By Sara Liss
The goods: Restaurant guru Jeffrey Chodorow extends his reach to Ft. Lauderdale with the opening of his flagship China Grill at the refurbished Ft. Lauderdale Grande Hotel and Yacht Club. With locations in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Chicago and Mexico City, the twenty-year-old restaurant is now an established brand with its own clubby atmosphere popular with celebs and big-spending high rollers.
The dramatic interior mirrors Florida sunsets with red, orange and yellow tones, while a central expo kitchen and illuminated resin tables and bars give the space a futuristic Jetsons-esque vibe. Red leather straps, maroon banquettes and woven gray chairs have a simultaneously chic and and S&M vibe. A waterfront terrace takes advantage of the salty city’s boat-watching views.
The grub: Pan-Asian eats get first-class upgrades with pricey ingredients like lobster, Kobe beef and truffles. China Grill’s dishes are served family-style and served in dinosauric portions. That doubling is reflected in the pricing, with appetizers ranging from $19.50 for tofu and shiitake poststickers to $36 for Kobe beef tartar topped with a quail egg. Mains are priced from $29 for an edamame risotto to $72 for a whole rack of lamb served with asian pear chutney. There are plenty of Chinese classics on the menu, like spicy beef and scallion dumplings, Peking duck and wok-fried vegetables. Inventive China Grill-isms like "drunken" chicken marinated in sake and ponzu sauce, a calamari salad with miso-lime dressing and lobster pancakes spiced with red chilis and coconut milk exemplify fusion influences. Signature dishes like the crispy spinach (a heaping bowl of flash fried greens) and sides of wasabi mashed potatoes full of fluffy, subtly fiery spuds can be ordered a la carte.
Like the South Beach outpost, there’s a full sushi bar boasting rare finds like uni (sea urchin) and toro (fatty tuna belly). In addition to maki staples like spicy tuna and rainbow rolls, there are unique pairing like the Havana roll composed of rum-soaked yellowtail, coconut and avocado.
An extensive wine list and cocktails like the ginger-pear martini and the cucumber saketini provide ample pairings for the global fare. Desserts like "bananas in a box" made of caramelized bananas and caramel cream and cheesecake pot stickers with five-spice chocolate sauce are worthy caps to gut-busting feasts.
The verdict: The 500-seat restaurant is a glossy theater for polished Asian cooking. Broward’s dining denizens no longer need to trek to South Beach for a sexy dining experience.
China Grill, 1881 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-759-9950; chinagrillmgmt.com