"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 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.
(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.
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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