No matter how amazing Charlize Theron might be in her next role, it's money in the bank that she won't win another Oscar in 2005. Why not? Same reason that Mark's Las Olas hasn't copped a New Times Best Of restaurant award since 1999: Panels don't like to repeat themselves. Still, Mark Militello remains one of Broward's very elite chefs, and though his South Beach, Mizner Park, and City Place restaurants have their strengths, after ten years, this Las Olas branch remains the true Mark of excellence. Cozy booths, luxuriously rich mahogany tables, and a bustling open kitchen set the stage for Militello's cutting-edge cuisine, a magical mix of classical cooking techniques, the freshest of ingredients, and a menu that changes daily to accommodate what's in season. Whether it be the simple pairing of chilled Washington state Kumomoto oysters with green apple mignonette, the inspired glazing of duck with mango honey, or the hearty, homestyle plating of pork tenderloin with braised cabbage, chestnuts, and apple jus spiked with Southern Comfort, Militello hits the mark every time. Desserts such as Dutch Forreli pear and blueberry caramel tart with made-on-the-premises white chocolate almond-crush ice cream, seriously attentive service, and a faultless wine list seal the deal for Militello's flagship establishment. Enjoy this accolade, Mark -- like Charlize, next year you'll likely relinquish the crown.
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The best new restaurant in Broward County never sent out a press release. It didn't cost $2.2 million to open. It doesn't have a celebrity chef, and waiters do not ferry convoluted cocktails to tables full of PR ladies clutching Kate Spade handbags. There are no "small plates." No ceviche either. Or anything -- alcoholic or not -- called a "martini." The menu is not divided into sections and subsections with poetic titles, ecstatic blurbs about a chef who worked in Paris and Manhattan, or overwrought explanations about technique. This menu has two almost bafflingly understated categories: "Japanese" and "Thai." That and a blackboard of specials that you may have to squint to read. But in the gaping void left by an utter lack of braggadocio, here's what you might find on an average night at Kaiyo: (1) boned, stuffed, deep-fried chicken wings served with a subtle homemade chile dip ($5.95); (2) crab Rangoon with fruit sauce -- deluxe, peppery, and crabfull -- that should make other restaurants serving Rangoon weep with shame ($5.95); (3) a spicy Thai seafood salad ($7.95) that has been known to temporarily silence the most inveterate blabbermouth; (4) a Thai cook in the kitchen who won't reveal the ingredients in, or sources of, her secret recipes; (5) squid stuffed with ground pork and served in ginger sauce with bright vegetables; (6) a sushi chef who sometimes makes up brilliant roll combinations involving mangos and oranges on the spot; (7) a list of sauces (peanut, basil, red curry, garlic, ginger) that all actually taste completely and enchantingly different; (8) lovely service performed by lovely people; and (9) a menu where -- excepting the big sushi boats and the occasional market price fish -- no single item tops $14.95.
Over the past decade, chef Johnny Vinczencz, formerly known as "The Caribbean Cowboy," has traveled from town to town or, more specifically, from Astor Place in South Beach to De La Tierra at Sundy House in Delray Beach, titillating diners with robust American cuisine dashed with Spanish and Caribbean additions and a healthy dose of gastronomic ingenuity. Now, he's settling home on the range or, more specifically, on Las Olas Boulevard, with an eponymous place all his own. A great restaurant, however, relies on more than just a respected name. It begins with distinctively delectable food, like Vinczencz's signature "short stack" starter of buttermilk pancakes, grilled portobello mushrooms, sun-dried tomato butter, and sweet balsamic syrup and on daring, unexpected gestures like a special of Tibetan yak. A great restaurant has a certified sommelier to help navigate a first-class wine list -- or, more specifically, someone like Steffan Rau, who previously served this function at Jean George's Vong restaurant. It features waiters who, like those at Johnny V's, are amiable, accommodating, and above all professionally trained. It isn't necessary for a top eatery to offer 30 exotic cheeses and a lounge where tasty tapas tantalize between cocktails in order to qualify for greatness, but it doesn't hurt. Nor do desserts like a tall wedge of dark, dense chocolate cake layered with bananas, caramel, and peanut butter mousse, with a scoop of malted milk ball ice cream on the side. Johnny V is the new kid in town -- or, more specifically, the premier new kid.
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