Jana Soeldner Danger
group of attractive young urbanites cluster
at the highly-polished onyx bar. In the
casually-stylish tropical dining room
creamy walls, blond, planked wood
floors and Caribbean-style artwork
a couple gaze into each others eyes
as course after course is efficiently
delivered by a server smartly attired
in a formal bistro-style uniform. In another
area, cozily ensconced in a forest-green-and-brick-rose
upholstered banquette, two wealthy-looking
charity ball circuit matrons chat leisurely
over their dinners.
Chef Oliver Saucy and his partner Darrel
Broek seem to have found a way to appeal
to a variety of types and tastes with
their latest venture, Bistro 17, located
in the brand new Renaissance Fort Lauderdale
Hotel on the 17th Street Causeway. It
is the partners first foray into
hotel dining; their other successful restaurants
are the popular Darrel & Olivers
Café Maxx in Pompano Beach, and
East City Bistro in Delray Beach.
At Bistro 17, the menu showcases Saucys
inventive and exuberant Florida-style
cuisine, which draws from Oriental, Mediterranean,
Caribbean, Cuban, Creole and Old South
Chef de Cuisine Michael Saperstein worked
for Saucy at Café Maxx in the late
1990s, before graduating from Johnson
& Wales Culinary University and moving
to New York. After a year and a half at
Big Apple restaurants, he returned to
help Broek and Saucy design the menu and
open Bistro 17.
Appetizers shine at Bistro 17. It is a
good place to meet friends, order several
starters, and share. Every dish
is better than the last one, raved
one of the diners at our table as we sampled
the outstanding pan-seared foie gras ($14),
a special for the evening. The velvety
foie gras contrasted with the crunchy
texture of lightly parboiled string beans
and sautéed walnuts, its richness
tempered by the fruity acidity of blueberries,
the sweetness of caramelized onions and
the sherry glaze. Rich with chunky crabmeat,
the lump crab cake ($12) with crunchy
sweet corn and arugula was accompanied
by a horseradish tomato vinaigrette and
Old Bay remoulade, two perfect complements
to this simple, delightful dish.
A dark red, coarsely chopped, very fresh
tuna tartare ($11) contrasted nicely with
crispy won tons, fresh cucumber and velvety
mango, while grated wasabi added unexpected
punch. The baked oysters ($9) a
take on oysters Rockefeller were
plump, melt-in-your-mouth sea-tasting
shellfish gratinéed to a crispy,
golden crust, over sauteed spinach leaves
and a whiff of licorice from shaved fennel
and a Pernod hollandaise. Just heavenly!
Thick diver scallops ($13) were perfectly
seared on the outside, moist and velvety
inside, and served over tomato chili linguini
accented with roast corn, scallions and
cilantro; a tribute to chef Sapersteins
knack for delicious contrasts of color
Seared duck breast served with roast shallots
and Cabernet sauce ($12) is rare, tender,
moist, with the deep flavor of duck playing
along the earthy mushroom risotto (beyond
description, said one diner at our
table) with crunchy pecans. Citrus salad
with lobster truffle vinaigrette ($13)
was a favorite. The sweet, tender lobster
chunks were cooked just right, while fresh
grapefruit and blood and mandarin oranges
created a citrus explosion on the tongue.
The bittersweet crunch of fresh asparagus
tips and green endives over red watermelon
coulis did wonders to show off the complexity
of this dish.
Whereas all the appetizers are outstanding,
the entrees, listed in a single page,
offer enough variety to suit all tastes,
but are uneven.
Sea bass ($27) was our favorite. A thick
slab of fresh, creamy fish, lightly crusted
with panko crumbs, was seared with dried
porcini mushrooms. The fish, served on
a flavorful bed of scallion mashed potatoes,
was complemented by creamy ragoût
of sautéed Portobello, oyster and
shiitake mushrooms fragrant with chervil,
tarragon, basil, rosemary and Italian
A crust of Dijon and whole grain mustard
seeds added zing to the salmon ($27);
however, the strength of the mustard overpowered
the delicate fish, and clashed with the
dill vinaigrette dressing of the side
of cucumber and tomato salad.
Grilled rack of lamb ($39) was a delight.
Rubbed with rosemary, thyme and Italian
parsley, the tender meat was sweet, juicy
and perfectly cooked. A provocative macaroni
and goat cheese raised the traditionally
pedestrian side to the status of earthly
delight. The accompanying broccoli rabe
was sautéed in garlic; tomato confit
added color, while a mild balsamic mint
sauce beautifully accented the dish.
The pan-seared veal chop ($34), an evening
special, didnt fare quite as well.
Tender and nicely cooked, it was slightly
dry. The best part of the dish was the
accompanying Napoleon of crispy eggplant,
garlicky broccoli rabe, roasted tomatoes
Desserts ($6-$8), among which the most
original is pineapple beignets fresh
chunks of fruit are batter-fried and served
warm with coconut-rum caramel ice cream
are tasty and make for a happy
ending to a meal at Bistro 17. Moulton
chocolate cake is deep, dark and intense,
its warmth and bittersweet flavor offset
by vanilla ice cream. Vanilla crème
brûlée rests on a refreshing
blueberries cushion. Key lime cheesecake
($6) is light, refreshing and just tart
Bistro 17 is bound to be another Darrel-and-Oliver
success. The restaurant has plenty of
panache to draw diners already familiar
with Saucys excellent cuisine, and
will doubtless keep hotel guests staying
on the premises.
& Olivers Bistro 17
Southeast 17th Street, Fort Lauderdale
daily for breakfast 6:30 to 10:30
a.m.; lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.;
dinner Sunday through Thursday, 5:30
to 10:30 p.m., till 11 p.m. Friday
and Saturday. Sunday brunch: 11 a.m.
to 3 p.m.
upscale seafood bistro.
extensive, varied and carefully selected
list of U.S. and French pours, with
a few additions from other countries.
$6 to $13; entrŽes $19 to $39; desserts
$5 to $9.
A short but respectable list of domestic
and international labels.
in the lounge on the other side of
the hotel lobby.
Soeldner Danger is a freelance writer
and a columnist for the Miami Herald.
She lives in Hollywood, Florida.