Location. Location. Location.
Lured mostly by its proximity to the ocean, I frequented Etaru‘s location often back when Hyde Beach Kitchen first opened the space. Crashing waves, gentle breezes and the natural aromatherapy provided bliss even before I’d ordered my first cocktail.
There’s no question that South Florida still needs more waterfront dining locations. But one with an outstanding menu? Potential to excel? And in Broward? Say what? This, my friends, is a true culinary unicorn.
Located in Hallandale, behind the shiny and new Hyde Resort & Residences, the restaurant offers contemporary Japanese Robatayaki cuisine mere steps from the ocean. A second location, also by the same restaurateurs behind Zuma, recently debuted on Las Olas. Things are looking up in the good ole 9 5 4.
What I tried:
You know those days when everything clicks and flows in your favor? That’s the kind of mood I’d been embracing the Sunday I first visited Etaru. Arriving on time for an early Sunday supper, our party of two scored primetime seats right by the water. I dreamily stared out at the ocean and counted my blessings. Is this real life? What’s that? Would I like a pashmina to shelter my poor exposed knees from the ‘chill’ of the mid-70s breeze? Of course I would, I said in my best serious-ultra-weather-sensitive Floridian voice. And so my dinner began…
Feeling amorous, free and adventurous, I chose to take part in the $95 per person Tasting Menu offered. In a rare move, I briefly looked at the menu, chose my main course from the options listed and closed the menu. I felt like being surprised and wanted to just organically experience the courses without any expectations, instead of meticulously following along (as I typically would).
I’m happy to report, the majority of the menu was a hit and closely resembled a Zuma experience. From the opening Black Kampachi Sashimi in a yuzu truffle dressing and pickled vegetables to the A5 Wagyu Beef with eryngii mushrooms and a wasabi ponzu sauce. Hit, after hit, after hit. Dinner closed with a colorful fruit platter which included a local Guava Pot with guava mousse, passion fruit sorbet, papaya chunks and a mango biscuit. Honestly, the menu that night would succeed even at a stand-alone location in the middle of Timbuktu. OK, maybe not that far, but you get the idea.
Service throughout the night varied from overly attentive to some sparingly-spread forgotten moments. Did I care? No. I remained in a euphoric state sipping my wine, looking out at the ocean, and enjoying every dish served.
Once in the car, on my way home, I unfortunately quickly jolted back to reality when I scanned the photos I’d taken of my dinner. As I swiped them one by one and noticed a picture of the tasting menu, I zoomed in to find the restaurant failed to deliver not one, not two, but three of the dishes listed. Well, that’s disappointing. It seems out of ten courses listed, we received seven. I left feeling full and could not even imagine eating three additional dishes. But that’s not the point. Thinking back, I remember inquiring with the waiter about a Mushroom Hot Pot I noticed someone hastily serving to the table next to me. “What is that?” I asked. I wanted to make sure to order it the next time. Oops. Could it be they received our order by mistake and kept it? Who knows? Did our waiter not think it was odd I would ask that given we were doing the tasting? Did he think I wouldn’t ever notice? What about the manager who stopped by the table and to whom I spoke for almost ten minutes? Did he know?
Needless to say, I felt cheated. When I arrived at home, I sent the manager an e-mail. He called me almost immediately, apologized and invited us back for cocktails. I don’t care about comped cocktails, really, but I needed him to know what transpired.
Thankfully, for me, the overall experience trumped the unfortunate mistake. Rose-colored glasses or not, Etaru Hallandale strongly delivered with multiple items I still crave, think, and talk about on a regular basis. Next time though, I will keep the menu nearby. Fool me once…