October 16, 2012 | 2:33pm
Unless you want to deck out the interior of your megayacht, redesign your multimillion-dollar condominium on South Beach, or create some custom-built furniture for your new waterfront estate, there's probably never been a reason for you to visit the Design Center of the Americas (DCOTA) in Fort Lauderdale -- until now.
DCOTA has previously been accessible only to people accompanied by a professional interior designer. But now, even the riff-raff can browse -- and eat -- at the world-famous design building with the debut of its new restaurant, DCOTA Cay. The new space is ideal for the power-lunch set.
Charles S. Cohen, owner and president of four major design centers throughout the country, including the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles and D&D Building in New York City, hopes the multimillion-dollar renovation of the building's atrium will help change the way people experience DCOTA.
To execute the extensive remodeling that included building a 2,000-square-foot custom kitchen and a 1,000-square-foot restaurant space, Cohen enlisted the help of South Florida caterer Thierry Isambert and HGTV-featured Miami interior designer Sam Robin. What he got: a large, open space that can be used as a location for business meetings, lunch with the ladies, or a private catered event or party.
Located in the center of DCOTA's four-story atrium, Cay itself is the focal point, a chic and versatile 84-seat restaurant with an ambiance that evokes the feeling of being in the Florida Keys -- without the four-hour drive -- offering both business professionals and casual visitors a new option for doing business over food.
The space is meant to evoke "a cool, relaxed Key West-style experience," Robin told Clean Plate Charlie, "so anyone can feel comfortable. We wanted this [space] to make people feel like they were outdoors at the beach."
Robin selected materials and furniture that would be versatile, comfortable, and functional. Large tables, including a communal high-top, make for the perfect spot to grab a bite and review plans. The nearby lounge area has free Wi-Fi and an equally "island chic" ambiance, with sectional sofas, a piano, and wicker chairs and ottomans.
If it seems weird for an interior design center to have its own upscale restaurant, just note: Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck caters for the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, and NYC toque Charlie Palmer caters the Decoration and Design Center of New York City.
Isambert's menu is made up of light, contemporary American and Continental dishes -- most his own take on the staples of classic Florida cuisine, with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Being located in a design center is a chef's dream: His custom-built, 2,000-square-foot catering kitchen has been equipped with state-of-the-art everything.
The menu will soon feature a small "to-go" station of light breakfast baked goods and coffee but will focus on lunch, beginning with appetizers ($8 to $14), like a fresh corvina ceviche and a tuna tartare spiked with sake and lemongrass. Salads -- priced according to ingredients ($7 to $18) -- include a tuna niçoise and an island steak salad served with a ginger-lime-marinated beef tossed in passion fruit vinaigrette. The restaurant serves beer and a short list of wines by the glass (no liquor).
Sandwiches ($14 to $16) are served with a choice of fries or a house salad. Choices include a Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich, a Wagyu burger (given a Thierry twist when ordered with lettuce, tomato, and his own avocado-mayonnaise), and a stab at the area favorite: a Cuban sandwich, served here with a generous helping of house slow-roasted pork and smoked ham and an Emmenthal (Swiss) cheese and finished with house-made pickles and a grainy Dijon spread.
Entrée choices offer more substantial meals ($14 to $26), like the plantain crusted mahi-mahi (with roasted squash and a habanero grilled pineapple salsa), island steak, and island pasta (prepared with shrimp, mussels, and squid, served over fettuccine).
The sweeter side of things includes a jumbo chocolate chunk cookie fresh from the oven ($5), housemade ice cream, and Thierry's own milk chocolate hazelnut crunch "Kit-Kat" bar.
DCOTA Cay is slated to open Monday, October 22, and will serve light breakfast and lunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. DCOTA is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit the DCOTA website.