After a Decade, Las Olas' Johnny V Is Still the Boss of the Boulevard
I would cover myself in foie gras if I could," proclaims a heavyset, 30-something woman who's wearing a flowing, sleeveless white top.
CandaceWest.com Chef and owner Johnny Vinczencz
She pops a cube of pungent Cabrales, a Spanish variety of blue cheese, into her mouth along with a sweet and spicy pecan from Johnny V's famed $28 tapas sharing platter.
Then the people in her group, which is gathered around the restaurant's long, L-shaped stainless-steel bar, move quickly to discussing the disdain they felt for South Florida when they first moved down from "New Yawk."
There are plenty of people strolling along Las Olas Boulevard who have rejected New York's cost and frost as well as Miami's party-till-you-drop lifestyle. Yet when they want the sophisticated, fancy-sounding fare found in those cities but don't desire to travel or pay the prices, Johnny Vinczencz's namesake restaurant, Johnny V Restaurant|Lounge, is the choice.
Dinner begins with an amuse-bouche of smoked tomato soup. A velvety, tangy purée is served in a squat espresso cup paired with a crust of bread smeared with goat cheese. The combination of richness, slight acidity, and bold smoke is a fantastic start to a meal but leaves you wanting more. It was once available in the evenings but is now available only at lunch.
Vinczencz's "Short Stack" ($12) layers buttermilk pancakes, slices of roasted portobello mushrooms, and fresh basil. It's topped with sun-dried tomato butter and a thick balsamic vinaigrette. Some bites are delightful. The meatiness of the mushrooms plays smartly against the richness of the pancakes and sweetness of the balsamic.
Occasionally a bite of the balsamic-inundated pancakes, however, is too sweet.
After a decade in business, Johnny V remains the anchor of Las Olas Boulevard.
Customers return year after year for signature dishes that combine Florida's tropical ingredients with New American techniques. The prices are some of the highest on the downtown drag, but the portions are large and served by an attentive staff.