No doubt about it, 2015 was a good year for the South Florida food scene. In the past 12 months, we've welcomed a lot of new establishments into the fold.
Many of them came from familiar restaurateurs like Tim Petrillo, who rebranded Fort Lauderdale institution Bimini Boatyard, debuting it with a reinvented menu and concept as Boatyard.
Still more — like the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's Kuro and the Ritz-Carlton's Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits — pushed the envelope, delivering dining concepts that are both innovative and unique, offering Broward and Palm Beach residents a different experience.
Here is our list of the best new restaurants to hit the Broward and Palm Beach scene in the past year.
10. Izziban Sushi & BBQ
7225 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Lauderhill. Call 954-368-6767, or visit izzibansushi.com
From the outside, Izziban Sushi & BBQ in Lauderhill doesn't look like much — a mysterious, standalone white stucco building with black-tinted windows. Inside, the vibe changes completely thanks to a large dining room with pulsing neon lights, sporting a back-lit mirrored bar, and TVs synced to stream the latest K-pop hits. It's like a sugar-sweetened, Korean-style Hard Rock Cafe with a menu that rivals the Cheesecake Factory in size and selection. In a move toward more casual Korean dining, the spunky Orlando import delivers a blend of buffet-style fare, à la carte, and all-you-can-eat barbecue in one setting. You can start with the restaurant's specialty: galbi, tender slices of short rib kicked up a notch with the owners' strawberry-sweetened, soy-based sauce. And don't pass up the samgyeopsal — thick-sliced, fatty portions of pork belly marinated overnight in fragrant white wine. No matter what route you choose, be sure to order a bowl of spicy tofu soup, a specialty dish made only at the Lauderhill Izziban, available as a $3.99 add-on when you order the all-you-can-eat lunch or dinner. It arrives in a deep metal bowl, a sweet-and-spicy broth still roiling from a violent boil, steam rising from a miso-rich broth dotted with cabbage melted down to translucent wisps and rice noodles that have cooked to pudding-like density. The final touch: a single egg. It's not ready to eat until it begins to cook, translucent edges turning opaque, then white, and the yolk molding into over-easy territory.
9. SuViche Las Olas
401 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-656-3663, or visit suviche.com.
Peruvian food is all the rage in South Florida right now, and in the past few years, a new style of Peruvian cuisine has emerged from the fray. That includes newly opened SuViche in Fort Lauderdale, where co-owners Aliosha and Andrei Stern are leading the charge with their Miami-based restaurant. Rather than create another in-and-out concept, the Miami natives built something that was neither sit-down nor fast-food nor fast-casual but a seamless blend of all three. The menu represents their take on the new wave of Peruvian cuisine, compliments of Lima-based chef and restaurateur Jaime Pesaque. Through mutual friends, Andrei was introduced to Pesaque, who today stands as the group's executive chef. Our favorite concoction: the SuViche ceviche, diced whitefish marinated in lime juice and one of Pesaque's sauces. It's garnished in the usual Peruvian manner with canchita, camote, choclo, and wisps of thinly sliced red onion. But it's the sauce — a viscous puddle of opaque white liquid that remains after you've polished off the last of the fish — that gives this dish its hook, a milky-smooth marinade that's the ultimate leche de tigre, at once tart and sweet. Diners looking for something lighter will find a reprieve with a side that's all about sushi. Even the rolls have their own twist, presented with atypical ingredients and flavor combinations such as sushi paired with a creamy lomo or vibrant cilantro sauce instead of soy or eel sauce. Finish your meal with a shot of house-infused pisco, Peru's fiery grape brandy.
8. Tacocraft Taqueria & Tequila Bar
204 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-463-2003, or visit tacocraft.com.
Last January, Tacocraft Taqueria & Tequila Bar opened its doors where longtime taco spot T-Mex Cantina once stood in downtown Himmarshee Village. Conveniently located next door to sister restaurant Rok:Brgr, the place was intended to breathe new life into the casual Tex-Mex concept and give it a craft gastropub feel, more conducive to the area's downtown strip. Mission accomplished: Today, Tacocraft has become a colorful and thriving addition to the area. The tiny, 1,200-square-foot space has been revamped with a custom mural by Florida graffiti artist Ruben Ubiera and given a new menu of handcrafted tacos and cocktails to match. And what of the tacos? Built on house-made, hand-formed masa tortillas, they're prepared daily and stuffed with prime meats and specialty cheeses. The crispy shredded pork is the most popular, adobe- and chili-rubbed and smothered with imported cow's milk cotija, a thick house crema, vibrant salsa verde, and diced, charred pineapple. But there is more to this menu than pricey craft tacos. "The Munchies" is a list of starters that includes filling and affordable fare. There are plenty of standard Tex-Mex selections, like a chunky, onion- and cilantro-flecked guacamole served in a hefty stone bowl; or the salsa trio, a selection of three salsas including a vibrant verde, a smoky roasted tomato, and a velvety-smooth mango. Or try the Mexican street corn, here smothered in herbaceous cilantro paste, cotija cheese, and smoked paprika. And crispy, bite-sized empanadas come in an authentic Colombian-style shell, packed with braised chicken, Oaxaca cheese, black beans, and roasted corn.
7. Riverside Market South
3218 SE Sixth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-524-8986, or visit facebook.com/riversidemarketsouth.
There are just a few rules at the new Riverside Market South: Seat yourself, get your own beer, and make yourself at home. It's the same philosophy you'll find at the concept's original location, the original Riverside Market deep in Sailboat Bend, which remains one of the area's most-beloved beer bars, a place where you can self-serve craft beer from a wall of glass-front coolers displaying more than 500 bottles. When it opened in 2009, it was one of the few places offering such a selection. Like its sister establishment, the new location continues with the nautical-boatyard-meets-hip-beer-den charm. The large bar offers a wall of 28 drafts but also 300 bottles in coolers. It's a selection that changes from week to week, owner Julian Siegel working with several distributors to take in three deliveries two times each week for both locations. And what of the food? If elaborate menus immobilize you, this is the place to find refuge. Lunch and dinner are served with a few Riverside proper stalwarts, including the return of Siegel's famous smoked fish dip, a traditional menu staple born from his annual Keys fishing trip. Or try the pair of turkey meatball sliders, three-ounce balls flecked with herbs and spices, pan-seared, and braised in a red wine sauce before being fitted between a toasted egg bun and topped with a dollop of pesto, red sauce, and melted mozzarella. No dessert here, of course. But the owners are still betting you're the sort to prefer a Wells Banana Bread beer over the real thing anyway.
6. Brgr Stop
4301 Coconut Creek Parkway, Coconut Creek. Call 954-975-8459, or visit brgrstop.com.
South Florida loves its burger joints, and newly opened Brgr Stop in Coconut Creek wowed devotees with its over-the-top burgers when it opened in October. These days, that's not all chef-owner Michael Buchinski is known for. Almost everything on the Brgr Stop menu is like a challenge straight out of the Food Network's Man vs. Food, and in a world of food trends driven by healthy eating, special meal plans, and dietary restrictions, Brgr Stop goes the opposite direction. You can start your night with buckets of candied bacon or a tower of onion rings. The restaurant's signature craft burgers are loaded with things like macaroni and cheese or a slathering of peanut butter. And milkshakes are made with a combination of cereal-soaked milk and ice cream. Just hearing the outlandish menu items could give you cardiac arrest, but they're worth it. Try the deep-fried peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, what begins with thick-sliced brioche and continues with potato sticks, molten peanut butter, and house-made jam for a salty, crunchy, gooey combo. Then, before serving, the whole creation is given a cream-soda-tempura batter (is that even a thing?) and deep-fried for several minutes. And yes, it's worth every calorie.
1555 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-7400, or visit boatyard.restaurant.
Boatyard is certainly no longer Bimini. But the good news is that there might not be too many people who mind. Almost everything is new, from a roaming outdoor patio complete with fire pit to an expanded dockside dining area hemmed by megayachts and its own staff of boat valets to an open kitchen, custom-designed nautical-chic interior, and a beefed-up staff of 150. Imbibers can rejoice as well; there are three bars once more, including a stand-alone, outdoor, boathouse-style bar catering to happy-hour revelers. It also means a new menu, one that will make you forget those mediocre meals of the past. Executive chef Peter Boulukos has taken the helm here with the mantra "Eat Local, Be Coastal," which translates to a decidedly contemporary-American take highlighting fresh seafood, wood-fired premium steaks, and a portable raw bar. Don't miss the "seacuterie," a cured seafood take on the meat-minded charcuterie board. Selections change frequently but currently include a delicate citrus peppercorn swordfish, beet-stained "candy cane" salmon, and octopus torchon named for the sous-vide method of preparing foie gras, used here on the octopus. It's sliced into thin discs that melt on the tongue like the creamiest butter, offering a distinct cured sweetness and filed into a neat row on a giant block of pink Himalayan salt that people stare longingly after as it makes its way to your table. And yes, they kept the Bimini bread.
4. Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits
1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-302-6460, or visit burlockcoast.com.
South Florida is in the midst of a hotel restaurant revolution, and the new Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach is one of the establishments leading the charge. Just over a month old, it's designed to attract locals with its innovative and collaborative concept: an artisanal marketplace, grab-and-go lunch options, small-batch rum retail shop, cigar bar, and formal restaurant all rolled into one. To that end, Burlock Coast is nothing like what you'd expect a Ritz restaurant to be — and that's a good thing. The emphasis here is on locally sourced ingredients, from raw-bar offerings like Cedar Key clams and stone crab to mains like veal cheek ravioli, whole snapper, or fish and chips. That idea even crosses into the restaurant's carefully curated marketplace, where guests and visitors can find breads made by revered Miami baker Zak Stern (AKA Zak the Baker), a hot cup of Panther Coffee, and charcuterie from Dade-based Miami Smokers. Imbibers, fear not: You can build your own cocktail using a selection of Caribbean, French, and Spanish selections from the bar's rolling rum cart.
3. Louie Bossi's Ristorante Bar Pizzeria
1032 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-356-6699, or visit louiebossi.com.
This summer, downtown Fort Lauderdale got a big surprise with a new Big Time Restaurant group concept. From day one, the scene at Louie Bossi's Ristorante Bar Pizzeria off Las Olas Boulevard was fueled with intense energy. On any given weekday evening, every inch of the main dining room will be jammed like the Dolphin Expressway at rush hour, people jostling for a seat at the salumi bar, main bar, or dining room. Lisabet Summa, Big Time's director of culinary operations, and former Big City Tavern phenom chef Louie Bossi are the dynamic duo behind the group's most recent undertaking, what stands as Big Time's largest custom-curated operation to date that has been years in the making. The hype is no doubt over the food, a menu of biblical proportions, with everything from homemade pasta and wood-grilled, dry-aged steaks to Neopolitan-style pizza and house-cured meats. The pizza — baked for 90 seconds in a 900-degree wood-burning oven — takes center stage on the menu and in the restaurant; it's a sourdough that bakes up thin and chewy and is topped with a vibrant San Marzano sauce. Or try the hearty mafaldine, one of Bossi's best pastas, scallop-edged shoelace lengths as thick as octopus tentacles smothered in a tangy ragu sauce made with 'nduja, a spreadable spicy pork sausage.
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2. Rusty Hook Tavern
125 N. Riverside Drive, Pompano Beach. Call 954-941-2499, or visit therustyhooktavern.com.
When it opened early last year, we saw Rusty Hook Tavern as part of a new trend in hotel dining and the beginning of a rebirth of Pompano Beach's food scene. To that end, the restaurant inside the Sands Harbor Resort and Marina took the former Joe's Riverside Grill space and reinvented it, creating a hip, waterside joint complete with a view. The idea is to offer a casual hangout — with equally casual, affordable fare — for locals and tourists alike. Today, the menu has evolved from funky fusion plates to a more seafoodcentric concept in which fresh catches arrive and change daily, allowing patrons to get a taste of executive chef Ned Jaouhar's best dishes. Or try the fish tacos, Cheetos-encrusted hunks of mahi fried up fresh and topped with a zesty kimchi slaw, tangy mango salsa, and a smear of jade-green jalapeño and lime aioli. With its tapas philosophy and cool-kid casual theme, the Rusty Hook Tavern still offers exactly what the name implies: a laid-back melding of good food and drink. It also presents the perfect escape from the doldrums of a long workweek or the chaos of a downtown weekend scene.
1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Call 954-327-7625, or visit seminolehardrockhollywood.com.
Sure, sushi and sashimi are in no short supply in Broward County, but that's not all you'll find at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's newest restaurant, Kuro. Named simply "Black" in Japanese, Kuro is the resort's 9,500-square-foot showpiece, a custom-designed theater-style dining room set with booths and circular tables each presenting a clear view of the restaurant's impressive open kitchen. Here, the entire operation approaches each meal with so much intensity, you can't help but be swept up in the enthusiasm. The goal: to create an upmarket establishment unlike any other in Broward County — or South Florida, for that matter. Don't expect to find boats of sashimi or sushi rolls with catchy names. Rather, Kuro offers the traditional, multicourse Japanese style of dining known as kaiseki, a series of minimeals that progresses from light, simple fare to heavier, more complex dishes. Start with the Hokkaido scallops, executive chef Alex Becker's modern interpretation of sashimi with plump, gelatinous cuts of delicate Japanese scallops coated in a bold, young-ginger-spiked yuzu jelly, and end with the kakigori ice, a rainbow-hued mountain of shaved ice drenched in passionfruit syrup and dotted with glistening gummy cubes that taste like fruit and ginger.