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Ft. Lauderdale--Cafe Sharaku, a real gem

We made our third visit to this little (about 18 seats) place on US 1/ Federal Hwy just south of Oakland Park Blvd, a couple of nights ago. It was fantastic and I've got to give it a plug. There's another post further down pleading for folks to frequent this place in an effort to be sure it stays in business. I can't think of a more admirable undertaking.

The chef is Asian and there are Asian touches on the contemporary items throughout the menu. There wasn't a thing on it that didn't sound wonderful and I would love to have treid everything. I chose the 28 dollar prix fixe menu of four course. A creamy celery soup for starter, then fluke with sea urchin over bok choy, then short ribs falling apart atop veggies, and finally coconut mousse with pineapple carpaccio. Though portions (except for the main which was very ample) are appropriately small, that's a lot of great taste and fine ingredients for 28 dollars. My dining partner had edemame, perfect salmon tartare, and crab in a wonderful broth and finished it off with a rich chocolate gooey cake in a cup.

The space is small but very pleasant with a peach moire covered banquette separating the dining area from the entry and providing seating for four tables for two. The other seating is high backed leather chairs. Nice white linens and small florals on each table. Two nice paintings on the wall and sheer curtains covering the window facing the street. You feel as if you are in a private dining room in someone's home. Service is similarly pleasant and genuinely concerned that you be happy with everything.

We have a low end favorite further up the Highway (Kosta's Greek restaurant, a dive with fantastic, gigantic portions of truly great homemade Greek food) that we try to go to often to be sure they stay solvent. They're just going to have to be content with half as many visits from now on. We've got to make sure this place (mid-level price wise, but high end food wise) stays in business so we can go again and again and again. Please try it and return often as we will.

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  1. when i went it was very empty, has business picked up?

    1 Reply
    1. re: ankimo

      Unfortunately not. We were there Tuesday or Wednesday and we were one of two tables of two. The other two were just as enthusiastic as we were and seemed to be "regulars." So I think the place already has a Choir. What they need now is more converts and disciples.

      1. re: gblcsw

        Sorry, I just now saw your reply. Kosta's is on Federal Hwy, north of Sample Rd, in a strip mall on the east side of the road called Georgetown Mall. Turn at RJ Boyle taxidermist.

      2. Thanks for your post. This is one of my favorite restaurants. I was supposed to go tonight but couldn't get a sitter. This place was our choice for New Years evening two months ago. We never get entrees, instead choosing about 3 appetizers per person. We absolutely love the asian french fusion. I have had the salmon tartare which is crazy good but my favorite is the sashimi with yuzu and raw japanese potatoes.

        1. We tried Cafe Sharaku on Friday night. At first we were the only table, but then three other diners came in. When we left at 10:30, they were there alone. I've always said if you want business, you need to have business. I think even if you have to get friends and family to come have free food at your restaurant to make the place look busy, that's what you need to do. People don't like walking in and eating in an empty restaurant. And the truth is, it's a shame that they're not busy, because the food is very good, and some of the dishes are much more than very good.

          We all had the prix fixe and for $28 it is an amazing value. My only complaint would be that there are only two items on the entree list that don't have a supplement charge. It might make more sense to charge $30 or $32 and have more options. The stand-out dishes we had were the muscle soup, the fluke with sea urchin which was fabulous, the shrimp and lobster which I only got a bite of because my friend couldn't bear to share, and the short ribs which were super delicious. The duck breast was also very good, but came out very rare. I probably should have just let it be, but instead asked if it could be a drop more done and when it came back it was too done and a little tough. The flavor was very nice, though.

          All in all, this place is really special and I do hope that their business picks up. Maybe if we keep putting the word out and sharing our experiences we can make it happen. When you drive by all these mediocre chain restaurants and see people waiting to get in and then you find a place like this that's family owned and run, it makes you wonder.

          1. What an amazing place! If there are 200 people or 10 it doesn't matter when you eat the food, it's almost like everyone else melts away!

            What an amazing unforgettable experience!

            The food was catered to the diversity of tastes in our party with a unique, creative combination of true fusion cooking! Our friend had a private party with the staff working hard to keep everyone happy! The wait staff were very hospitable and worked late into the night with smiles on their faces.

            Chef Jin Kaita was so humble and yet so talented!!

            One person was allergic to soybeans, so she was not able to eat the dish presented (tofu with plum sauce) so despite it not being in the plans, the chef prepared a delicious spring roll with avacados, cucumbers and cilantro and a dipping sauce that was perfect.

            Also we had more people than originally expected so when they ran out of supplies for a certain dish, the volunteers who got the alternative dish of "Eel Pie" were able to enjoy something I've never seen before- eel pastry! wow...it was delicious! I was jealous that I didn't get that. But there was no shame in sharing because if you shared, then you were able to taste all the amazing creations Chef Jin had to offer!

            Every dish that was presented was as beautiful as it was pretty and the people that had been there before said it was the best they'd had anywhere in Fort Lauderdale! So it wasn't just me...

            We enjoyed a full course meal at a reasonable cost, considering all the special ingredients, the handmade and perfectly cooked ceviche, soup, sushi, Chilean Sea Bass, roasted veggies, and the dessert...oh my!

            I will be sure to call again and again for that chocolate souffle AND Jasmine flan. Perfection!

            1. Based on the reviews, my husband and I tried this spot. Very grateful we did. Wonderful combinations of flavors and definitely not run of the mill. For appetizers we had the Eel pie (my husband is a sucker for good eel, too) and pork belly. Entree, I had the duck and he the filet. Dessert was tea flan and mousse cake. Everything was cooked amazingly. Duck was moist and cooked med. rare with a perfect crispy skin. Filet beat out anything we've had at Morton's and Houstons (which I consider crap anyway). This what fusion should be - subtle combinations of both. Beautiful presentation as well. As someone who is Asian I really enjoyed the very Asian spices combined w/ what would normally be considered European fare.

              Service was charming in this little restaurant - waitress/hostess was attentive and unobtrusive. In terms of cost, this restaurant is a deal. Not any more expensive than a casual dinner out. For both of us the total was $98 +tip, no alcohol.

              Like the others commented, the place was sadly lacking in clientele. Which is such a shame. My husband and I were the only ones there (Sunday). We intend to go back soon and bring friends. Next time though we will simply order every appetizer instead and do it tapas style.

              P.S. I agree w/the other posts that this would be a great date place. Very romantic, tables far apart enough that you can have a long long talk.

              P.S.S. This is a very mom and pop type of establishment. We were originally going to go to Steak 954. (Steaks were decent, btw). So glad we came here instead and in this economy would like to see the little guys stay afloat.

              1. Went again last night. Were pleased to have two other tables filled while we were there so I sure hope things are looking up. We had the most fabulous cold corn soup. It was a smooth puree that tasted like a corn milkshake. Completely wonderful. I had the sweet and sour salmon belly. Perfect. Even the edemame is better there than other places. My scallops were perfect and accompanied by white asparagus spears and mushrooms which seemed to have been marinated in celery and lemon juice. Mmmmm.
                Everything was beautifully plated and presented and the service, as always, was genuinely concerned and caring. These people deserve more business. Make it yours.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JmVikmanis

                  Thanks for the recommendation! The food was fantastic! Good news; the place was packed! All the tables were full. However, from start to finish our meal took a little more than 2 hours. I was starving and still slightly hungry by the time we left. *blush* But hey, great for my diet!

                2. We finally tried this last night and went tapas-style: five apps and two desserts. Everything was absolutely wonderful and we will be back. We did leave just a big hungry, which isn't terrible. Thanks for the recommendation!

                  1. Went there last week. Long time favorite of ours. The appetizer menu is much smaller and they unfortnately took a couple of our favorites off the menu: smoked scallops with tomato and sherry vinegar and the other being yellow tail carpaccio with yuzu and diced apples. A bit of a let down as the sourness from these two are huge hit for us. We did try a new one - the sea snail. One serving had two snails; one for me and one for the wife. Like a huge Escargot. Wonderful. Had about 7 plates

                    Our friends did the price fixed for 28 each and it was a bargain. We shared a couple bottles of wine. Their salmon entree was incredible.

                    Total bill was less then 200 for all that after tip!

                    1. Went last Saturday and was very pleased. The place is small and comfortable and the service was friendly and efficient. In addition to the written menu a board with specials(like yakko-san), mostly small plates, rounds out the options. This place was recommended by the sushi chef at Marumi, the chef of Cafe Sharaku is a friend of his. Had some wonderful things off the board including a snapper dish topped with sea urchin and enoki mushrooms that was incredible and grilled pork belly with apple gelee was nice too. All deserts are made in house and the two we tried were awesome. Overall a good value for the quality of the food and the nice variety of menu choices. Will surely return!

                      1. Great place!!! Thanks everybody! I am telling all my friends because unfortunately tonight, Friday, it was pretty empty... This restaurant deserves to be full!

                        1. I agree with the reviewers. I went here to celebrate a birthday last month and forgot to write a followup, but had an excellent meal at a bargain price. Even their wines are reasonably priced although they have a slim selection. They also had a few sakes although I did not try any on that trip. The tuna sashimi was terrific, as was the duck breast. I also had an interesting Jasmine flan with Green Tea Ice Cream, which I really enjoyed. Worth trying out for anybody interested in Japanese fusion cuisine at a very reasonable price.

                          1. My husband and I have been to Cafe Sharaku 10 times and continue to be amazed and thrilled. The food is creative, delicious and truly fantastic for this small and absolutely delightful restaurant. Don't miss the baked stone crab special!

                            Cafe Sharaku
                            2736 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33306

                            1. Really enjoyed the grilled black pork belly and the scallops with sea urchin sauce on a recent and first visit. Lots of interesting daily specials in addition to the regular menu. The prix fixe is a great deal and the way to go.

                              more here

                              1. Is Cafe Sharaku a BYOB restaurant. We've just read the menu and are going to eat there sometime this week, but I don't see anything on their website, or on this thread, that indicates that they have full bar service.

                                3 Replies
                                  1. re: The Chowfather

                                    Thanks, I'll leave my winebag in the room!

                                    1. re: RAGHOUND

                                      However, they have a very reasonable corkage policy...You can call for details, but I seem to remember $5.00 per person!

                                1. We went on our last night in Ft. Lauderdale and it was just wonderful! the portions are not huge but every bite was just a tastey dream. Our server, Maiko (she goes by My) was terrific. We had the 4 courses with a bottle of wine and left very satisfied and with some money in the wallet. We can't wait to go back which, unfortunately, won't be until late Fall.

                                  1. Just an update for Sharaku fans who have been worried that this lovely small restaurant might not survive. They joined Open Table some time ago and it seems to have helped their business. I was gratified to receive an e-mail from Open Table a day or so ago that featured Cafe Sharaku as #1 in a list of Top Ten Foodie favorites for the Ft. Lauderdale, Miami area--holding its own with the likes of db Bistro moderne Miami, and Michael's Genuine. Heartwarming.

                                    Cafe Sharaku
                                    2736 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33306

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: JmVikmanis

                                      That is great news. We love this place!

                                      1. Ate here one saturday evening, for the first time, and look forward to returning very soon! The 7.30 seating having sold out, we opted for 6.30 and there were two other couples there. I was surprised and delighted by the small and exquisite interior, it was intimate and really delightful. Both the couples had chosen the prix fixe menu and recommended it. However, the specials sounded fantastic, and this being our first visit, we chose a handful of things off the specials and menu.

                                        The sweet abelone sashimi on a bed of greens cooked with a touch of wasabi was a fun way of starting off. The waitress checked to make sure we knew that abelone was a bit chewy. Good, although we found the wasabi a bit overpowering.

                                        Next up was the diced snow crab with diced avocado, in a japanese mayo dressing. It came with beautifully waffel-cut potato crisps (see photo). It looked exquisite and tasted amazing. I'm normally not a mayo fan, but there's something to be said for japanese mayo - it is lighter and not as cloying..

                                        Then we got the kurobuta pork belly skewers - delish! The thin slices of meat had been brushed with a sweetish (miso?) dressing and grilled, and served with just a couple of rosa pepper corns that delivered an explosive kick and really complemented the flavour of the pork and the dressing.

                                        Then came a really tender and carefully braised piece of beef short rib. I can't remember what they did to it, but it was amazing, and left us wanting more.

                                        Finally, we chose a dessert from the dessert menu. It was now about 7.30 and the place was full with groups of 3 or 4 people, all enjoying the food with reverence - it was such an experience to see people not shoveling down food mindlessly, but almost moaning with pleasure... oh yes, the dessert. We selected a dish of fresh fruit (strawberries, melon, kiwi and perhaps a couple of other things that I've forgotten) - the waiter brought a can with him when serving this dish of cut fruit. He sprayed a light lemony mousse over the fruit, and it was pretty good! However the dessert also included some small sticky rice cakes about the size of lima beans - they were really gluey, had absolutely no flavour, and did nothing at all for the dessert. When we asked the waiter if they were meant to taste like this, he laughed and said that he had begged the chefs to either remove them from the dessert or change them somehow.

                                        Loved the friendly but really professional service, the intimate setting, and the food. I'd say that 3 of the 5 dishes really wow'ed us (crab, pork belly, short ribs). Look forward to working our way through the rest of the menu!
                                        In all, a good evening, and we will definitely go back very soon.