3 stars for intriguing, eclectic eats in FLL
It's hard to imagine that we're dining in what was once a Waffle House inside a Holiday Inn. Totally revamped and redecorated, it's now SAIA in the shimmering B Ocean Fort Lauderdale. Instead of chowing down on bacon and eggs, we're savoring sushi rolls with ingredients like blue crab, shrimp tempura and seared scallops and bowls of Thai curry lobster in a chic setting that takes advantage of prime ocean views, albeit across the street. SAIA's exotic-sounding name (pronounced "saya") is actually a cleverly disguised description of its location at the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and State Road AIA.
Chef Subin Chenkorsorn (formerly of The Delano) offers an intriguing menu melding Japanese, Thai and Caribbean influences. Prices aren't high by beach standards, but a meal can get expensive if you have a huge appetite. Small plates start at $10, but sushi, sashimi and roll combos go as high as $39. And be aware that plates listed as shareable are not huge, family-style portions. Dishes arrive as they're ready, beautifully presented on classic white plates, each piece of fish or chicken carefully garnished.
Ambience: The lobby of the 240-room hotel is pretty flashy, with pulsing neon and glimmering light fixtures that look like water bubbles, yet SAIA has a subtle, soothing atmosphere that's sexy enough for a date night. Service is exemplary for an oceanfront restaurant. On both visits, our young servers were charming, accommodating and knowledgeable enough to make smart recommendations. The sleek restaurant is decorated in dark woods, with an elegant, illuminated sushi bar that frames an open kitchen. Eight-seat, high-top tables can handle groups, with more private tables by the windows.
A lovely serving of tamari scallops - paper-thin tuna sashimi wrapped the scallop-crabmeat mixture in plump bundles topped with dollops of green tobiko caviar
The fire dragon - a flavorfull roll topped with spicy tuna framing shrimp tempura with avocado and pretty tufts of snow crab
A fun soft-shell crab roll - pink soy wrappers and fried soft-shell crab paired with avocado, arugula and a rich eel sauce
The Ocean Blue roll - eel with creamy boursin cheese, avocado and a crab stick
Shirome spice - small, crisp flounder fillets plated with stir-fried veggies and a sweet-spicy chile-garlic sauce
Thai curry lobster - a poached tail, sliced hearts of palm and small slices of pineapple swimming in an aromatic coconut milk broth spiked with Thai chile paste and kaffir lime leaves
Banana tempura with coconut ice cream and fresh berries
Lemon grass-kissed crème brûlée
Mochis, small rice-flour shells encasing green tea ice cream nestled in a raspberry sauce with fresh berries
What Didn't Work
A $4 side of white rice
Bland small cutlets of pan-seared Siam chicken