Bimini Boatyard was a Fort Lauderdale hotspot back in the day, but the beautiful location has faded from the limelight a bit in recent years. Whether it's due to the slew of new restaurants in the area or just a lack of change, it hasn't been on the forefront of Fort Lauderdalian's mind for quite some time.
Odel Arencibia, Bimini Boatyard's new executive chef is trying to change that. Since coming onboard about two months back he's been revamping the menu, emphasizing high quality, sustainable ingredients prepared with a "Caribbean flair."
Since arriving in the US in 1999, Arencibia has spent time working at Burt & Jacks, Jackson's Steak House, Grille 66, and Capital Grille, where he worked with the owner to change the produce to 100% organic.
A native of Cuba, Arencibia stared his career at an elegant Spanish-owned hotel, Sol Meliã. This experience helped to solidify his technique and flavor preferences.
"Growing up in a poor country, working in a high-end hotel, I could see the discrepancies where things were brought in in boxes to serve a lot of people," he said, "I would go home and prepare a meal and things would taste better."
Arencibia has brought this fresh esthetic to Bimini Boatyard. He's been working to revamp the menu by getting away from heavy sauces and glutens and adding in high-quality proteins and sustainable seafood.
"This is a more conscious approach to food; a lot of people have developed gluten and other food allergies from seasoning agents and other ingredients. Our kitchen is friendlier to what people can eat."
Portions and presentations are being changed to not only allow guests to enjoy multiple courses, but to make it easy for guests to know exactly what they're eating.
"Dishes are going to be more simple," said Arencibia, "We're focusing on using fresh herbs and grilled ingredients on a wood-fired grill. I'm bringing sharp flavors like cilantro and marinades and sauces made from olive oil, broths, and fresh tomato sauces. We want guests to be able to walk out after a good experience without feeling too full."
According to Arencibia, his dishes and style represent a Caribbean flair. "We will be using some French and Mediterranean techniques and some dishes with an Asian influence, but the Caribbean flair is all about the wood grill and using fresh ingredients," he said.
Examples of this global influence include the $19 lunch special of Mediterranean-inspired grilled swordfish over white beans with lobster ragu, the fresh $46 Surf & Turf with herb marinated, grilled tenderloin and lobster tail, the $10 French-inspired smoked salmon appetizer, and the French and Italian influenced goat cheese risotto with firewood grilled herb-marinated shrimp and Champagne beurre blanc.
Currently, Arencibia is reworking the food to fit four menus: a main menu; a chef's menu, based on seasonal specialty ingredients; a private menu for parties; and a new bar menu. While he is excited about renovating the food, Arencibia is also working to make sure the menu is financially viable for the restaurant.
"I'm a numbers guy," he says. "In order for a business to succeed you have to make sure the numbers are successful, but as someone who is obviously passionate about food, I want to see growth in both areas.
"I have a lot of responsibility with Bimini," says Arencibia, "We've been here for 20 years, but I want people to come and try us. I'm always in the dining room talking to guests and getting feedback. It's a totally different approach from what the restaurant has been."
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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