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Michele's Dining Lounge,
   2761 East Oakland Park Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale
954-533-1919,  www.michelesdl.com
 
Good food, service and chic setting 
  

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by Jana Soeldner Danger 
 

Tucked into a strip shopping center on Oakland Park Boulevard, Michele’s has tasty food in a chic, yet relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The menu is straightforward, classic fare that is creative without being complicated, and the service is very good. It’s the kind of place you might go for a special night out, or one you might just as easily frequent often simply because it is a comfortable place to meet friends for a drink and an appetizer.

An ornate crystal chandelier provides a formal touch to the entrance, but the rest of the décor is more casual. Glass panels framed with mahogany millwork divide the lounge from the dining room, and carpet in tones of beige and chocolate helps absorb sound. Tables on the main floor of the dining room have hard-surface tops lined with fabric runners, but black linen cloths accented with bronze placemats cover tables at banquettes on a raised tier overlooking the rest of the space. On a recent evening early in the week, most tables were filled with guests in a wide range of ages. A semi-private dining room at the front of the restaurant accommodates 14 comfortably.

Servers are extremely attentive. Happily, they also avoid an annoying practice that seems ubiquitous today: that of snatching away a person’s plate as soon as it is empty, even though others at the table are still eating. Instead, waiters at Michele’s follow the old school practice of allowing everyone at the table to finish before they clear, so no one feels rushed. We wish other restaurant managers would instruct their staffs to do the same.

Shortly after you are seated, a server offers Michele’s own filtered, aerated water in still or sparkling versions, eliminating the need for the pricey bottled stuff. Warm bread arrives accompanied by butter, hummus, and sun-dried tomato dip.

Appetizers

The mussels ($10) at Michele’s were very fresh, tender, and tasty. Simmered just enough in a flavorful broth of white wine, lemon juice and chicken stock, they were seasoned with garlic, shallots, black and cayenne peppers and chili flakes. The broth was spicy, but not so sharp it overpowered the taste of the shellfish. The very generous portion could serve as an entrée if accompanied by a salad.

The wonderfully rich and delicious foie gras ($14) was sautéed and served atop toasted brioche, perfect for soaking up the juices. A not-too-sweet fresh blackberry reduction was an ideal foil for the dusky taste of the foie gras.

Other appetizers include calamari ($10); shrimp cocktail (12); skewered beef tenderloin tips ($12); tuna tartare ($12); and crab cake ($14).

Entrees

When the appetizer dishes were cleared, the server delivered warm, wet napkins to clean our fingers. Our main courses arrived almost immediately after.

Oven roasted grouper ($26) was a thick wedge of very fresh, flaky fish crowned with a crispy crust of golden breading. The accompanying sauce was a combination of soy, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, lemon juice and zest, and just a touch of honey. Spicy wasabi pureed potatoes added punch to the otherwise delicate flavors of the dish.

Bouillabaisse ($32) was a hearty, satisfying version with a generous mix of Maine lobster, fat shrimp, delicate scallops, mussels and clams simmered in a tomato broth fragrant with fennel. Garlic toast was useful for sopping up the extra liquid.

Some of the other entrees are New York steak ($29); roast chicken breast ($22); grilled salmon ($23); and branzino ($26).

Desserts

We ended our dinner with a cheese platter ($15) featuring: gorgonzola and caciotta, both  from Italy, Appenzeller from Switzerland, and Maytag blue from the USA with a scattering of caramelized walnuts, pomegranate seeds, and figs.

Sweet desserts include apple streusel ($7.50); lemon tart $8); chocolate cake ($8); and white chocolate raspberry cheesecake ($7.50).

Michele’s offers good food, outstanding service, and moderate prices in a chic yet comfortable setting that has the feel of a neighborhood bistro. If you visit once, you are likely to return.

 
 
    

Michele’s Dining Lounge

Address: 2761 East Oakland Park Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale
  www.michelesdl.com
Phone: 954-533-1919
Hours: Tue-Sat- 5p.m.-11 p.m. Sun till 10 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers $10-$14; entrees $22-$46; desserts $7.50-$15
Liquor: Full bar
Ambience: Sophisticated casual
Cards: All major