You’ll still find plenty of pizza joints and pub grub at the beach, but oceanfront hotel restaurants are getting increasingly ambitious and sophisticated, drawing talented chefs to fine dining choices like 3030 Ocean , Steak 954, Trina and Via Luna on Fort Lauderdale beach and Hollywood Prime at the ritzy Westin Diplomat.
Newcomer Tokyo Blue at the Ocean Manor Resort on Galt Ocean Mile also brings stellar pan-Asian and Peruvian-influenced cuisine to the table, the work of executive chef Mai Ponrathorn, formerly of the Miami Beach hot spot Nobu.
But Tokyo Blue won’t be for everyone, certainly not your 80-year-old aunt from Ohio. Dishes are much pricier than at your neighborhood sushi hangout. You’re paying for the oceanfront location, the touristy appeal and a hyper-clubby atmosphere. The 6-month-old restaurant brings a younger demographic to Galt Ocean Mile, attracting a singles scene late evenings in the lounge, with its ice blue bar, waitresses in bustiers and dance music.
The restaurant has a sushi bar, a separate dining room and a quieter strip of tables on the outside patio facing the pool, and beyond that, the surf. The 250-seat setting is done in white with blue, green and aqua accents, a hip, eclectic space with a few Asian elements, like the warrior statues at the entrance, a framed kimono and black lacquer artwork.
We dined here once on a packed Friday evening, when we had to shout to hear each other and our capable server in the stark dining room. Next time, we had a more enjoyable experience dining earlier on a Saturday, and the hostess suggested sitting in the more attractive lounge, with soft lighting and high tables, actually quieter until the DJ arrives around 11.
Given the nightlife scene here, we figured the food would be an afterthought, but we were pleasantly surprised.
Himachi jalapeño brings paper-thin slices of the bracingly clean, mild Pacific yellowtail, which gets a shot of flavor from slices of the hot peppers and a vinegary ponzu sauce. Dishes are attractively presented, most with edible flowers.
Other appetizer hits included a generous bowl of rock shrimp tempura with spicy mayo and Asian tacos, four light, crisp shells made from dumpling skins filled with chopped cooked lobster and king crab with raw tuna and scallops. Sauces of jalapeño salsa and a citrusy yuzu come on the side. You’ll also find Peruvian-style ceviche and a long list of rolls, including renditions like the mac-n-cheese, a mix of eel, soft shell crab, masago and conch — maybe the chef’s idea of sushi comfort food.
The menu is so vast, we felt like we’d barely scratched the surface. We loved an entree of black cod topped with a sweet miso glaze that complimented the light fish, served with a cone-shaped mound of sticky rice.
A whole yellowtail snapper arrives dramatically. The fish is taken out and deboned, served in a spicy basil sauce. The body of the fish is tempura fried and perched on a plate for a striking presentation..
Tokyo Blue also serves classic Thai fare like pad Thai and assorted curries. The chicken panang curry brought a slice of Japanese pumpkin, which tasted like a sweet potato, lots of chicken and green beans with a hint of lush coconut milk for richness. While it’s good, it’s hard to pay $18 for curry when you can get it for $10 at the neighborhood Thai restaurant.
There are plenty of non-Asian dishes like steaks, chicken and lamb chops. The 18-ounce porterhouse was conveniently sliced, juicy and well-seasoned, in a balsamic teriyaki (you have a pick of sauces) served with a Peruvian causa, a mound of mashed potatoes drizzled with an aioli pepper sauce. The menu gets seriously expensive with its wagyu kobe beef, which you can order at $25 per ounce with a minimum of three ounces.
Dessert brings a simple refreshing treat like fresh mangoes with sticky rice, topped with a colorful butterfly of white chocolate. Or dive into decadence with fried morsels of bananas, chocolate sauce and cream cheese.
You can linger over a glass of hot or cold sake, cocktails like the wicked Strawberry sin or peruse the wine list, with 15 choices by the glass — while you’re dancing into the early morning hours, a clear advantage over the sushi joint down the street.