The friendly bucolic motif of Sweet Nectar is a stark departure from the space's former inhabitant, arctic-themed Tundra Restaurant -- and the rest of Las Olas, for that matter.
Contrasting weathered x-back and lacquered wood chairs sit under slatted wood tables topped with sturdy bistro glasses and simple, blue-striped white napkins. Exposed Edison bulbs hanging in vintage-looking metal pendants light the large bar of warm wood and black stone that extends from the patio into the interior of the restaurant.
Tundra -- the gimmicky concept dubbed "the nation's first ice art-themed restaurant" -- shuttered its doors this fall after a mere two years in business. Before that, the location housed Mancini's, an upscale Italian eatery catering to local politicians, developers, and wealthy residents for the better part of a decade.
The newest concept from Trust Hospitality Group, the team behind Rouge Waterfront Dining and C-Lounge Cigar and Hookah Bar in Sunny Isles Beach (as well as three eateries in New York), Sweet Nectar is aiming to give Las Olas locals a laid-back neighborhood dining option.
Owner Alex Podolnyy and Director of Operations Peter Cumplido (who has spent time in the kitchen of the Ritz-Carlton South Beach and as a consultant for James Beard-recognized Miami Beach gastropub Pubbelly) wanted to open a place that mirrors the way they prefer to eat.
"We like to try a bit of everything, small plates," says Cumplido. "Las Olas was lacking outdoor bar seating; we wanted to get away from the pretentious-restaurant vibe."
For Sweet Nectar, that means scaled-up comfort foods with an international flare, like boneless, skinless chicken thighs marinated in a secret recipe, tossed with flour, deep-fried, and served with a piquant Jamaican jerk vinaigrette. In another signature dish, Brussels sprouts are roasted and tossed in a spicy kimchi vinaigrette for a new take on conventional Korean kimchi cabbage.
Both are offered as large plates, intended for sharing among guests at the bar-height community tables and low benches flanked by a plush linen sofa inside the restaurant.
"We want locals to come and be relaxed," says Cumplido. "That's why we have large tables, for guests to sit down and make new friends. People come in four, five, six days a week; it's like Cheers: Everyone knows your first name."
Raw-bar offerings include three types of oysters, with a changing selection of at least one East Coast, one West Coast, and one local variety; stone crabs (in season); shrimp; and clams.
Carpaccio, like the smoked Akaushi beef with Peruvian aji amarillo -- a yellow chili with subtle tropical notes and a kick of heat -- are also served from behind the open bar, framed in natural stone, that greets guests upon entering.
At the back of the space, an open Robata grill separates the dining room from the kitchen; the traditional northern Japanese grill uses hardwood charcoal and high heat to flavor and seal moisture in foods. Dinosaur beef short ribs are braised on the bone for ten hours and finished on the cooking instrument; it's served with a sweet and spicy house-made Korean barbecue sauce.
The condiment is one of 36 that are made in-house -- even the ketchup is made from scratch.
Same goes for the cocktails. Along with Ryan Keller of Premier Beverage, Cumplido created a bar program that focuses on serving small batch spirits with house-made syrups and infusions.
The East India Sling combines Fords gin with freshly made cardamom/black pepper syrup, lime juice, and muddled pineapple and juice.
The namesake Sweet Nectar pitcher -- it actually inspired the title -- mixes moonshine with blackberry, apple, peach, house-made sour mix, and agave nectar.
"There's nothing like this around here," says Cumplido. "You have places that focus on beer, not food, or food, not drinks. We want 50/50: amazing cocktails and a great meal."
Craft cocktails are discounted for happy hour, from 4 to 7 p.m. daily. The restaurant serves lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
Sweet Nectar is located at 1017 Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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