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The Baltimore Sun

Dining scene: From ahi tuna to hibiscus water

Oolite Restaurant & Bar

1661 Pennsylvania Ave., Miami Beach, 305-907-5535,

Acclaimed chef Kris Wessel, known for his former Red Light eatery and then his venture at Florida Cookery, has debuted his latest incarnation in the former Cooper Avenue, aiming for healthy cuisine and, once again, incorporating his South Florida heritage.

Oolite is a nod to the limestone and coral rock foundation in southern Florida. Mother-of-pearl detailing and rich woods add to the theme in a contemporary design reminiscent of Old Florida.

"The flavor spectrum of Oolite is the profile of this region. This for me is equal parts Florida native, Latin, Caribbean and the South," says Wessel, a co-owner.

Wessel uses restraint with processed foods, gluten and saturated fats in signatures such as fried green tomato arepa ($9), soup with brown rice, crab, chayote and shell consommé ($12), jackfruit grilled swordfish ($29), orange-tamarind rotisserie duck with Brazil nuts ($24, half; $42 whole) and slow-cooked guava curry goat ($24).

The frothy Floridian Fizz with gin, coconut milk, citrus, egg white and hibiscus water is a front-runner of the specialty cocktails ($11).

Lunch and dinner are served daily.

Up next: A lounge concept in the same location.

La Nouvelle Maison

455 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, 561-338-3003,

Eight years after headlines broke the closing of 30-year-old La Vieille Maison, La Nouvelle Maison partners Guido Barisone and Arturo Gismondi aim to resurrect French fine dining downtown in the 5 Palms condo.

Gismondi owns the 20-year-old Trattoria Romana next door.

"La Vieille Maison was a famous, outstanding restaurant in the area," Barisone says. "We always thought the town needed a restaurant of this caliber."

"Nouvelle" plays out in the elegant ambiance with intricate details, such as etched glass. A sophisticated mini lounge is at the center of the restaurant with multiple dining rooms, each with a different personality. There's a casual, airy alcove with an orangery feel; a sleek New World room shimmering with gray Venetian plaster; and a red barn-like Old World room punctuated by a striking mural.

Executive chef Gregory Howell, who once helmed Café L'Europe in Palm Beach, crafts classics with a few twists, such as langoustine mac n' cheese ($18). Brioche croutons lend a crunch to garlic-butter escargots ($15); steak tartare Napoleon nestles in an upturned half-moon of crostini; European turbot with grapefruit vierge appears in a covered skillet with a French ribbon; and truffled Colorado lamb chop is crusted with herbs atop ratatouille ($46).

Dinner is served nightly.

Vinnie's Lobster Bar

5810 S. University Drive, #118, Davie, 954-680-3323,

As it approaches its second anniversary, this seafood-centric nook, anchored by a cherry-wood bar in Lakeside Town Shops, has launched lunch service and installed a handful of black umbrella tables on the sidewalk.

"We received many calls with people asking if we were open for lunch," says chef and co-owner Vinnie Napolitano, who opened his first restaurant in the Bronx more than 40 years ago. "People want good quality food at a low price and fast service at lunch."

Lunch, served daily except Sundays, features nearly 20 choices, including a dozen priced at $6.95, such as sesame ahi tuna salad, Gorgonzola salad, eggplant rollatini and black Angus burger. Lobster-crab roll ($14.95) is a best-seller, and the soup and salad combo ($6.95) offers a choice of lobster bisque, Manhattan clam chowder or New England clam chowder.

Summer martinis ($6) are the Caribbean with vanilla vodka, coconut rum and pineapple, and the Tina Rita with vodka, Cointreau, Grand Marnier and lime juice. The season also features baby back ribs for dinner ($18.95) with a Thursday deal of buy one, get one free.

Taste Buds of India

7881 W. Sample Road, Suite C, Coral Springs, 954-603-6996,

After graduating from hospitality school in Kolkata in northern India and working across the United States as a manager or head chef for five years, co-owner Arvind Kumar has realized his "dream to serve Indian cuisine to all food lovers" with his friend, Amit Kumar Singh, in the former Three Chicks Pizza.

"Finally, after lot of hard work and struggle, we did it," Arvind Kumar says. "I wanted to open in a peaceful place instead of a busy business area. Indian food is not fast food to finish in 20 minutes. I wanted it to feel like a home environment."

The endless menu includes the typical northern and southern dishes, such as dosas, but also surprises with sections of chaat and Indian Chinese.

"There's a lot of Chinese influence in the northeast part of India. We use the same recipes for Chinese, but less flour and soy sauce and more ginger and garlic," Kumar says. "And chaat is street food that is very popular in India."

Popular chaat choices are somosa chaat — fried pastry with potatoes, peas, cashews, herbs, tomato and yogurt mint tamarind chutney ($6.95) and dahi sev poori — biscuit puffs filled with potato, yogurt and chutney ($6.95). Favorite Indian-Chinese selections are chili chicken masala ($14.95) and crispy cauliflower sautéed with onion and pepper, called gobi Manchurian ($12.95). There's even zeera (cumin), lemon or tomato rice with a crunch of fried garbanzo beans ($4.95).

Lunch and dinner are served daily, except Mondays, amid orange walls, light-blue drapes, white tablecloths, Indian paintings, TVs playing Bollywood videos and an area that displays lunch buffets Friday through Sunday ($10.95-$12.95). Lunch platters Tuesday through Thursday include bread, an appetizer, a main dish, two sides and dessert for $10.95 to $12.95.

Email news to or send to John Tanasychuk, Sun Sentinel, 500 E. Broward Blvd., Suite 900, 9th floor, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33394.

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