East End Brasserie in Fort Lauderdale: First Look
The sweet venison dish is like a primer for Thanksgiving.
Photos by Eric Barton
"Hello, bonsoir," said the manager as he breezed through the dining room of the East End Brasserie last night. His mix of English and French would seem appropriate for the 2-week-old restaurant. The menu is somewhat French, a bit English, and, overall, pretty impressive.
Impressive is applicable here, at the least, because the restaurant renovation is a gutsy move for the Atlantic Resort & Spa. Tourists would probably show no matter what kind of frozen fish they dropped on a plate, but the Atlantic clearly wanted to shoot higher,
evident with fois gras, venison, and artisanal French cheeses.
large room has been given a slight makeover since its simple modernist
days as Trina. New are the French country-style tables for large
parties in the center of the room, as is the lipstick-red banquette
along the back. Mirrors and French-themed posters cover the walls.
The Atlantic brought in Manhattan chef Steven Zobel
to run the kitchen, and he filled his new menu with French dishes,
along with a few wildcards. Traditional French onion soup, escargots, and
tuna tartare share space under the appetizers ($9 to $19) with butternut
squash wontons and a hearts of palm salad ($10). That last one is
served niçoise-style, with slices of tomatoes, green beans, and avocado
in a dressing of lemon and olive oil -- a simple presentation that shows
Zobel's focus here will be to highlight good ingredients.
The pork chop is topped with quail eggs, with greens, and a mushroom risotto below.
The entrées feature fewer French standards, although steak frittes and
rabbit au vin make appearances. The maple-glazed Denver red venison
($31) is like a Thanksgiving primer, served in a sweet maple au jus and
paired with sweeter sweet potatoes, slightly sweet shavings of roasted
Brussels sprouts, and tart cranberries. The Berkshire Farms center-cut
pork chop ($26) comes with a pair of quail eggs and a mushroom risotto
that's not very French but surely won't disappoint tourists coming down
from a room in the Atlantic.
The dessert menu
(all items $10) doesn't feature the French favorite for ending a
dessert, those artisanal cheeses mentioned on the dinner menu. But it
does feature pastry chef Ashley Roehrig's take on some French classics,
like a banana Foster crepe and a creamsickle crème brûlée. House-made ice
cream is served in a brandysnap bowl and is headlined by an ancho chili
and cinnamon flavor that's sweet, creamy, and spicy.
Ancho chili adds heat to the house-made cinnamon ice cream.
heat to ice cream is a risk when serving a room mostly full of tourists
likely hoping for a slice of Key lime pie. But it's clear the Atlantic
and Zobel were willing to take some risks with a brasserie meant
to push the boundaries of Fort Lauderdale beach's tourist strip.
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