M Bar

 

3 stars for this new see-and-be-seen Las Olas spot

M Bar

Rochelle Koff

M Bar brings yet another see-and-be-seen destination just a few stiletto-heeled steps from Rocco’s Tacos on East Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The sleek, 2-month-old tapas restaurant and bar is a venture three years in the making for Jack Mancini. He closed his nearby namesake Italian restaurant after 10 years to open M Bar, and by early November, he’ll launch a version of Mancini’s next door. The restaurants will share the 10,000-square-foot space but will operate as separate entities.

The restaurant opened with brother-sister chef team Kevin and Lauren Anderson, but they left and respected South Florida chef Kevin McCarthy took over the kitchen last week. M Bar’s concept is global tapas — not traditional Spanish plates — with the aim of using farm-to-table ingredients from Florida and elsewhere, like pork from Palmetto Creek Farms in Avon Park and grass-fed beef from White Oak Farms in Georgia; plus, their ultra-creamy burrata and mozzarella are made locally at Mozzarita in Pompano Beach. The extensive, ambitious menu takes some adventurous turns, with dishes like spicy sea beans with togarashi aioli or braised kobe short ribs in a dark chocolate-stout reduction. On the flip side, you can also find mac ‘n cheese, burgers and flatbreads. Mancini is adding a few more comfort items like lasagna and meatloaf with a “twist,” plus a few larger plates like steak, fish and more pasta. For now, dishes are in snacks, small or medium portions.

One caveat when you’re drinking and grazing: It’s easy to get carried away and wind up with a tab of $100 or more. Dishes are $5 to $18, and some are pricey for the portion, like $15 for a few ravioli, albeit stuffed with short rib marmalade, or $15 for pork belly. If you’re with companions who have big appetites, it helps to order a few filling dishes like a burger, the sliders or one of the flatbreads.

Ambience: Manhattan’s Meatpacking District provided the inspiration for M Bar’s urban design, with exposed ducts offset by warm orange accents, polished wood floors and lots of colorful artwork. An attractive crowd mingles at the large bar in the center of the room (there’s a DJ Thursday to Saturday). Stop by Tuesday nights, when you get $2 off a craft bottle beer or craft draft or pick four draft beers served on a beer paddle for $7.

  • What Worked
  • A list of 42 craft beers including Chimay Cinq Cents, a Trappist beer from Belgium, and England’s Samuel Smith OrganicCherry from Tadcaster
  • A long list of fruit and herb-infused cocktails.
  • A salad with chunks of yellow and red beets served with baby arugula and raspberries, drizzled with a hazelnut vinaigrette
  • Crunchy sea beans, blanched to remove some of their natural saltiness, and served with a kicky chile aioli and toasted almonds
  • Fish tacos with chunks of lightly battered, fried grouper, chipotle cabbage slaw, green salsa and a refreshing lime crème fraiche
  • A sweet, salty, savory & decadent serving of sweetbreads, a play on chicken and waffles - crisp fried sweetbreads atop hazelnut waffles in maple syrup, topped with a fried quail egg
  • Grilled octopus with creamed, fresh hearts of palm
  • Baked mac ‘n cheese spiked with truffle oil and country ham
  • Homemade ravioli in a butternut squash sauce
  • Coffee-kissed tiramisu

 

What Didn't Work

  • Pappardelle - large flat noodles that were too soft as a base for the sweet corn cream sauce laced with chunks of lobster
  • A thick & bland $10 serving of crème brûlée

 

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