Review- Armadillo Beach in Dania Beach
DH and I went to the new Armadillo Beach in Dania Beach last night (1200 S Federal Hiway, Dania Beach, FL, 954-920-6166). We have been fans of chef Kevin McCarthy for over 10 years, having followed him from the Davie place on Griffin Rd to University to Grapevine. Now he has launched another venture, this time in Dania Beach where I suspect he partially escapes some of the high-rent real estate problems found in western Broward.
The restaurant is small, with about 14 tables and an unused bar at one side. They were about 90% occupied on Friday night at 8:00. The décor is simple, with gold-washed walls, white tablecloths and votive candles in sand. A neon armadillo is in the window marking the spot. There is ample parking in back for this small space. The space was snug but acceptable, but the AC seemed to conk out as the night went on (or was it the wine?) The chef came around toward the end and greeted everyone, and there seemed to be several tables of frequent repeat guests.
The hostess and the waiter greeted us promptly, and we ordered a bottle of Conundrum for old time’s sake (We were first introduced to this pleasant white sipping wine at the old Armadillo Café in Davie. Seems McCarthy has been carrying it for years.) We ordered the special appetizer, described as “whitewater clams”, which we were told were local Florida farmed freshwater clams. There were about a dozen, about 1/1/2 to 2 inches across and prepared with tomatoes, sliced green olives and a garlicky broth. (The olives seemed a strange choice, as they were ordinary jarred olives with pimento. Could do better there.) The clams were good, though small, but the broth was to die for, and we got more of the rolls to soak it up. Yum. I could bathe in the stuff.
The DH had roast duck breast that was delicious. It was perfectly seared with a chili coating, which had a nice crisp bite to it. It was served with wilted cabbage mix. Though I generally hate cooked cabbage, this stuff was great! Wilted but still with some crunch, with FABULOUS cubes of smoked bacon and apple slices.
I had the yellowtail snapper served with a wild mushroom, red pepper and tomato topping. It was a huge serving of fish and the topping was very good, with several whole chanterelles included. It was served with green beans (nicely crunchy) and succotash (god I hate lima beans). Overall, I liked the duck better.
We skipped dessert due to a need to pick up the offspring from a party, but I (closely) observed the neighboring table’s order of what looked like chocolate profiteroles with raspberries and ice cream (does drooling on them mean I got too close?), so I know what I will order next time.
The prices were very reasonable and the total tab came to $112 before tip. I will return soon, and recommend you try it too!
There's a few posts on this place but this one probably gives the most detailed run-down on the food, so I thought I'd tag along here to add my review. We visited last night with a group of 11 and had a thoroughly enjoyable meal.
It is a small, unassuming place in a fairly quiet, sleepy stretch of Dania Beach (though old stalwart Tark's is pretty much around the corner). Everyone was completely friendly and accomodating and there's a real effort to make everyone that comes in feel like an old friend. The chef came out several times over the course of the night to talk up the guests throughout the restaurant.
The menu we saw was pretty close to the one that's posted online, with a number of additional off-the-menu specials. For apps we started with tequila-grilled shrimp and corn cakes, jalapeno corn fritters, fried goat cheese, and a smoked duck quesadilla (along with a completely off-the-menu spinach quesadilla, made special for our kids - yes, they actually like spinach). My favorite of the bunch were the shrimp and corn cakes. Shrimp were not overcooked, carried just a little bit of delicate heat from a chipotle butter, and the corn cakes were the best part of the whole dish. The corn fritters (served with a chunky apple sauce, a combination that was surprisingly effective) were not nearly so shy with the jalapeno heat, and a generous serving with about 8 golf ball + sized fritters. The fried goat cheese (crusted with almonds and bread crumbs and served w/ a little bit of a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette and mango salsa) was decent but I thought would fare better as a component of a salad. The duck quesadilla was good but a bit bland. All were pretty sizeable servings.
For mains, I got to try the yellowtail and the pork chop off the regular menu, as well as specials that included a lamb chop, a filet oscar, and a Dr. Pepper braised short rib (!). The yellowtail got a crispy coating and was pan-sauteed, served with a tasty wild mushroom and red pepper stew. The pork chop was a generous double-rib chop, served with a fruit chutney and mashed sweet potatoes, but I found it a bit bland.
The specials really shined. My lamb chop was prepped as two double-rib chops, given a little coating of goat cheese and crushed tortillas, served over a pool of a savory, smoky, slightly sweet mole sauce. Just an absolutely great dish. The Filet Oscar (filet mignon topped w/ crabmeat and asparagus and a smoky bernaise sauce) was an old-school dish with a little new twist (the smoky chipotle bernaise) which I appreciated. I don't know why I'm a sucker for the "Oscar" thing, but I am. And the Dr. Pepper braised short rib? Awesome. An absolutely humongous hunk of short rib, with a sweet (but not sickly sweet) funky glaze. Frod Jr. ordered this and we took home a good bit of it, so I'm looking forward to more tonight.
Accompaniments of manchego cheese polenta, succotash and little haricot vert were good (I particularly liked the succotash), but proved to be somewhat ubiquitous. Other than the pork chop, I think every other main came with the same sides. A little more variety would be welcome.
They made a massive dessert tray for the table for our group, and apparently also whipped up an off-the-menu key lime tart at my mother-in-law's insistence when our group first arrived (guest of honor's favorite). The tray looks like it had all the items on the dessert menu - chocolate fritters, creme brulee, chocolate pecan pie, Mexican chocolate cake, buttermilk chipotle tart. I liked the chocolate fritters - not too sweet, with a touch of cinnamon, served with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream (and, if you're a South Park fan, these look like a rendition of Chef's hot salty chocolate balls!). The Mexican chocolate cake was also good, dense and moist and also carrying a cinnamon note. The other item which intrigued was the buttermilk tart. I didn't get much of a hint of the chipotle in the tart itself, but it came with a cherry jam that was strongly redolent of smoky spicy chipotle. If you like the sweet-savory thing, this wsa certainly an interesting example. The creme brulee was prepared in too deep of a dish and so the ratio of creamy pudding to crispy sugar topping was off. I actually suspect the desserts may be better individually than in this grouping - together, too many of them (esp. the chocolate items) had the same Mexican chocolate/cinnamon flavor profile.
I need to repeat again how completely gracious everyone was. We got a genuinely warm reception and every effort was made to keep our table happy. I've no doubt we were taxing the limits of the kitchen by having them get out 11 orders at once, but they did a nice job of it. They were also completely gracious about corkage - happily advised that it's $10 a bottle without any attitude whatsoever.
As a Miami guy, I don't get up past the county line so much, but I thought this was definitely worth it - particularly since I can't think of any comparable contemporary southwestern type place in Miami-Dade. Nice to see that they had a full house Friday night - they deserve it.