By RICHARD DAVID CHAMBERLAIN
There is a wonderful restaurant located at 101 Commercial Blvd. in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, logically dubbed 101 Ocean, since the Atlantic is only 50 yards from its front door. Or it would be, if the restaurant had a real front door. Instead, it has a bar that straddles the corner of Commercial Blvd. and El Mar Drive, a six block corridor that runs adjacent to the sand and butts heads with the Lauderdale-By-The-Sea fishing pier.
With plenty of alfresco outdoor seating along the sidewalk, even those who select to remain undercover become one with the elements, since walls made of air provide little in the way of theme. On one interior wall, there’s a silently running television set behind a waterfall, and a fish tank that showcases tropical color—both at odds with setting a mood. Flat screens over the open-air lounge suggest a sports bar, while the inside tables strive for something more intimate, if open-air intimacy is possible.
Where 101 Ocean excels is in its food, prepared under the skilled hand of executive chef Chris Magielnicki. His Pan Roasted Salmon ($23) is a perfectly turned serving of fish with a delightful side order of orzo, accented with pine nuts and toasted parmesan along with garlic-studded green beans. It is a triumph of delicate flavors.
Heartier appetites will find their mark with the Osso Buco ($23). Traditionally made with veal, the 101 Ocean version substitutes pork shank, with the dense bone adding an extraordinary flavor to the caramelized juices. You’ll forget that this is basically pork pot roast when you’re savoring the taste combined with Yukon gold mashed potatoes.
The fiery spice of chilies adds a zest to the marinara in the house specialty Shrimp Fra Diavolo. A heaping bowl of al dente angel hair pasta is topped with sautéed shrimp and basil in this part-Italian, all-piquant dish that is bargain-priced at $19. Try it once and you’ll definitely order this star again.
Those watching their weight should find comfort in the Goat Cheese & Beet Salad ($14), which is a colorful blend of creamy goat cheese and thickly sliced yellow beets, mixed baby greens, plus sweet and spicy pecans, all tossed in a delicious lemon-thyme vinaigrette that will fill you up without filling you out. Less dietetic but who can resist: the Warm Tenderloin Salad ($16) matches sautéed sliced tenderloin and red onions, with mesclun greens, candied walnuts, gorgonzola, and housemade balsamic vinaigrette.
Attorney Chris Mancini, who knows all things legal, swears by the grilled Fresh Mahi Sandwich ($14), served with an oh-so-spicy rémoulade with wilted spinach on a warm brioche bun. There isn’t a better sandwich on the menu, though the competition is steep with steak, crab cake, Kobe burger, and grilled chicken trying for honors.
All of which brings us back to the theme. This mix of all things delicious also adds a raw bar—presenting peel-and-eat shrimp, middleneck clams, blue point oysters, and Prince Edward Island mussels. Then there’s the pizza and the flatbreads. And lest we forget, an assortment of appetizers of which our favorite is the Fried Calamari ($13) with a perfectly sweet Thai chili sauce.
There’s great frozen margaritas ($8) at the full bar courtesy of Miss Vicky. And don’t forget to tell her Florida Agenda sent you.