The soon-to-open sports lounge and "global comfort food" hot spot in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Himmarshee Public House, is poised to bring customers on a journey of flavors in an atmosphere more familiar to many than the traditional white-linen tables of old-school foodies.
This is a space dominated by marquee lights, wrap-around lounge booths reminiscent of a Miami nightclub, and pub-height tables just begging to be used to stand next to rather than sit at. It's a typical South Florida mashup of interiors: Chicago Prohibition-era warehouse décor and a modern and subtle beige and wood color scheme. In other words, open and roomy without being flashy.
The Public House is the newest venture from Marc Falsetto and Charles Hazlett of JEY Hospitality, who also run Rok:Brgr, and Falsetto is excited to see this new concept come to life. "Sports games are going to be a focus for the lounge areas," he says. "We're keeping it easy by just requiring a reservation... no bottle minimums or anything like that for the games."
But Clean Plate didn't just come to an early showing of the restaurant to stand around and gawk at the décor. We came to eat.
With a pint of Cigar City Jai Alai, delicious as always from draft, an order of candied bacon ($9) made its way to the table. House-cured pork belly glazed with bourbon maple syrup and candied pecans was an astounding starter. Salty ham-like flavors melded with the sweet syrup in a way that only pork belly can: succulent and mouth-melting with barely a hint of smokiness from a highly cured bacon product. Next were some spicy lamb ribs ($12), another glazed meat plate that featured tender lamb coated in Abita root beer with toasted sesame and scallion. The caramel flavors of the root beer mellow out the lamb flavors and give it a dark barbecue-sauce-like ambience.
The bacon and corn fritters ($8) are a dish that is sure to be a hit during games: a finger food worthy of its decadence. Just make sure you dip them in the bacon aioli or you'll miss out on a lot of the unique flavors. In addition to corn fritters, the buffalo blue-cheese dip ($9) is probably one of the most approachable small plates available, made with pulled chicken, a mix of Stilton blue cheese and Colby-Jack and served with wonderfully light and crisp homemade potato chips.
Hoping for the best on the lobster nachos ($14), I was struck by the high acidity of habanero-mango salsa and the guacamole that accompanied each of the four giant tortillas. Lobster, being such a delicate flavor, seemed to get lost in the shuffle. The mini-chicken empanadas ($8) were more refined and had a fluffy pastry crust and simply but well-done contents of roasted corn, black beans, and jalapeño jack cheese.
Next we sampled some large plates, including the signature fried chicken ($19), which is house-brined, battered, and pressure-cooked for optimal flavor. What comes out is a crispy but not greasy pyramid of fried chicken, worthy of Colonel Sanders' jealousy, complete with mashed potatoes and some fantastic coleslaw. All of this is produced under the direction of executive chef Robbyns Martinez, former executive chef of Rok:Brgr.
Although a lot of the items contain bacon in some form or another, green stuff exists here too. Salads and flatbreads are available, as well as tacos and sandwiches.
The Himmarshee Public House boasts a huge assortment of taps, and we spotted what was a thorough, but fairly standard, craft beer selection; New Belgium, Founders, Magic Hat, and a selection of Florida beers like Due South, Funky Buddha, Cigar City, and Florida Beer Company. We were able to order to aforementioned Jai Alai, and our server, unfazed by the challenge of 'bring something interesting' to the table, proudly shared a glass of Funky Buddha's Chocolate Covered Cherry, as well as a solid pint of Stone's Arrogant Bastard. If the Public House can get some unique kegs from local brewers, they might have a happy hour spot where the beer geek crowd can mingle with their non-nerdy friends.
The Himmarshee Public House is located at 201 SW Second St. in Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant is poised to open to the public this Thursday, November 7th.
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