The big review: Christine Lee’s **1/2

Coconut Shrimp. Photo: Charles Trainor Jr.

A day at the races often ends with a night at Christine Lee’s, the fine dining destination atop the classy clubhouse at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach. I’m betting we’re not the only losers here nursing our wounds over a potent glass or two of sake. But Christine Lee’s is looking like a winner, attracting the well-heeled, equestrian elite along with gamblers playing the horses or hitting the casino. Loyal fans from Christine Lee’s 37 years in Sunny Isles are also filling the nearly 500 seats in this spacious dining room.

The most dramatic feature is the vista from floor-to-ceiling glass windows that overlook the track. At night, a large screen projects sporting events amid a glittering backdrop of city lights. Gorgeous Chihuly chandeliers and red glass sculptures, comfy leather seats, a grand piano and fresh orchids at each table lend a sense of old-world elegance. Some couples dance while others commiserate at the handsome, TV-lined bar when they’re not placing bets at machines that rim the restaurant. Some diehards are here for lunch and dinner, catching all the Gulfstream races and betting on the simulcasts.

At the helm of the restaurant is Mary Lee, who took over the business when her mother, Christine, died in 1996. She brought longtime chef Al Ha and most of her other Sunny Isles employees to Gulfstream. You’ll still find basics like pepper steak and egg foo young, but there’s a pricier selection of Asian dishes with steak or lobster plus prime steaks, chops, fish and seafood, complemented by a varied list of about 60 California and international wines, with 10 by the glass. Service is well-paced, attentive.

If you want to enjoy the buzz without dropping a bundle, share a few dishes like Christine’s Tidbits, with shrimp tempura, egg rolls, chicken wings, crab Rangoon and the signature Canadian baby-backs slathered with the chef’s slightly sweet, tangy barbecue sauce. The extensive sushi list includes a fine rainbow roll — generous slices of tuna, salmon and white fish wrapped around the sticky white rice, seaweed and a core of cream cheese, crab and avocado.

The winners on our entree lineup included Christine’s Special. The stir-fry combines tender slices of chicken and barbecued pork plus shrimp, scallops and chunks of lobster, perfectly cooked asparagus, broccoli and bok choy with pan-fried noodles in a light garlicky sauce. The steak Kew is another top pick, with buttery slices of prime filet, bamboo shoots, black mushrooms, water chestnuts, broccoli, snow peas and bok choy in a hearty garlic-oyster sauce. Lemon chicken is just that: a lonely plate of lightly breaded white chicken with a perky lemon sauce. An order of fried brown or white rice is $1 extra, and there’s a long list of family-style sides, including our flavorful sautéed spinach spiked with garlic.

We had two losers — a roasted Peking duck, while not at all greasy or fatty, was too dry for our taste, and the scallops in our shrimp-scallops combo were small and chewy – but odds are you’ll like the rich banana chocolate mousse cake or a refreshing snowball with vanilla Haagen-Dazs, a dusting of coconut and chocolate sauce, served in a house-made shell.

Christine Lee’s will start celebrating Chinese New Year on Monday with a special three-course dinner and a lion dance at 8 p.m. If you’re born in the Year of the Ox, it could be your lucky night.

Christine Lee’s, Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino, 901 S. Federal Hwy., Hallandale Beach; 954-457-6255. Lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. Wed-Sun during racing season (Jan-April), dinner 4 p.m.-midnight daily year round. Appetizers $8-$16, soup $3.50-$9, Continental entrees $18-$40 (some dishes market price), pasta $18-$29, Asian dishes $12-$34, rice and noodles $2-$16, sides $7.50-$10, desserts $5.50-$7. Sushi rolls $2.50-$28, combos $22-$30, boats $52-$104

FYI: Live music nightly through April, Wed-Sun, May-December. Full bar; corkage $10 (restricted to wines not available in-house). Free parking lot, complimentary valet evenings (with validation); AX, DN, DS, MC, VS.

Published: 1/09

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