After nearly 20 years under the command of Top Chef star Chef Carlos Fernandez, Hi-Life Café has recently ascended into a new realm under the rule of Chef Virgil Woodard, a master of new-wave American cuisine. According to a feature in the Sun Sentinel Woodard's training in architecture and keen eye for art and symmetry become apparent upon first glimpse of his dishes, each embellished with his signature hand-carved vegetable garnishes. Yet the ornate frills are only the start of the meal’s elegance. Fresh jalapeños packed with shrimp and wrapped in bacon—Cajun Kisses—prelude a full menu of classic American fare with an upscale twist. He transforms pastas with unique sauces, such as a southwestern spin on bolognese and a classic mushroom and madeira wine sauce infused with brie, and he pairs high-end strip steak, pork loin, and seafood with fresh, internationally inspired accoutrements.
The interior of Hi-Life Café mirrors the chic style of the entrees. Candlelight flickers across tasteful urban art photography from John Fifield and Streetmurals.net, creating the ideal ambiance for a dinner date or impromptu murder-mystery game. A granite-topped wine bar hosts a selection of sips, as well as fresh flower arrangements rivaled only by the elegant roses adorning each and every table.
Asia Bay serves the "best sushi in this town," according to actor Alec Baldwin, who tweeted his recommendation while in Fort Lauderdale to film Rock of Ages, according to pbpulse. The man behind this A-list-worthy cuisine is executive chef and co-owner Peter Hepp, who according to Miami New Times "is hip to the aesthetic of clean lines, vivid colors, and brightly delineated flavors." Hepp's chefs drizzle the menu's more than 60 sushi and sashimi plates with colorful sauces as carefully as painters adorn canvas, yielding dishes that are as nice to look at as they are to eat. The 50-seat dining room operates under a similarly modern theme, with large picture windows, white leather chairs, and curved-back banquettes which Social Miami calls "minimalist-chic."
Outside, a patio held up by stilts lifts diners above the rippling waves of the Tarpon River, helping garner Asia Bay an OpenTable Diners' Choice Award for Best Outdoor Dining. Here the decor invites relaxation with large parasols, old-fashioned street lamps, and seagulls who will give backrubs for fresh-cut sashimi.
Anthony DeMaio and Domenick Falcione's culinary venture, Mojo, reflects the partners' shared ideology of providing a feast for all the senses. When Falcione isn't busy festooning the dining room's walls with his abstract mixed-media artwork, he dons an executive-chef hat and concocts the restaurant's menu of inventive international cuisine. In an interview with the Sun Sentinel, he describes his approach to art and cooking: "I believe food is a feast for your senses, eyes, nose, taste buds and your soul. For plate presentation, I use the colors and positioning of the food, which is similar to when I paint on the canvas."
Falcione creates these aesthetically pleasing dishes with organic grains and vegetables, Lock Duart salmon, free-range chicken, and local, seasonal ingredients. His entrees blend French, Italian, and Asian flavors and preparations, and his housemade desserts include the popular flourless chocolate-espresso torte.
His passion for beauty is also apparent when examining Mojo's sleek, ultramodern décor. Once guests enter the restaurant's stainless-steel doors, they're surrounded by crisp, white tables and chairs, striped teal banquettes, white orchids, and chandeliers adorned with rows of peacock feathers.
Rochelle Koff of The Miami Herald wrote that Trata Greek Taverna "isn't the typical belly-dancing, confetti-tossing, plate-breaking Mediterranean restaurant. Its spell is more subtle, cast by a charming staff led by co-owner Dimitrios 'Jimmy the Greek' Tsiakanikas, who warmly greets patrons with a 'welcome home.'" His hearty salutations drift from a building the color of fresh artichoke leaves out onto a covered patio with flower boxes and twinkling string lights.
In the dining room, lights like glowing tulips hang over the fully stocked bar, casting a buttery glow on flame-kissed kabobs, gyros, spanakopita, and lamb chops soaked in olive oil and fresh herbs for 24 hours. Lilac napkins cover diners' laps as servers arrive with flaming cheese saganaki, the crackling flame punctuated by shouts of “opa.” Photographs of ocean-side Greek villages and stone statues on the wall give one the feeling of having landed in the sun-soaked country without constantly getting hit in the head by college kids throwing discuses.
More than just a simple dairy dispensary, Eco Yogurt Lounge pairs sweet treats with environmental stewardship in a space that’s more club than ice cream shack. More than 30 flavors of traditional frozen yogurt, including wild strawberry lemonade, peanut butter, and blueberry tart, play well with sugar-free, tart and agave-sweetened varieties, many of which also contain vitamin and protein boosts to replenish bodies with nutrients. Once patrons have selected their swirls, they can head over to a series of small alcoves, where a toppings bar with self-serve cookie, candy, and fruit pieces awaits sweet inspiration. Yogurt in hand, they can sit at one of the modern white benches or plush chairs as brilliant LED lights reflect a wall of color-changing waves across the room. In addition to placating sweet teeth, Eco Yogurt Lounge also allays consciences, supporting earth awareness by using recycled materials and donating a percentage of the proceeds to ecologically friendly organizations.
Inside the brick oven at Texas Hold'Em BBQ, meats sizzle alongside whole bell peppers. There's a reason why the latter are called The Grilled Stuffed Bell Peppers Bluff—behind the vegetable exterior and under the blue-cheese crumbles lie hidden helpings of beef or pulled pork. The restaurant's menu carries its poker theme across meals such as the Nachos Two Pair and the All In sandwich, but its classic barbecue dinners have no need for a new name. Guests can order chicken, ribs, sausages, and brisket to pair with traditional sides, including baked beans and corn on the cob. At the bar, a catalog of craft beers from assorted breweries counterbalances saucy bites more refreshingly than iced glasses of more sauce. With TVs spread along the length of the bar and a penchant for private sports parties, Texas Hold'Em BBQ advocates for team spirit in addition to smoky roadhouse dining.