The Jib Room brings new meaning to the concept of ''bar food.'' The Fort Lauderdale hideaway is reeling in regulars with dishes like escargot with Bordelaise sauce, filet mignon and island seafood stew. But then, the Jib Room has multiple personalities.
The entrance is a simple storefront in an Oakland Park strip of stores; inside it's pretty dimly lit and there's a large bar area with a few TVs. But walk to your right and you'll enter a small café used for dinner. Nine tables are decked out with white tablecloths and tea candles -- set in tiny sailboats -- in a cheery room of tropical turquoise and lime green, with two saltwater aquariums and another, more upscale bar. You wouldn't recognize it as the former home of Jumpin' Jacks Bar & Grill.
Owners Debbie Carpenter-Toye, a criminal defense lawyer by day, and husband Brian Toye, opened Jib Room in April, aiming for an intimate bar and restaurant where locals could have a good meal without forking over a bundle. Judging by the packed tables, it's a hit.
You may not love every dish, but there's plenty to like, with some standouts -- especially at these prices. Weary of spending $30 and $35 for entrees, we're happy to see tasty grilled pork chops for $16.95 or a generous seafood stew for $21.95.
The menu is a mix of Caribbean-style fare with a few Italian classics. It's not that Carpenter-Toye and her hubby flunked geography. The islandy food reflects the couples' love of the Abacos and a passion for sailing. Representing the Italian picks: longtime chef Louie DeGennaro (former chef-owner at Pa'DeGennaro's) and his wife Jennifer. So you'll find dishes like gnocchi and penne ala vodka as well as conch fritters and Bahama Mama duck.
Jib Room offers more than a dozen starters, so grazing isn't a bad way to go. You get sweet, savory and spicy in this kicky combo of shrimp sautéed in garlic butter, paired with black beans mixed with basil, vinaigrette and mango purée, served on a red cabbage cup -- delicious. The shrimp and scallop bruschetta, a frequent special, is another treat, sautéed in garlic, butter and white wine, with cherry tomatoes atop crunchy bread.
Shrimpsteak is offered as an appetizer and entree -- we had it as a main course, served with linguine and spinach. It's a pinwheel of sorts -- the shrimp are butterflied, with tails off and pressed together to form a circle. ''It's about the size of a hockey puck,'' joked our amiable waiter, ''but it tastes better.'' No argument there, but we thought it a bit bland.
The coconut-crusted snapper was moist and perfectly cooked, but a tad sweet -- what with the coconut and a sauce of pineapple juice and mirin plus a garnish of chopped pineapple. But maybe we hit an off night, because we enjoyed entrees much more on a second visit.
A weekend special of Florida lobster tail was sweet and tender, wrapped with a thin layer of prosciutto, which adds a nice smoky contrast. It's served with a homey three-cheese polenta and just-crisp green beans -- a great deal at $23.95.
While not melt-in-your mouth luxury, this eight-ounce filet mignon is tender, flavorful and juicy, served with a Gorgonzola cream -- not so heavy that it overwhelms -- plus orzo and sautéed squash, carrots, zucchini, red peppers.
We could have eaten five helpings of the scrumptious, sweet potato fries, one of a few a la carte sides. The Island Mac & Cheese was oily on our first visit, but we'd heard such raves we tried it again and it was much better -- a fun dish spiked with jalapeños, baked till bubbly.
Desserts are made by Jennifer DeGennaro, and they're excellent. A decadent chocolate bomb starts with devil's food cake, then it's filled with chocolate ganache and served with ice cream.
The pistachio pound cake is incredible -- it's so deservedly in demand you can buy take-home loaves for $12.95 each. From a recipe handed down by DeGennaro's mother, it's a simple pleasure: nutty and sweet, with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, so light it seems to float. One bite and you're hooked.
- Caribbean, French, Fusion, Seafood