet the pricey jewels at Wild Sea are worth every penny. This is the best restaurant on tourist-trap-riddled Las Olas, and not just because Sanchez makes the fashionable pledge to source locally and sustainably. It's because of the clever way he coaxes simple ingredients into complex dishes.

His philosophy is best shown with a golden tilefish, served with a pair of poached clams. The shellfish give themselves to a briny, fragrant broth poured tableside over earthy hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and julienned kohlrabi, a kind of turnip. Under it all sits a light cream sauce made with a tilefish bone stock.

In addition to the seafood offerings, Sanchez always presents a meat option or two. A massive beef cheek is slow-braised in a honey-brown ale from Alabama craft brewery Back 40 Beer Co. The meat, marbled with melting fat, is so soft that it quivers when touched with a fork. It makes you wonder what kind of tricks Sanchez might pull with a meatcentric concept.

Oysters are the stars at Wild Sea.
Oysters are the stars at Wild Sea.

Details

Wild Sea Oyster Bar & Grille, 620 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-467-2555. Open Tuesday to Thursday 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 p.m.

Assorted oysters $3

Beef tartare $13

Golden tilefish $29

Black bass $32

Beef cheek $30

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"It might be easier and a little more fun to do this with meat," he says. "I've done it before — I just put out the calling card to local farmers and, for example, I can go out and see baby lambs before I get them."

The beef is plated only with sous vide baby Florida beets that have been vacuum-sealed and slow-cooked in water at a precise temperature to create the perfect texture and intensify their sweetness. Just before the plate leaves the kitchen, those same beets' leafy greens are wilted, sautéed with garlic and shallots, and added to the dish.

Though Sanchez says his goal is to use Florida produce, he estimates that only about 50 percent of his vegetables are grown here, sourced mostly through national distributor Fresh Point. It's been a challenge getting produce straight from farmers.

"I've reached out to a couple but haven't received anything back," he says. "At previous restaurants, I've had farmers coming in my back door, but it seems a bit harder down here."

As one strolls down Las Olas, Wild Sea doesn't look much different from some of its neighbors, who hawk high-priced, mediocre menus long ago mastered by chain outfits. However, the ideas driving the kitchen are years ahead of nearby competitors. If you're a local who long ago swore off the boulevard, there is a reason to return. We know it's been a while, so don't forget that parking at a nearby lot costs $7, and it takes only cash.

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2 comments
Jason
Jason

A real restaurant critic wouldn't be fooled by a hotel restaurant that hires some nobody sous chef and proclaims themselves the best restaurant in town. You're doing a disservice to the community by enabling these bad restaurants by hiring McDonald's bloggers and parading them as restaurant critics.

Sarah
Sarah

What an incompetent slug

 
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