‘Tis the season for restaurant openings in South Florida. Here are three new places in Fort Lauderdale that cater to a wide variety of tastes and budgets.
Open just over a month, Ceviche by the Sea offers a gourmet take on Peruvian tradition in a strikingly modern setting. Seafood dominates, but there are plenty of other options. (The reasonably priced kids’ menu includes quinoa-crusted fish nuggets.) Whether you’re a fan of Peruvian food or a novice looking to try new flavors, the menu is perfect for sharing. Appetizers offer cooked seafood and meat dishes along with a selection of raw ceviches and tiraditos. We started with the attractive and flavorful causa sampler, three whipped potato cakes topped with spicy shrimp, crab salad and spicy tuna. A mixed seafood ceviche — white fish, scallops, shrimp, calamari and octopus — had a perfect combination of tang from lime juice and spice from limo chiles. It’s great for sharing or enough for a light meal. (We would have preferred traditional sweet potato slices to the puree served with it.) The chef’s lomo saltado forgoes the usual french fries, presenting sliced skirt steak in a red wine-soy sauce mixture with Parmesan risotto, grilled cherry tomatoes and pearl onions.
In a busy strip shopping center with better-known restaurants, it’s easy to overlook Paradero Original. The tiny storefront, which opened in the summer, has only a half-dozen tables and nothing in the way of atmosphere. Food comes with plastic utensils and paper baskets. But whether you dine in or take out, Paradero is worth checking out. Barbecue is the calling here. Offerings range from traditional St. Louis ribs and roasted chicken to a lomo saltado steak sandwich and The Hangover, a sandwich of roast pork loin, fried sweet potato, lime-marinated onions and hot peppers. There’s also a handful of basic side dishes and tomato bisque. The ribs are a winner, smoked 12 hours over hickory and mesquite, then topped with a sweet and spicy sauce. The flavorful meat falls off the bone. Roasted chicken was juicy, but nothing special. Fresh-cut sweet potato fries were another hit, served piping hot. Buttermilk onion rings, though also handmade, were doughy and greasy. We loved the extra-tangy coleslaw, a perfect complement to the sweet barbecue sauce.
Set in the residential area of Fort Lauderdale’s North Beach Village, Plaza Bistro is an outdoor restaurant on former tennis courts, with a kitchen run out of a food truck. It’s a perfect place to relax and enjoy the ocean breezes. It’s so charming that we wanted to love it, but the food didn’t measure up. Our calamari appetizer, grilled chicken pizza and blackened mahi mahi entree were competently prepared but bland. The menu is relatively pricey, too, with most entrees $20 or more. Maybe the best way to go here is the 5-7 pm daily happy hour, with drink specials and light bites in the $4.50-$7 range.