Two new restaurants opened in the area within a few days of each other, representing two distinctly different cuisines; Wok on South Federal in Fort Lauderdale, bills itself as “A new breed of Pan-Asian street food,” while Ethos Bistro, in Wilton Manors offers modern Greek fare. Both are from successful restaurateurs; Ethos is a new outpost of an established Coconut Creek favorite, while Wok comes from Randy Wilcox, owner of New River Grill and Pizza, located right across the street from Wok. One would expect that Wilcox’s venture would be more polished, given his many years in the business, but Ethos opened with polish and finesse, while Wok’s staff was floundering in the weeds on a recent visit.
706 S. Federal, Fort Lauderdale
Wok’s style is more casual to be sure, but when we arrived late on a Sunday night, and tried to sit at the only available table (one of five) we were told it was reserved for another party. The rest of my group was ready to leave, but I noticed a woman sitting alone at one table getting her check, so I called my group back. While we were waiting for her to vacate her table, another employee pointed to the table we were told was reserved and told us to sit there. And we sat there…for quite a while before anybody came to wait on us.
When we did order, the server seemed to know nothing about many dishes on the menu, and even told us a vegetarian dish contained chicken. We had to send her back to the kitchen to double check, and of course, it didn’t have chicken. After we ordered, the food came out haphazardly; some received their entrees when others got their appetizers. When another server brought out some of our food, she knocked over a drink and never bothered to offer a replacement. Some of the food was nicely presented, other dishes just dumped into paper containers.'
Related: Rick's Reviews: Kuro
To be fair, all of the food was delicious. KFC – Korean Fried Chicken thighs, from the small plates portion of the menu, were crispy and juicy, although the portion was a tad small for the $9 tab. My hubby, who used to live in a Vietnamese neighborhood, loves a good báhn mi sandwich and Wok’s is the best we’ve found in the area. A fresh, crunchy baguette is layered with spicy mayo, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, and a choice of Chinese BBQ pork or chicken, smoked brisket, panko crusted Spam or (his choice) crispy tofu, all reasonably priced from $9 to $11. Wok’s pho is also quite good, and presents a sizeable serving with a choice of protein; Korean braised brisket, roasted pork, tofu or mixed seafood, all served with rice noodles, onions, bean sprouts, scallions, mushrooms, jalapenos, basil and fresh lime. One of the more unusual dishes, and one well worth a try, is General Tso’s cauliflower, prepared in the same style as the traditional Chinese chicken dish. Although why it costs the same as the same dish with meat is a mystery.
The menu is vast, perhaps too much so for such a small space, which may account for the problems with the kitchen delivering the food effectively. Here are a couple of dozen small plates, baos and salads and equal number of soups, noodle and rice bowls and another dozen stir-fry entrees, plus a “build your own” concept. Given New River’s reputation for uneven service and food prep, this could be problematic. Wok’s menu and service model puts it in the same category as another Pan-Asian fast food spot just a few blocks up the street, Temple Street Eatery. If they want to compete, they’re going have to improve the service and food delivery significantly.
Ethos Greek Bistro
2055 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
Ethos Bistro had only been open a week when we stopped in on a Friday night and it was already working like a well-oiled machine. We hadn’t thought to make a reservation, and the place was packed, still our group of seven was seated within 15 minutes and our server arrived within minutes to greet us and take our drink order. Since we were a large group we decided to try one of Ethos’ many sampler platters. The Silver Sampler we opted for is $21 a person (minimum of two) and is a feast for the senses.
We started with samples of four spreads; tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber), htipiti (creamy red pepper flavored feta), hummus and melitzanosalata (puree of roasted eggplant and walnuts), each of which was perfectly prepared and served with pita bread.
Related: Rick's Reviews: Magically Delicious?
A large Greek salad topped by a huge wedge of feta arrived next. While it made for a dramatic presentation, it was awkward to serve, as it required us to break the cheese into portions for everyone at the table. A platter of stuffed grape leaves accompanied the dish. I’m not a fan of the dish, but I took a small bite and, as Maggie Smith said (in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”), “For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.”
The mixed grill platter featured tender slices of gyro (ground beef and lamb cooked on a spit), chicken breast, pork tenderloin and kefte (ground beef and lamb patties). All were quite flavorful, but I found it all a bit on the dry side; a squeeze of lemon and some olive oil made it much more palatable. The dish was presented atop a bed of spinach rice and with boiled potatoes. The gold level sampler ($27 per person) also starts with the spread sampler but subs the Ethos salad (cabbage, apple, radish, walnuts and gorgonzola) and spinach pie for the grape leaves and Greek salad, and adds lamb chops to the meat platter.
If you’re not a fan of such a “meat-apalooza,” as one of my dining companions called it, you might want to opt for such specialties as seafood-orzo paella, chicken in a creamy artichoke sauce or grilled bronzini, a tasty Mediterranean fish also known as branzino in Italy. Dinner will run about $30 per person with a drink, lunch specials average around $10. The serving staff is friendly, flirty (those Greek boys know how to work a crowd), fun and efficient. It is certain to become one of Wilton Manors’ most popular dining destinations.