Best Restaurant to Die in the Past Year 2000 | Le Pastis | Food & Drink | South Florida
Hollywood's struggling downtown is either in or out, depending on the year. This year: in, with new eateries such as Red Thai Room and Burt's on the Beach drawing customers from counties to the north and south. Last year: out, with noteworthy restaurants such as Revolution 2029, Tac "O" the Town, and Impromptu all biting the ghost town dust. Le Pastis, a quaint Provençal restaurant with owners hailing from Bordeaux and Marseilles, promised to persevere despite the sudden dearth of customers roaming the Harrison Street area. But despite such delicious dishes as frogs' legs in white wine sauce and traditional lamb chops crusted in herbes de Provence, Le Pastis couldn't hang on and took down its shingle. So much for the sunny skies of southern France in southeastern Broward County.
Here's the neighborhood part: La Brochette is located in a typical suburban strip mall in southwest Broward County. Here's the restaurant part: an interior crammed with culinary collectibles, a professional staff, and a well-chosen wine list. Now, here's the best part: conch fillet schnitzel with caper-lime sauce, roast duck with ginger-orange sauce, and homemade milk chocolate crème brûlée. Chef-proprietor Aboud Kobaitri makes everything from French onion soup to hazelnut mousse, and his dedication to his eight-year-old eatery shows. Even more apparent is Kobaitri's commitment to the area -- for the past 16 years, the Lebanese native has made his home in Davie and Pembroke Pines. If you go by the credo that only locals know what locals want, then Kobaitri has everything we need.
The absence of antelope chops notwithstanding, this cheetah-spotted steak house fulfills the hearty beef-eater's expectations: luxe décor, high-end meats, and seriously good martinis. You couldn't ask for more in an American steak house, even one that's named for a trek across the savanna. Steaks aren't the only items to stake a meal on, either. Jumbo lump crab-and-avocado cocktails, iceberg salad with homemade blue cheese rich enough to tempt a politician, and swordfish with hollandaise satisfy the beef embargoists. Otherwise it's a carnival for carnivores, with steaks and chops seared on a grill that heats up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot stuff indeed.
Yes, we know this restaurant is part of a chain with more cousins than a family from Appalachia. We're also aware that the outlet-mall setting may make some diners feel as if they're eating in a trendy airplane hangar and that the service can decay into assembly-line style. And yes, we realize that the sea fare here says very little about South Florida as a region. That's precisely why we love it. When you're bored with yellowtail snapper and conch chowder, Legal Sea Foods is the place for broiled bluefish and New England clam chowder, the latter of which is concocted in overcast Boston and shipped by air to sunny Florida. Then, of course, there's the famous stuff no one who has visited the original Legal in Boston can quite resist: mussels au gratin, steamed Ipswich clams, and baked Maine lobsters stuffed with crabmeat and cracker crumbs. Frankly we'd break the law to dine at Legal.
Chef Drew Rosen has said it before, and he'll say it again. His eatery, which serves items ranging from a soft duck taco with mango chutney to a rib steak marinated in bourbon and juniper berries, is more of a gourmet restaurant that serves natural foods and plenty of vegetables. The fact that it's Glatt kosher should only reassure diners, since, as Rosen reminds us, kosher is "the purest way of eating.... You know exactly what you're getting. There's complete truth in the menu." There's also absolute honesty in how Rosen's cuisine tastes -- good. Really good. But it's not too surprising, since he has an impressive pedigree, having worked at Mark's Place and Scoozime Trattoria and on Williams Island. So don't think of Terrace Oceanside as kosher. But if you need to label it, try this: a no-brainer for vegetarians, a relief for the lactose-intolerant, and a pleasure palace for the gastronomically minded.
It sounds like a dessert shop. It looks like an elaborate mausoleum, with marble and flowers everywhere. But Hot Chocolates eats like a gourmet's fantasy. The upscale fusion fare, rife with European influences, ranges from ragout of escargot to homemade spaetzle to confit of duck with tomatoes and mushrooms. Not bad for a supper lounge that turns into a disco after hours. Stick around if you want to see where Hot Chocolates gets its name -- couples tend to melt all over each other on the dance floor. And definitely drop in for a fine meal served with flair but thank goodness not with marshmallows.
This contemporary eatery in Towne Center makes the most of the pan-Asian fad with a menu of mixed-up ethnicities. Fortunately most of the dishes are not fusion Asian -- they remain true to the countries that inspired them, like chicken imperial rolls (Vietnam), Shanghai noodles (China), and teriyaki salmon (Japan). No matter what ethnicity you feel like noshing, you can satisfy your craving here. And if you can't find something on the menu, you can visit the "market," where a host of veggies and a dozen homemade sauces await the customer, and create your own stir-fry. The guys behind the counter will then toss your combo into a wok for you. Hard to find a restaurant that caters to the patron more or one that has a more complete handle on what exactly pan-Asian is -- or should be.
It no doubt sounds like gastronomic blasphemy to declare that a chain restaurant turns out superior ribs. But the barbecued ribs at J. Alexander's really are something special: big slabs of Danish baby-back ribs covered with a dark sauce that's not too tangy and not too sweet. The ribs are pork -- beef can't compete -- and they're slow-cooked to moist, falling-off-the-bone perfection. And unlike the highly variable ribs at so many barbecue joints, they're consistently good, which to our mind is an undervalued virtue when it comes to ribs. Skeptical? We took a gang of folks from the Deep South's Barbecue Belt to J. Alex's for the ribs, and they left with their bellies full and smiles on their faces.
And you thought Sicily's top export to the U.S. was goodfellas? No, it's pizza, stupid. Nick and Joe, who were both born in Sicily, started making pizza in Queens decades before hunkering down in Plantation 21 years ago to bring real ethnic taste to that vanilla town. And what a taste it is: whole-milk cheese, plenty of succulent sauce, and from dough made fresh every morning, a crust with a just-right chew that gives the jaw a wonderful workout. Throw on some sharp, spicy pepperoni and some freshly cut onions, and you really have something. One of Nick's credos is "No skimping." And he doesn't. But other than top-shelf ingredients and plenty of them, he says there's only one real secret to making kick-ass pizza: hard work. And his bustling restaurant -- which makes a quick pizza and almost never gets an order wrong -- is a testament to that.
If the coffeehouses of the 1990s are a throwback to the Cheers era, Chocolate Moose is a perfect example. It's a place where, if not everybody knows your name, at least owner John Helverson makes a point of it. "That's Joe," he says, pointing to a white-haired man in his fifties. "He's having some personal problems and comes here every night. It's his home away from home." The customers are an eclectic group ranging from teenagers to seniors. On a recent Thursday night, the place was packed for open-mic night (there's also singles' night, psychic night, and gothic night). Two dozen or so people sat at tables, at what passes for a "bar," and on recliners, listening to a young blond woman in jeans serve up a decent guitar-backed rendition of an Emerson, Lake & Palmer song, of all things. In the back of the room, a tattooed twentysomething couple sitting on brushed velvet couches played a lively game of chess. A bookcase offers such diverse fare as The Guinness Book of Records, Favorite Houseplants, and Smart Women, Foolish Choices. The owner samples hundreds of coffee beans before choosing his faves, and one of his proud inventions is the White Cow, a blend of espresso, white chocolate, and vanilla. There are also a few wine choices for those who prefer a stronger form of liquid relaxation, and the décor is warm and inviting, with a roaring fake fireplace, heart-shape candles, and miniature stuffed moose scattered throughout. But as on Cheers, the friendship and good-natured ribbing are what bring people back.

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