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Bouillabaisse
2881 East Commercial Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, FL
954-533-2013
www.bbaisse.com

rich flavors, fresh seafood, and the highest quality ingredients combined with charming service

 
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By Erik Mathes*

photos: Adeline Ramos

 

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and that means it’s time for men to step up by buying thoughtful gifts for their sweethearts and making dinner reservations at the best restaurants in town.  If you’re having trouble with the latter, there’s a perfect solution awaiting your attention on Commercial Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale -- Bouillabaisse, Harald Neuweg’s latest culinary (ad)venture.   


According to Neuweg, his cozy, dimly-lit 45-seater is “made for couples,” and, although there were three groups of seven or more enjoying the ambiance when I dined there last week, it’s tough not to agree that he has achieved his goal of crafting the perfect setting for an intimate dinner for two.  With all the makings of a quaint French bistro, you’ll feel like you stepped out of South Florida and into a quaint coastal town in the Riviera.   


Located next to the Fritz & Franz Bierhaus, also owned and operated by Neuweg and his talented team of culinary professionals, Bouillabaisse offers something you rarely find in the hit-or-miss dining doldrums of Fort Lauderdale -- the complete trifecta of high-quality food, service, and atmosphere.  Employing the services of a charming Maitre D’ in Rudy Tacher, who makes every diner feel like a privileged guest in his own home, along with a familial staff that’s anything but overbearing, Neuweg has created an elegant slice of simplistic gastronomic genius that lacks the pretentious vibe you find at many other restaurants.   


As a chef himself, Neuweg knows a thing or two about French cuisine.  So, when he was trying to decide how to utilize the space next to the Bierhaus, he went with his gut.  “I had a craving at the time for authentic bouillabaisse, and it just hit me,” recollects the worldly restaurateur, who loves to engage in conversation about his years working in hot kitchens.  He also ensured there would be ample choices in wines, with a carefully chosen global assortment of reds, whites, and dessert wines ranging in price from $26 to over $450 a bottle. 

Neuweg wanted to keep his dinner menu simple, featuring classically prepared dishes à la Escoffier, the godfather of French cuisine.  Expect to find rich flavors, the freshest seafood, and ingredients of the highest quality when you take your taste buds here -- Neuweg shells out extra for Maine lobster in his bouillabaisse, insisting the local stuff is no match.  He also infuses the broth with saffron that costs approximately $75 per ounce!.   

As a chef and culinary school grad myself, I admit I was very impressed to hear Neuweg casually rattle off the name Escoffier, a the culinary demigod, as most restaurant owners of today are more about glitz, glamour, and nonsense du jour, as opposed to going back to basic, by-the-book recipes that are time-tested and delicious without a doubt.  You’ll find Parisian staples like country paté, escargot, and French onion soup, in addition to his version of duck à l’orange.   


I knew exactly what I wanted before walking in, and, coincidentally, it was exactly what everyone I spoke with recommended -- the beef Wellington and the bouillabaisse.  There’s a filet mignon entrée on the menu, as well, but why get it naked when you can get it slathered with luscious pâté and mushroom duxelle, wrapped in golden, flaky pastry?  That’s what I’m saying.

Before I get to describing the entrees, let me first discuss soups: we tried all three.  The lobster bisque is gorgeous in color and flavor, with small chunks of Maine lobster swimming throughout.  I’d tell you you’d have to order it if it wasn’t for the utterly divine white truffle-spiked potato soup, an ethereal, frothy concoction that almost feels like a savory cappuccino.  My girlfriend fell in love with it, but in the end, my loyalties stuck with the traditional slow-cooked French onion soup, blanketed ever-so-sensuously by gratin cheese, good to the last drop.  
We also enjoyed the Salad Bellevue, featuring fresh (not canned), crunchy hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, and an acidic tomato vinaigrette over mixed greens, as well as the constantly replenished basket of freshly baked rolls.  Before the entrees were brought out, we were given a small scoop of lemon sorbet as a palate cleanser, and it was also superb.   


When the entrees arrived, my eyes lit up, but it was the aroma of the bouillabaisse that stole the show.  A plump lobster tail surrounded by enormous tiger prawns, sea scallops, chunks of whitefish, and mussels in an intense, saffron-spiked fish stock, served with a sliced hunk of baguette and a red pepper-olive oil relish, this dish will instantly transport you to Marseilles.  The puff pastry that encased the filet in the beef wellington was splendid to look at, but I wasted no time slicing right in.

For dessert, French vanilla crème brûlée and a warm pear tart with cinnamon ice cream were solid selections, but I was enamored with the trio of sorbets.  Raspberry, coconut, and blood orange flavors, while each amazing on their own, were brought to new heights by savoring them in combination.  
If you head over to Bouillabaisse this Valentine’s Day, ladies will receive a rose and a cushion for their feet to make them feel extra pampered.  But if you can’t score reservations, don’t sweat it -- a place like this should stick around for years to come, and it’s never going to be short on romance.


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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 .

 

 

bouillabaisse-6

Bouillabaisse
2881 East Commercial Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, FL
954-533-2013
www.bbaisse.com

Bouillabaisse:  rich flavors, the freshest seafood, and the highest quality ingredients combined with charming service