Written by Gary J. Arzt

Saturday, 15 November 2008

User Rating: / 1

leisure and relaxationprofiles
restaurants and dining

Reconstructing and reconfiguring a space, in the Bank of America building, that, previously housed two (2) failed restaurants, Riley McDermott's ensconced itself in an elegant, contemporary setting for their superb steak and seafood restaurant ... with an exquisite Raw Bar as the centerpiece as you enter the premises. While at the bar, directly in front of you when you stand at reception, the low lighting is reminiscent of South Beach.

I've dined at Riley McDermott's (named for owner Anthony McDermott's seventeen year old son) several times since it opened. Lunches and dinners were both very enjoyable with some truly memorable dishes, delivered with panache that was not over the top; rather, that reminded me of a level of service that has all but disappeared in Florida. No kneeling waiters; no informal introductions, "I'm Bruce, I'll be your waiter this evening." Competent professional service in abundance ... from the managers, Maitre d's and wait staff.

The management and kitchen teams are all experienced and operate like a well oiled machine. Think Emeril Legasse when you think of where they honed their skills. General Manager, Jason Cotter, is Emeril's nephew, while Executive Chef Trent Osborne spent years at four (4) Legasse locations as sous chef.

Let's start with the Raw Bar, which has an ever changing array of excellent shell fish. Yes, there's the superb Maine lobsters; green tip New Zealand mussels, Black Mussels, all plump and meaty whether you have them cold, steamed or in a white wine sauce. The oysters range, depending on the day, from Prince Edwards to Malpeques, Bluepoints, Wellfleet, Kumamoto and Apalachicola. There are little neck, middle neck and Cherrystone clams. Beautiful shrimp for a simple cocktail or for sautéing, broiling or just munching on. And, least I forget, extraordinarily tasty Lump Crab meat; have it as a cocktail or, perhaps, have them stuff and broil or bake your four (4) pound lobster! And that's just for starters.

I particularly have enjoyed the Peeky Toe Oysters as an appetizer; broiled and crusted, they are served with American Caviar and Truffle Hollandaise. What can I say ... scrumptious.

There are soups, a great gumbo with andouille sausage, lobster bisque and others. Usually a soup de jour and the gumbo are on the menu. The Lobster Bisque with chunks of tasty lobster and corn kernels is really a treat, and if you eat enough of the fabulous breads; it could be a small meal.

The breads are presented so that you can make your choices. The Rosemary Focaccia has become my favourite, but they are all excellent, crusty and served warm.

Salads galore and you can almost 'build' them yourself. From a classic Caesar salad to the 'corrupted' American versions with chicken or shrimp (You'll have to excuse the comment, I'm a purist); a beautiful warm Spinach Salad, homemade Mozzarella and tomato salad and a very excellent house salad ... all available with the freshest ingredients and well made, tasty dressings.

But, don't over do it and fill up. The best is yet to come.

It wasn't so many years ago that all the public, even sophisticated diners, knew about meats were, Prime or Choice. Today we are all aware of Waygu beef and Niman Ranch pork. Well, those are names well worth knowing, and if you haven't encountered them before, you will when you dine at Riley McDermott's. They feature a terrific Waygu beef fillet and an excellent Niman Ranch pork chop. A very moist, exquisitely flavourful veal chop is prepared any way you would like.

If you feel like a hamburger at lunch ... try the Waygu, it is unbelievable.

All the meats are cooked to a turn, and come to the table with juicy flavourful centers and nicely done outsides; unless of course, you prefer your meats well done; which should be against the law. As with all properly cooked steaks, no sauces are necessary, although, in addition to the bottled kind, McDermott's will prepare a beautiful Béarnaise sauce for you.

Aside from the aforementioned lobsters, their offerings from the waters include Ahi Tuna, Salmon and a selected grilled fish which is changed each day.

Side dishes abound and include a variety of potatoes. The truffled shoestring potatoes are memorable, as is the simple Macaroni & Cheese, prepared anything but simply ... with black truffles, no less. Asparagus steamed or sautéed, with Hollandaise or not. Creamed spinach was excellent, and the next time I was there they happily prepared simple sautéed spinach with garlic for me.

The desserts are all excellent and very imaginative. I love, but can rarely find Bananas Foster on a menu, yet ... there it was. And, the New Orleans/Legasse influence is readily apparent.

The ice creams and sorbets are made on the premises with some unique flavours. See for yourself, I'm not going to spoil the surprise!

If you want something truly unique and very satisfactory, then try the Cheesecake Lollipops ... an assortment of flavours with Ricotta cheesecake ... which is the best, in spite of the overarching reputation of New York Cheesecakes.

A Wine List, as thick as a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica, composed of wines from all over the world, with something, or things, to compliment whatever you and your dinning companions are having. And, you won't have to take a second mortgage - are they still available?

Finish with an excellent Espresso and perhaps, a dessert wine; Far Niente's Dolce, for instance, or a Port from the excellent range they purvey.

Sign the bill, tip generously and go directly to the terrace in front of the restaurant, where you can enjoy an excellent cigar ... which you've brought with you.

What a great dinning experience. To paraphrase The Terminator: You'll be back!

Riley McDermott's
401 East Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301
Telephone: 954.767.6555

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