A delightful culinary journey at Grateful Palate

Long known as a caterer to the yachting crowd, The Grateful Palate has altered its course. The gourmet marketplace and deli on Fort Lauderdale’s17th Street Causeway moved that operation to Dania Beach and turned itself into a high-end restaurant and lounge under new owner Heather McIntyre Leaky.

Still relatively unknown beyond its seafaring fans after more than a year, the new Grateful Palate is worth discovering.

The staff is friendly and welcoming, and the sophisticated setting has a subtle urban elegance, with a cozy lounge and wine bar on one side and a dining room on the other, seating about 50 total. A 15-seat captain’s table overlooks the open kitchen, and a long communal table at the front of the restaurant is ideal for after-work schmoozing.

We prefer dining in the comfier lounge, where plush seating and a golden glow make it romantic enough for a date night. There’s a TV (often tuned to the Food Network), but the sound is turned down, and there’s live music (usually a vocalist) after 8 p.m. Saturdays.

Saturday afternoons are reserved for workshops, demonstrations and classes including one called Picasso and Pino that combines a light lunch, wine and painting.

Sommelier Grace Abel has assembled a well-organized, book-size wine list with many boutique picks among its 300 labels ($30 and up). Nearly 40 are available by the glass, including our fruity, white Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc ($10) and a Tomero Malbec from Argentina ($8).

We wondered what the food would be like with the recent departure of chef Bill Bruening (Christine’s; now at Sunfish Grill), but sous chef Noah Ffrench (Riverhouse, YOLO) has done a splendid job taking over the helm. The food is excellent, with impressive touches like osetra caviar and farm-fresh micro greens and herbs.

Ingredients are top-notch, a taste of what you’d eat aboard one of those glamorous boats gliding along the Intracoastal, so The Grateful Palate is a splurge. Some dishes seem pricey for small portions, like $20 for one (albeit perfectly) pan-seared scallop, but it comes with a good-size slice of ultra-rich duck foie gras.

Ffrench starts you off, at lunch and dinner, with an amuse bouche. One night we had a refreshing spoonful of chopped strawberries drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette and micro greens. Another night it was a fun pairing of a melon ball with an equally small feta cheese fritter resting in chive oil.

Bread isn’t automatically served, but if you ask, they’ll bring a complimentary plate of crusty wheat slices studded with olives.

The eclectic menu features nine starters and nine main courses (choices often change). The first courses include items like Caesar salad in a lemon-anchovy dressing, grilled lamb lollipops and three delicious mini lump crab cakes served with micro greens and a lemon caper aoli.

When a burger costs $18, you expect it to be something special, and this one is. Bursting with juices, the fist-size patty of wagyu beef is incredibly tender, topped with goat cheese and onion marmalade that adds a hint of sweetness. It’s served with wonderfully crunchy, truffle yuca fries.

Ffrench also does a superb filet mignon. He wraps the 8-ounce steak with strips of deeply flavored Iberico ham, and adds a red wine demiglace that doesn’t overwhelm the delicate meat. A potato puree, fried parsnips and baby carrots complete the dish.

A butter-poached Maine lobster tail wins raves with its sweet, tender meat atop a mound of fettuccine in a creamy sauce. It’s garnished with osetra caviar, a classy twist, and a scattering of pine nuts.

For lighter fare, try the Scottish salmon, cooked in a bamboo steamer, with snow peas, bok choy, fingerling potatoes, tomatoes and lemon.

Desserts include Indulgence, house-made mango and coconut sorbet layered with passion fruit curd and topped with a meringue browned with a blow torch. Or go for the ultra chocolate brownie with eggnog ice cream. (Lavender and Cointreau are among the other intriguing ice cream flavors.)

From beginning to end, a meal at the The Grateful Palate is a delightful culinary journey, no yacht required.


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