Happy Hour Tapas at Johnny V's

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Move over, dinner: Happy hour is coming through. That magical few hours -- usually from 5 to 7 p.m. -- is a great way to get your post-work liquid intake. But at quite a few places, it's also a great way to taste some dishes from the kitchen on the cheap. Take Johnny V's' new $5 tapas happy hour, running from 5 to 7 weeknights. Not only does the upscale Las Olas eatery offer two-for-one beers, cocktails, and wines by the glass; it also throws down a small but interesting array of small plates, each priced at a single Lincoln. I went last night to check out the menu and ended up sampling each of the five tapas plates on offer.

We started with a cheese plate culled from the restaurant's larger tapas sharing platter, a spread of Manchego and semi-firm, wine-soaked goat cheese; red hot cherry tomatoes halved and coated with a sriracha-based hot sauce; garlic marinated olives and half-dollar-sized rounds of crispy bread on which to assemble. Pretty standard "cheese and" plate, but the zingy tomatoes offered a nice, piquant counterpoint to the creamy cheese. A trio of croquetas were the size of a fat thumb, coated with a crackly layer of panko and filled with a slick and buttery mash of potatoes. Some of the pieces had more flavor than others: mine was teeming with tiny bits of bacon and what tasted like sage, while my companions' croquetas were nearly just potato.

A blue-corn-shelled fried fish taco housed a wedge of flaky, battered snapper, moistened with a dollop of crema and a rustic salsa of onion and mango. Good stuff, all told, though I found the blue corn shells to be a touch on the aged side. Another plate featured bits of tenderloin "tips" in a deep sauce tinged with Worchestershire and dotted with kernels of sweet corn, with a grilled and rolled-up flour tortilla jutting out of the mixture like a flag. The tortilla was tasty enough, but the tips tasted more like sirloin than tenderloin, and the stewish sauce lacked the heartiness or depth to eclipse the starch.

The final plate -- another DIY crustini spread with marinated portobellos, balsamic cherry tomatoes, and creamy goat cheese spread -- was just fine, though a bit too similar a selection to the cheese plate. Something meatier might have been better in its place. To go with our tapas: a fruity, crisp class of Vouvray Chenin Blanc, another glass of pinot noir whose name escapes me, and an interesting cocktail made with tequila, Cointreau, and just a light spritz of lime juice -- something like a refreshing "margarita light." Each beverage was potent enough to qualify for solid happy-hour fare. Final bill: $66 for three hungry, thirsty people. Not bad, Johnny.

Johnny V's
625 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
954-761-7920
johnnyvlasolas.com      

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