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Coco Asian Bistro & Bar
1841 Cordova Road (in the Harbor Shops off Southeast 17th Street)
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
(954) 525-3541 www.cocoasianbistro.com


 
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By Erik Mathes*

photos: Adeline Ramos

Fine-dining gets the “Zen” treatment at Coco Asian Bistro & Bar where an alluring combination of traditional Thai treats and sushi and sashimi stimulates the senses and sates the stomach in a sexy, yet sophisticated, setting.  Coco’s stunning signature plates are presented by an attentive, jovial wait staff that makes one feel as a privileged guest in a gorgeous  Asian-inspired home.

This particular “home” belongs to Executive Chef & Owner, Mike Ponluang, an amazing guy who has been manning the helm at both ends of Coco since its inception in April of 2006.   A Zen-Master in his own right, Chef Mike is humble and soft-spoken, yet outgoing enough to mingle with patrons.  I had an opportunity to spend time with him while dining at Coco recently, and, after being in his presence for a mere ten minutes, must confess that I would have stayed working in restaurant kitchens had he been my head chef instead of some of my former bosses.

Chef Mike’s balanced attitude and temperament make him seem like the perfect person to work for, and his staff supports this theory with stellar results. His spirit looks to have rubbed off on his customers, too, as he has a family of fervently faithful followers who flock to be fed by him frequently.

The menu fuses in familiar Far East favorites, such as samosas (filled with sweet peas, potatoes and curry sauce), Vietnamese rice paper rolls (stuffed with shrimp, cucumbers, bean sprouts, fresh basil and more), edamame, and shrimp tempura, as well as enormous entrees. Each dish is executed with an artist’s flair and features only exceptionally fresh ingredients.

With such fantastic food to be found at Coco, it’s no wonder people keep coming back for more.  As my girlfriend and I sampled ethereal slices of silky-soft salmon sashimi, Chef Mike explained that he discontinued using Atlantic-caught fish and now imports King Salmon from Tasmania, which has a more refined texture and flavor.  He also had us taste the tuna and another fish I’d never tried before, called “walu,” both of which come from the pristine waters surrounding Hawaii.  (After researching, I learned “walu” is typically called “escolar,” but it’s also known as “Hawaiian butterfish,” and it’s certainly worthy of the name!).  It’s evident how much Chef Mike cares about the quality of fish he serves when he explains the reasoning behind the change, namely “better quality and taste.”

One of my favorite snacks is a spicy-tuna roll, and not many places in South Florida do it justice.  Coco Asian Bistro & Bar is one of the select few that do.  Tuna is minced up and given just the right amount of heat, thanks to the special spicy sauce made in-house.  The fish then coalesces with Coco’s superlative sushi rice, and the result is magnificent, reminiscent of some of the best rolls I’ve ever had back in my sushi-Mecca hometown of New York City.  Coco’s sushi list also boasts my girlfriend’s all-time favorite, the JB Tempura, rolled with salmon, scallions and cream cheese, then deep-fried in tempura batter.  This innovative take on a sushi bar classic is one of many stars this side of Coco’s menu has to offer, which also includes the mammoth “Mama Roll.”

The Mama Roll is meant to be marveled at before it’s duly devoured, consisting of tuna, shrimp tempura, imitation crab, tempura flakes, masago, cream cheese and scallion... on the inside. Then, this big Mama gets topped with avocado, spicy mayo, more tempura flakes and strawberry.  Yes, that’s right - strawberry.  Its appearance here would be a first for me in Asian cuisine, but it really works to balance the subtle flavors in this supreme sushi specimen.

Stand-outs from Coco Asian Bistro & Bar’s entrees are the pan-fried Chilean Sea Bass, with portabella mushrooms, asparagus and pineapple (whose sweetness pairs brilliantly with the coconut milk in the piquant red curry sauce it’s topped with), and Emerald Scallops, seared and served with vegetables in a spicy green curry sauce.

Chef Mike also makes a mean Pad Thai (starting at $17), and even has a special version served with grilled lobster tail and juicy shrimp.  Currently, Coco is running a prix fixe menu for $35/person, featuring three courses of their fabulous Asian fare, finishing with a delectable dessert.

Perfect for a first date, special occasion, or just another marvelous night on the town, Coco Asian Bistro & Bar is the place to eat and feel great in Fort Lauderdale.  Private booths are available for diners who want to revel in Coco’s mellow ambiance free from the eyes of others.  You can even enjoy live music on most nights, keeping with Chef Mike’s mission to make it a treat for all the senses when you visit his restaurant.

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* Erik Mathes is a Personal Chef, In-Home Cooking Instructor,  blogger of  “Rantings of a Chef” at kitchencoach.tumblr.com.  and  founder of www.kitchencoachFL.com .

 

 

coco16Coco Asian Bistro & Bar, 1841 Cordova Road (in the Harbor Shops off Southeast 17th Street) ,  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316

Also available for delivery

 

Open: Lunch Mon - Sun ~ 11:30am - 3:00pm
Dinner Mon - Thur ~ 3:00pm - 10:30pm; Friday & Saturday ~ 3:00pm - 11:00pm; Sunday 3:00pm - 10:00pm Happy Hour ~ (Mon - Fri) - 4:00pm - 7:00pm

 

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