Andre's Steakhouse/Fort Lauderdale


Steakhouses are considered the epitome of beef eater posh -- from handsomely appointed surroundings to the prime aged beef and solicitous service that marks these high-end spots a destination for carnivores.

Andre's, a knockoff of Brooklyn's Peter Luger Steakhouse, is the latest player vying for South Florida's market share, and an addition to owner Andre Cottolini's three West Coast Florida locations. While there's certainly nothing new in borrowing from a successful concept, (Cottolini was formerly associated with Luger), it's like a new composer trying to re-create a Beethoven sonata -- it just isn't the same.

Located in expensively renovated surroundings once housing the Raindancer, this steakhouse stage is set with elaborate rich woods. Rooms branch off in all directions, including a second level. The feel is warmly fraternal, with a bright twist in the main dining room -- light from overhead windows balances the dark masculinity. Frosted glass separates comfy booths adorned with crisp white linens, while vintage accoutrements and Tiffany-style lighting add charm. The wine list is serious and substantial (both in selection and price). It hits $2,500 for a 1998 Chateau Petrus Pomerol, listed amid an enviable collection of rare and older vintages.

The small focused menu offers the ubiquitous tomato-onion salad ($7.95) -- intended to be swathed with the house pièce de résistance -- a gravy boat filled with Luger-like red steak sauce, the first thing placed on the table. Slightly tangy, slightly sweet, it creates a wonderful sparkle on everything from salad to steak. (We even used it as a dipping sauce for excellent crusty onion-infused dinner rolls instead of butter.) Sounds odd, but it works on everything. If you like, have that salad chopped and add crisp applewood smoked bacon chunks ($2.50) and a shot of blue-veined cheese ($1.50) for a tastier experience -- albeit one totaling $11.95 just for the salad course. Or, have plump skinless, boneless sardines ($4.95) or herring in sour cream with onion ($4.95).

The specialty is the same as Luger -- a cut revered by traditional steak hounds -- the porterhouse -- ($57.90 for two; $86.85 for three). It's sliced off the bone into strips before delivery, placed on the table with the dish tilted, so the sizzling jus accumulates at the bottom of the plate.

A good steak is a marvel of juiciness, flavor, tenderness and texture, with a crisp, glorious crust. This prime aged beef is good, seared to retain moistness and accurately cooked to order. It's lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and a dab of butter, but somehow it's still not equal in flavor to the best in town. There's also a New York strip for one ($28.95); and a T-bone for four ($115.80).

Steakhouse sides are almost as much a venerable institution as the steaks. Hash browns are called German fried potatoes here. The $7.95 price tag included tiny cubes of potatoes, greaseless nearly to the point of dry, with too many burned bits.

Do try fried shoestring onions -- a $3.95 bargain for a heaping frizzy tangle of crunchy super-thin battered onions, sometimes called tobacco onions because they resemble dried tobacco shreds. But, our creamed spinach ($5.50) was never delivered, an unfortunate blow to the level of service steakhouses strive for.

No one stops you from ordering anything but steak, but remember you're in a restaurant devoted almost exclusively to aged beef. Don't be surprised if the farm-raised salmon ($17.95) winds up overcooked like ours. Opt for lamb chops ($29.95) and you could receive rack of lamb instead, as we did. It's nicely roasted, carved in the kitchen, with a pleasing, non-gamey taste.

Desserts ($6.95) come with another Luger touch, schlag (sweetened whipped cream), plopped from bowls by servers. Have it on excellent strudel with pecans, apples, white raisins and cherries; or warm, not too sugary pecan pie, or feather-light banana cake layered with custard and chocolate chips. But pass up the profiteroles; they aren't any better than what you find in your grocer's freezer.

With time, Andre's has the potential to become a great steakhouse. For now, it's the spot steak lovers anticipate visiting with hopefulness. At least until the next steakhouse hits town.

Please phone in advance to confirm information on hours, prices, menu items and facilities. For review consideration, please fax a current menu that includes name and address of restaurant to 954-356-4386 or send to Sun-Sentinel, 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301-2293. If you would like to contact dining correspondent Judith Stocks, e-mail her at judithstocksreviews@yahoo .com or write to her in care of the Sun-Sentinel.

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