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Fort Lauderdale: The New SAIA in Town

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But while that may be truer of me than most, I’m beginning to think it might be through his hotel room as well. At least so it seems here at the B Ocean in Fort Lauderdale, which opened its chic but comfortable doors to the public in January.

As for the part about my stomach, the B Ocean (the first of a concept its owners expect to expand into other appropriate markets) offers a breakfast-lunch-dinner spot called the B’stro plus a dinner-only mostly Japanese pan-Asian restaurant called SAIA. Above are two of SAIA’s best rolls: the already award-winning Tamari Scallop (yes, it’s scallop and crabmeat wrapped in tuna) and the Ocean Blue Roll with eel, crab stick, avocado and boursin cheese, all happily tempura fried.

One of the favorites of B Ocean GM Joel Darr, as well as of Thai-born chef de cuisine Subin Chankesorn, is this plate of Miso Scallops. The tender shellfish are crusted with lime and salt, then served atop Japanese sweet potato with a sauce of miso and honey.

One real eye-opener for me was Chef Subin’s upgraded spin on traditional Thai curry, this time showing up with the delicate, sweet-tasting meat of lobster. An amazing amount of sweetness emphasizes the lobster by way of pineapple, bell pepper and coconut milk.

I wasn’t 100% sure what my mouth was looking for – until I found it in the SAIA dish called Shirome Spice. The protein is a very mild, white-fleshed fish sometimes known as fluke, but everything else I need in my life comes from the sauce mixing hot Thai chili with garlic. The dish is hot, it’s sweet, and its wonderful.

After all I had for dinner, I really wasn’t looking for any dessert; but the powers that be at the B Ocean made me sample something anyway. When in doubt, I say, get the thing with banana – here fried in a super-light tempura batter and rushed to my table with coconut ice cream. I had been enjoying a gewurtztraminer with my often-spicy meal. Dessert seemed like a grand excuse for a pinot noir. I definitely have a home away from home in Fort Lauderdale now. And after years of liking that other one, I have a new favorite letter to see on the side of a hotel.

A Note on the Name: Pursuing their unstated goal of being the “not W,” the folks behind the B Ocean Hotel have come up with the coolest restaurant name I’ve encountered in a long time. SAIA (yes, all caps, please) sounds Japanese-y enough but isn’t. It’s also a familiar Sicilian surname in Texas and Louisiana. What it really is, though, is the two streets that intersect at the hotel’s location – Sunrise and the fabled highway AIA. You gotta love it!


About John DeMers

I've been a journalist and author forever. My favorite single word in the English language is "foodandwine." This spirit drives my 45 published books and my weekly radio show heard in Houston, Dallas and Austin.

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