No, I’m not suggesting you join me au natural (believe me, no one wants to see me naked), I’m referring to chef Ralph Pagano’s latest venture, The Naked Crab, which recently opened in the B Ocean Resort. Pagano has also opened Naked Taco in Miami and Wynwood’s Naked Lunch.
"The whole Naked concept is about stripping everything down. It's a stripped-down, but also dressed-up, crab and seafood and steak," Pagano says. "The only thing I need to dress up some crab is a pad of butter and a splash of lemon to make it delicious."
If you’re going to strip things down to the basics, you’d better have it right and, for the most part, Pagano succeeds at Naked Crab. I say, “for the most part” because Naked Crab has been reported to offer a unique "Fish Scorecard," indicating the fresh fish catch of the day, oysters, clams, lobster and daily crab specials at a help-yourself seafood bar. Upon numerous visits to the restaurant, that has yet to appear. I can see where it will be set up, but it’s always been empty.
However, if what I have sampled is any indication; I look forward to it. We happened upon Naked Crab during the recent Fort Lauderdale Pride on the Beach festival. Looking for a place to cool off and find food and drinks without waiting in line, we slipped over to neighboring B Ocean Resort and were seated immediately. There’s not much of a lunch menu, but we ordered some appetizers and drinks. We were so pleased we decided to head back for dinner, and were just as pleased on our subsequent visits.
As tempting as everything else is on the menu, you must try the tuna nachos! This dish is one of the best things I have eaten; anywhere, anytime! Sushi grade tuna is diced and tossed in a jalapeno soy glaze, piled atop crispy wontons and drizzled with wasabi aioli.
The $15 portion is enough for lunch or a light dinner and could easily serve four as an appetizer. Other appetizer/light lunch option includes the lobster sandwich. A pair of slider-sized potato rolls is stuffed with Maine lobster meat and just enough mayo to hold it all together. A side of freshly made potato chips accompanies the dish. The same delicious chips also accompany a creamy and rich hot crab dip.
Other starter/lunch options include; the red and gold beet studded salad (lightly dressed in creamy mustard dressing and accompanied by two goat cheese fritters), Italian seafood salad and a trio of ceviche combinations (shrimp, octopus and mixed seafood).
There are a variety of cold seafood towers. The Royale features six oysters, six clams and four jumbo shrimp (and I do mean jumbo-they were the size of lobster tails). This is the most inexpensive of the tower options at $45, but it could serve two as a meal, four as an appetizer. Everything was very fresh. One of the shrimp was perfectly cooked; the other was just a tad over-done.
When it comes to entrees, seasonal crab is available by the pound at market price. Alaskan king (served split in half), snow and our own stone crab are available cold with mustard sauce or hot with melted butter. A variety of grilled fish is always on the menu, including the luscious snapper topped with blackened crab and served with a delicate beurre blanc. For another incident of indulgence, try the two pounds red king crab stuffed with shrimp, more crab, and lobster. Although it’s $100, the dish serves up to three people.
For those who aren’t fans of seafood; there’s roast chicken, a hamburger and an entire butcher shop section featuring Angus beef; filet mignon (in six or ten-ounce portions), NY strip, skirt steak or a 32-oz. porterhouse. All steaks are available topped with crab, shrimp or lobster as well as béarnaise, au poivre or horseradish sauce. There are also a few pasta dishes and entrée salads.
The wine list is adequate and fairly priced and there are a number of specialty cocktails, including the Geisha Martini, which is quite refreshing and goes down dangerously easily. Dessert options are what you would expect; chocolate layer cake, Key Lime pie, cheesecake. All perfectly adequate; but nothing to rave about.
"I just love this space, and with a view of the Atlantic Ocean, it seemed pretty much like a no-brainer to me to expand into Fort Lauderdale," Pagano says. I’d like to know where he was seated because the dining room does not have a view of the ocean and to see the beach from the patio, you’d have to stand on your chair. The closest you’ll get is a bunch of drunken spring breakers stumbling by.
Still, I love the fact that B Ocean has kept the Shipwreck Bar from the old days when the hotel was known as The Yankee Clipper. In its day, the Shipwreck was the spot in Fort Lauderdale, and as such was the setting for a number of movie scenes (“Analyze This” with Robert DeNiro and “Where the Boys Are”). With porthole windows that look into the hotel’s original pool, you can catch its “Mermaid” shows on Fridays and Saturday evenings. It’s the perfect place to bring out of town guests, especially if they’re paying! Dinner at The Naked Crab isn’t cheap, but then, the best things in life seldom are.
On the Waterfront
Whenever locals have out of town guests, they usually have two requests when dining out; someplace by the water and seafood. Here are a few spots where you can satisfy both requirements.
6002 N. Ocean Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea
Hidden atop a majestic strip of bluff above the ocean. Sea watch offers postcard views framed by swaying coconut trees.
Coconuts/G&B Oyster Bar
429 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
These sister restaurants share the same kitchen, but offer different menus with views overlooking the Intracoastal and yachts in the marina.
3049 Alhambra St, Fort Lauderdale
Housed in the first private residence constructed on Fort Lauderdale Beach (in 1927), Casablanca is the beachfront’s oldest remaining structure. It was converted into a restaurant in 1993 and while, technically, not a seafood restaurant, there are a number of seafood dishes on the menu, and if you snag a seat on the balcony or by a window, the views are lovely any time of the day.