Let’s face it; the Hard Rock Casino is not exactly known as a dining destination. Your options there include snack food chains (Ben & Jerry’s, Wetzel’s Pretzels, Kilwin’s) or the Hard Rock Café, where the best thing on the menu is the apps combo (wings, rings, chicken tenders, spring rolls and bruschetta) which are just there to soak up the alcohol. And the less said about the limited menu available poolside, at The Beach Club (a few apps, salads and a trio of sandwiches) the better. That’s okay, you go to Hard Rock to gamble or see a show, right?
If that’s your mind set, you are missing out on one of the finest dining experiences in South Florida. Kuro, the high-end Japanese restaurant at Hard Rock, features contemporary artisanal dishes using locally sourced as well as ingredients imported from Japan. Chef Alex Becker has created a menu featuring bold and complex flavors that are harmonious. As is the trend now, the menu forgoes the usual division of courses and offers tasting portions, designed with sharing in mind. What many restaurateurs hope you won’t notice when they offer individually priced tasting portions is how the bill can climb to astronomical heights. However, if you can afford it, the expense is justified at Kuro. Our recent dinner featured one cocktail, two glasses of wine, eight shared dishes and a trio of desserts and the bill was $238.50, and that’s before tip!
Unless you’re part of the 1 percent, a meal at Kuro is most likely going to be a special occasion place. I can almost guarantee you that, no matter how special, Kuro will match the occasion, if you order judiciously. Start with one of the really cool cocktails. If that’s not for you, the restaurant serves craft beers, Japanese whiskeys, shōchū, 30 brands of sake and wine from 110 vineyards.
We ordered the edamame salad, but were served a bowl of black edamame dusted with sea salt. It was delicious, but $15 for a bowl of edamame? I was thinking, “This is going to be one over-priced evening.”
But then, the tuna on crispy rice arrived at our table and it showed me exactly what Kuro is all about. Incredibly high-grade tuna tartare, piled high on a square of light-as-air puffed rice. OMG!
From the tempura section of the menu, we opted for two unusual dishes. Corn is not an ingredient you think of with Asian fare, but kakiage, a sort of giant corn fritter, makes itself at home on this disparate menu. In fact, it was my favorite dish of the night. We also tried the king crab tempura. Unfortunately, this was the least successful dish of the night. The batter was a little thick and heavy and the butter “snow” (a bit of molecular gastronomy) completely overwhelmed the crab. Surprisingly, I was underwhelmed by the sushi, sashimi and maki rolls. There’s only so much you can do to make these rolls special. Yes, the fish was incredibly fresh, but then all sushi should be.
I was so looking forward to the uni pasta, but a shortage of uni made it unavailable. Just the thought of soba noodles, uni and osetra caviar, was making me salivate. The lobster shiso, which arrived next, more than made up for that disappointment. Perfectly cooked lobster is removed from the shell, cut into bite-sized portions then replaced and plated beautifully. A hint of wasabi flavors the cream sauce that accompanies this dish. Koji Lamb, one of the few meat dishes we tried (carnivores, don’t worry, there’s plenty of options for you here-the seafood options just appealed to us more) was perfectly medium rare, but the blueberry demi-glace was overly sweet and the meat was a little tough.
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Many Japanese places serve up a dish of green tea ice cream or mochi. Kuro rocks desserts! We couldn’t choose just two, so we didn’t! Three desserts for two people? Why not? And each one was a winner! If you like chocolate, the choco-hazelnut bar is a layered log of goodness, combining a rich mousse, crisp cookie and crunchy nuts! Apple Tobanyaki combines tender slices of apple with rich ice cream and a crumble base that is to die for. But, the star of the dessert menu is the unassumingly named “Japanese Doughnuts.” Kuro’s version is more like an Italian zeppole than the ring shaped American version. The dough inside was flaky and light, the outside crispy and coated with sugar and five spice seasoning. Dulce de leche and chocolate dipping sauces added just the right touch.
The massive and beautifully decorated dining room manages to maintain an energetic buzz without becoming overwhelming. Kuro follows the practice of a waiter who takes your order, while other staff (usually called back-waiters or runners) actually deliver the food to your table. I’ve never been a fan of this practice because invariably the wrong items are delivered to tables, and that proved to be the case here. It also means that no one person is watching your table, and we had empty, dirty plates sitting on our table for far too long.
If Kuro sounds great, but it is just beyond your budget, stop by for lunch. The menu is at tad limited when compared to dinner, but the noodle, tempura and rice entrees average about $15, and you still get that top level décor, views and food.
1 Seminole Way, Fort Lauderdale