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Grille 401

401 East Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-767-0222

 tasty food, a stylish decor and professional service
 
 
  

foodappetizer

bone rib eye

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salmon

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By Jana Danger

Grille 401, the latest incarnation in the space at 401 East Las Olas Boulevard (formerly home to Bova and Rare) is casually upscale, with a chic decor and an interesting menu of mostly American fare. It joins the portfolio of the Rainmaker Restaurant Group, led by Kevin Blair, which also operates Pinion Grill at Town center in Boca Raton, and Brimstone Woodfire Grill in the Shops at Pembroke Gardens, Pembroke Pines.  With tasty food, professional service and pleasing ambience, Grille 401 should do well with the downtown lunch crowd as well as evening shoppers, although that end of Las Olas still does not draw the heavy foot traffic of the blocks farther east.

For those who prefer alfresco dining, there are several outdoor tables sheltered from the street and passing cars by a tall row of plants. The entrance to the restaurant's attractive interior is flanked by dramatic glass wine racks that reach to the ceiling, softly illuminated with blue LEDs that cast a romantic glow.

A bar with a lighted base sits on one side of the front section of the long, rectangular room, a stylish spot for after-work cocktails. Live music energizes the scene on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. during happy hour, and on Fridays, Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label is available for $9 per glass. On Tuesdays, happy hour features a $20 discount on bottles of wine priced at $40 or more.

In the dining area, comfortable banquettes upholstered in shades of turquoise, green, gold and brown flank wood-topped tables, and paintings of Fort Lauderdale scenes done by a local artist hang on the walls.  Fat round pendant lights and a huge chandelier lower the high, open ceiling, and more of the elegant, blue-lighted wine racks are scattered throughout the space.  A balcony overlooking the main dining room is available for diners who want privacy, as well as for special events. Although there is an open kitchen, the dining room is so long that preparation activities there are scarcely visible from the opposite end of the space.

Executive Chef Troy Beasley, who grew up in the French Quarter and learned his craft in the trade, helped create the varied menu at Grille 401. It features enough interesting preparations to make you want to return more than once to try them.

Servers are professional and friendly, and we appreciated that when they listed specials, they quoted the prices without being asked.

Appetizers

Our favorite dish of the evening was a starter: crispy crab fritters ($14). Fried rolls of generous amounts of fresh-flavored shrimp,  crab and risotto with a mildly spicy lobster ginger sauce are complemented with a garnish of corn relish and whimsical shoestrings of crispy kataifi (shredded phyllo) resembling a tumbleweed finish the dish.

Jumbo shrimp spring rolls ($11) were also fresh and tasty. Plenty of chilled shellfish, along with crunchy Napa cabbage, ginger and shitake mushrooms, are enveloped in a rice paper wrap. The spicy Nucor cham dipping sauce is a foil for the refreshing coolness of the rolls.

Other starters include steamed edamame ($8); grilled artichokes ($11); cheeseburger sliders ($13); and tuna tartare ($14). There is also a selection of sushi ($10-$16), something that now seems almost mandatory for restaurants trying to attract the young professional crowd.

Entrees

Grouper ($29) was a special of the evening. Simply prepared, it was grilled just enough and served with a buttery lemon caper sauce. The meaty fish was firm, flaky and very good. For a side, I chose the tasty, tangy potatoes made with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, an ideal complement for the mild fish.

Curried snapper with rock shrimp ($30) was not quite as good. It was slightly overcooked, giving it a softer texture than was desirable. The shrimp were fresh and firm coated with mild, creamy curry sauce. The side of mashed sweet potatoes, recommended by our server, was creamy, nicely seasoned and quite delicious.

Among the other entrees are prime rib ($24 & $30); baby back ribs ($15 & $28); Hawaiian skirt steak (($27); grilled pork chop ($26); Chilean sea bass ($30); cedar plank salmon ($26); rib eye steak ($42); truffled fettucini Alfredo with wild mushrooms ($21); New York strip ($32); New Orleans-style pasta ($24); filet mignon ($34) and pecan-crusted trout ($24).

Desserts

An ice cream sundae ($7) was a whimsical trip back to childhood; four scoops of rich vanilla ice cream topped with dark hot fudge and a mountain of sweetened whipped cream. Oh, and finished with a maraschino cherry on top, of course.

White chocolate bread pudding ($8) was a flavorful version of the comfort food classic, made with brioche bread, rich white chocolate and vanilla custard, topped with brown sugar. A mixed berry sauce adds color and sweetness. Whipped cream was served on the side.

Other desserts (all $8) are the classic carrot cake, flourless chocolate waffle and key lime pie.

Grille 401 has a winning combination: tasty food, a stylish decor and professional service. The question is whether it will be able to survive in a location that is still the less-traveled end of Las Olas. We hope so. It deserves to be successful.

 

 

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Grille 401, Ft. Lauderdale, 401 East Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale 954-767-0222

Prices: Appetizers $8-416; entrees $17-$42; desserts $7-8

Liquor: Full bar

Credit cards: All major