It’s not often I am invited to dine at a place like Evelyn’s in the Four Seasons Fort Lauderdale.
The old hippie in me was scoffing at the over-extravagance of the décor and 1%-ness of it all, while my inner gourmand was practically turning cartwheels. Thankfully, it is all understated and very refined. It doesn’t scream, “I have money” like Donald Trump, it’s more a whisper or an eyebrow arched at just the right angle. The idea of spending more for a meal than most folks spend for a week’s worth of groceries still raises the hairs on the back of my neck. But when you’re being pampered so sublimely, and the coastal Florida cuisine meets Eastern Mediterranean flavors make for such a delightful pairing all that seems to float away.
We relaxed and gazed across the pool onto the Atlantic Ocean, and as the sun set, we sipped our cocktails, a perfect Negroni for me, a refreshing mocktail of ginger beer and cucumber for my hubby as we sampled the mezze platter of spreads served with house-baked pita. The grand mezze features a trio of spreads, all of which can be ordered individually: smoked eggplant, smoked eggplant puree with rose petal, pistachio, mint, and eggplant caramel; charred red pepper mashed with pomegranate seed, walnuts, and coriander; a classic hummus sprinkled with sumac and pine nuts, and we even splurged to add black winter truffle. Yes, the tab for this dish alone was $64, but that isn’t bad when you consider it could serve as dinner for two or an appetizer for 8-10. Each dish was a treat for the tastebuds and if you like things spicy, the chef’s special sauce can add that dash of heat for you.
We left most of our mezze to take home for enjoyment another time. A couple of small plates also tempted us. I judge a restaurant by its ability to cook octopus, one of the trickiest proteins to prepare. Evelyn’s is slow-cooked sou vide and then grilled over olive wood adding a wonderful smoky undertone to the tender flesh. It is served with carrot purée, carrot crumble, and preserved lemon. The crispy falafel served with tahini, harissa, and delicious house pickles was delightful. For our entrée, we opted for a grilled whole branzino that is so large that it is plated to serve two. And, as such is not so outrageously priced at $105. The coriander seed chermoula and a salad with greens from local Swank Farms is the perfect accompaniment. The fish is presented whole and meticulously boned at the table. Although the dish was intended for two, I desperately wanted to taste the short rib tagine, also scaled for two, so we ordered both. The dish features American Wagyu short ribs (three!) served in a traditional tagine over a creamy smoked farro and asparagus risotto, pistachio dukkah, and rich beef jus. Again, as a dish for two priced at $85, it ends up being quite reasonable for a high-end restaurant. As the evening went on, I heard less and less from my inner hippie and more from my inner gourmand who was delighted.
When it came to dessert, that inner gourmand was practically running around the restaurant blowing kisses to the attentive waitstaff, especially our server Christian, and adorable chef, Brandon Salomon, for creating such an exquisite experience. Fitting for a meal when so many of my inner “selves” were coming out (it was like having dinner with Sybil - younger readers should Google the reference), my inner chocoholic gasped at the beauty of the dark chocolate pave, with spun halva, black sesame ganache, tahini shortbread, grey sea salt, and almonds. It was so rich; I couldn’t even finish it. My hubby was equally agog over his tropical fruit pavlova, featuring a pool of passion fruit-banana cremeux, and a crisp and chewy meringue surrounding guava citrus sorbet and sliced mango.
The price point will, no doubt, make it a special occasion place for 99% of us, the lucky other 1% can enjoy it on a more regular basis. If I could, it would be my regular go-to spot.
525 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. (A1A)
Benny’s on the Beach on the Lake Worth Beach Pier may be getting the boot. After submitting four proposals, the restaurant’s owner Lee Lipton was asked to submit a fifth proposal by the city commissioners. Lipton said he couldn’t keep negotiating and that the decision should be made. “So, here’s what I’d like, and I would like this very much. You vote on it tonight. If you vote no, you know that’s the end for me. I’m not renegotiating at this point. I have given $1.2 million. I’m not, just evict us, that’s it, or let us stay, because I’m telling you that’s it.” Lake Worth Beach officials decided not to renew its lease at the latest commission meeting.