Bimini Boatyard

 

A Fort Lauderdale classic gets a facelift and a new chef.

Bimini Boatyard
Chef Michael Bennett and owner Steve Hudson. Caribbean Spiced Wood-Grilled Salmon, $19.00. Photo: Charlotte Southern.
 

Rochelle Koff

When it opened in 1989, Bimini Boatyard became the hot place to go on Fort Lauderdale's 17th Street Causeway. Fancy cars filled the parking lots, mega yachts docked out back and people-watching was over the top. As it began showing its age, Bimini dropped off the radar screen, but new owner Steve Hudson aims to put the waterfront restaurant back in the spotlight. He bought Bimini 18 months ago, hired chef Michael Bennett (Left Bank, Epicure), and this summer closed for a few weeks for a major nip-tuck.

Hudson reopened with a big bash in September to celebrate Bimini's rejuvenation. Bennett, who lived in the Virgin Islands four years and self-published a cookbook called In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks in June, has updated the menu. Expect more Caribbean-style dishes and a focus on fish along with crowd-pleasers like steaks, pasta and burgers. Signature items like sweet Bimini bread (almost like a cinnamon roll without the cinnamon), crispy calamari and popular Diane salad also remain. At lunchtime, the young, friendly staff was accommodating and efficient, but on a busier Saturday night, our server was harried and our starters arrived before the silverware.

Ambiance: The overall design is unchanged ... despite the name, the exterior resembles a New England boathouse with dormers, a flag-topped cupola and lots of windows ... but just about everything else has been updated, from the bathrooms to the gleaming oak floors and expanded patio (with a new bar), which seats 120. With its lovely marina view and breezy ambience, Bimini is again a destination you show off to out-of-towners.

What Worked

  • Big enough to share, starter of Diane salad with diced chicken, toasted almonds, crisp rice noodles, orange wedges, sesame seeds and lots of chilled greens dressed in a light Asian-style vinaigrette
  • Tangy Jamaican jerk-spiced chicken wings with plenty of kick
  • Exquisite calabaza bisque (served on Saturdays) - bowlfuls of the sweet, creamy West Indian pumpkin puree
  • Perfectly grilled Martinique black grouper with a mango glaze and crabmeat topping of
  • Fresh and moist snapper Viequez, plated with tomato salsa and a flavorful melange of spinach and yucca
  • Simply grilled mahi-mahi, black grouper, tuna, yellowtail snapper and swordfish (blackened and Jamaican jerk glaze also options)
  • Supple, well-seasoned swordfish, grilled over a wood fire, served with a choice of two sides like baked potato, mac and cheese, grilled vegetables and broccolini
  • Tasty black bean, corn and mango salsa
  • Wood-fired steaks, prime rib, baby backs
  • Key lime pie, tiramisu and “Death by Chocolate”

What Didn’t Work

  • Too rich buerre blanc sauce
  • Wood-fired puffy diver scallops without much flavor
  • A bit overcooked San Juan pork tenderloin

 

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