Chelsea Scholler

Eastern-dwelling South Floridian hate driving west of I-95. But if celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein — a vocal fan of this place — is willing to make the trek to Lauderhill from Miami, you should be able to head 20 minutes west. Besides, you might get the chance to bump into the amicable chef and her husband while grilling galbi gui ($24.95), a dish of succulent marinated short rib, over an open charcoal pit. It's one of the few Korean barbecue places that allows guests to cook over flaming embers; others use gas or electric stoves, and the effect is nowhere near as flavorful, or entertaining. Dishes are served with an array of white bowls filled with diverse "banchan" (side dishes): spicy kimchee cabbage and zucchini, fish cakes, marinated seaweed, pickled veggies (some mild, others freaking hot). If cooking for yourself isn't your thing, the prepared options are just as divine. Dolsot bibimbap ($12.95), white rice, carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts, nori, egg, and chili paste are served in a heated pot; the effect creates the perfect char on the rice lining the bowl. Hot pots ($11.95 to $14.95) brimming with spicy liquid, protein, and veggies burst with intricate spice and varying levels of heat. No matter what you choose, you're in for a treat; everything is piquant, even the dishes that aren't overly peppery. Just one trip to this bustling little spot will have you commuting back-and-forth for regular dinners in no time.

Chef/owner Philip Darmon is an Australian native who spent the past decade traveling the globe, cooking for the rich and famous aboard luxury motor yachts. With a pedigree such as that, one would assume he'd be dishing out expensive but minuscule portions of caviar and foie gras to businessmen and local TV stars. Not so. During the day, he's plating up Nueske bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado sandwiches with fresh hand-cut fries ($11) for the populace, like you (although we wouldn't be surprised to hear he has some high-end clients visiting often). Tucked just off Andrews Avenue on a side street in Fort Lauderdale, this neighborhood restaurant offers world-class fare in a friendly and casual environment. Many of his dishes on the weekly changing menu have a strong Southeast Asian or Mediterranean influence. From Thai duck salad with soba noodles, cilantro, sesame, and soy ($13) to crisp-skinned salmon over sunchoke purée, chive oil, and salmon roe ($24), each dish here feels just as special as dining on a yacht — even if you can't afford to even step onboard one. And the wine list, curated with help from celebrity chef Angelo Elia, is just as exceptional.

Paula DaSilva is an all-around rock star in the kitchen. The Brazilian native and former Hell's Kitchen contestant (she actually appeared on the show while working as chef de cuisine at 3030 Ocean) left the Broward restaurant scene to start 1500 Degrees in the Eden Roc. Her first year there, she earned a spot on Esquire's New Best Restaurants in America, and she's gone on to participate in numerous James Beard House dinners since. If that doesn't earn you kitchen cred, we don't know what does. We were proud, obviously, but our hearts and palates yearned for DaSilva to return to Broward. Fortunately, our innermost wishes were granted. After her mentor, Dean Max, departed from 3030 Ocean last year, we got our girl back, and our little hearts couldn't be more content. DaSilva has been reinventing the menu at the distinguished Fort Lauderdale restaurant with the rustic farm-to-table cuisine that made her a national culinary star. And we've been reaping the rewards with our taste buds ever since.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

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