Our dining critic Mike Mayo’s restaurants that rate 3 ½ to 4 stars:
★★★½ Arun’s Indian Kichen — 10278 W. Sample Road, Coral Springs, 954-227-1123
Arun and Anu Sareen run this marvelous hole in the wall with a deliberate misspelling and delicious Indian food that can be eaten on trays in humble surroundings or carried out. The flavors are refined, vegetarian options abound and spice is ordered on a sliding one to 10 scale. The food travels remarkably well. Inexpensive. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 12-29-17.
★★★½ Beach House Pompano – 270 N. Pompano Beach Blvd., Pompano Beach, 954-607-6530
This stunning, two-story $6.5 million oceanfront restaurant opened in March 2018 and has the makings of a South Florida treasure. Its casual vibe, smart décor, and simple yet tasty food should have tourists and locals flocking for years to come. The emphasis is on fresh seafood, and the excellent Key lime pie rivals the one found at Joe’s Stone Crab. Moderate-expensive. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 6-15-18.
★★★½ Bubbles & Pearls – 2037 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, 954-533-9553 Effervescent chef-owner Josie Smith Malave, a past Top Chef contestant, says champagne and oysters should be enjoyed daily and not just for special occasions. Her first-time restaurant venture, casual and a bit cramped, also scores with delicious dishes such as pork belly biscuits, roasted bone marrow, miso cauliflower and brick chicken. Dinner. Moderate-expensive. Reviewed 3-24-17.
★★★½ Eddie’s Thai – 2571 N. Hiatus Road, Cooper City, 954-704-9006
Tasty Thai cuisine served by the affable Eddie Watana, who ran Sukhothai in Fort Lauderdale with his mother for 25 years. Eddie and Roberta Watana have found a home in a bedroom community strip mall, and the noodle dishes are particularly good. Moderate. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 7-7-17.
★★★½ Etaru – 111 S. Surf Road, Hallandale Beach, 954-271-3222
Hard to find behind a firehouse and the towering Hyde Resort but easy to like with a beachfront location and sleek dining room and terrace. Launched by the team behind global brands Zuma and Roka, Etaru specializes in small plates, sashimi and Japanese robatayaki charcoal grilling. Expensive. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 11-24-17.
★★★½ Gabose Korean and Japanese Restaurant — 4991 N. University Drive, Lauderhill, 954-572-4800
Do-it-yourself charcoal grilling and other sizzling Korean fare, including spicy soups, noodle dishes and stone-pot rice dishes, still draws big crowds to this 15-year-old family-run restaurant. Lunch, dinner. Moderate-expensive. Reviewed 11-4-16.
★★★½ Jackson’s Prime – 3300 NE 32nd St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-765-6316 Two big local restaurant names, owner Jack Jackson (Burt & Jack’s, Jackson’s Steakhouse) and chef Johnny Vinczencz (Johnny V) show they still have culinary game at this low-key but elegant dining room near Galt Ocean Mile. The baked stuffed lobster and steaks are excellent. Expensive. Dinner. Reviewed 10-20-17.
★★★½ JWB Prime Steak and Seafood – 1111 N. Ocean Drive, Hollywood, 954-874-4462
The fine dining restaurant at the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort bears the initials of James William (Jimmy) Buffett and features solid food and polished service in a relaxed resort-casual setting. The chops and seafood outshine the steaks, and don’t miss the spear-caught local fish of the day. Very expensive. Dinner. Reviewed 12-23-16.
★★★½ Kababi Café by Kuluck – 3828 N. University Drive, Sunrise, 954-909-4133
Tasty bites, wonderful aromas, warm hospitality and a shaker of sumac on every table await at this Persian gem tucked in a corner of a worn strip mall. Buffet lunches offer good value, and stews, kebabs and aromatic rice dishes spiked with sweet and sour fruits shine at dinner. Moderate. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 8-4-17.
★★★½ Monkitail – 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood, 954-602-8755
Perhaps the most beautiful dining room in Broward, this recent arrival in the Diplomat Beach Resort from Philadelphia restaurateur Michael Schulson features izakaya, shareable small Japanese dishes, and slow-grilled meats and seafood on skewers. A hidden karaoke bar offers after-dinner entertainment and drinks. Expensive. Dinner. Reviewed 8-25-17.
★★★½ Thasos Taverna – 3330 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-200-6006 or NisiGroup.com
Nisi offers a modern twist on Greek cuisine with an emphasis on fresh fish and seafood. It’s a fun place for an occasion, lively and a little loud, a splash of Santorini behind a Hess gas station. It’s not for the faint of wallet, particularly if you hit the seafood case hard. Located in the space that used to be Thasos restaurant, it opened last September. Expensive to very expensive. Dinner. Reviewed 1-11-17.
★★★½ Pasta And … — 4990 W. Atlantic Blvd., Margate, 954-977-3708
Take a trip to northern Italy at this cozy and delicious family-run restaurant, where chef Luigi Marenco makes housemade pastas and showcases the flavors of Piedmont, including dishes made with boar, lamb and tripe. Moderate-expensive. Dinner. Reviewed 8-10-18.
★★★½ Shimuja – 4921 SW 148th Ave., Davie, 754-200-8941
Wondrous ramen with magnificent broths from stockbroker-turned-soupmeister Keiichi Maemura are found at this small outpost of a chain that started in Kagoshima City, Japan. Buns, salads and good rice bowls are also offered. Moderate. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 6-22-18.
★★★½ Southern Spice — 1920 Tyler St., Hollywood, 954-674-2919
Down-home Southern food gets sophisticated and soulful treatment from young but seasoned chef Malcolm Prude, 27, at this small, family-run restaurant. Shrimp and grits, fried chicken and waffles and even the humble fried bologna sandwich are elevated with quality ingredients and creative techniques. Moderate. Lunch-dinner. Reviewed 4-6-18.
★★★½ Spatch Grilled Peri-Peri Chicken – 3848 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, 954-607-1703
A fast-casual eatery where humble bird is enlivened with African Bird’s eye chili pepper marinade and sauce that is downright addictive. Beside chicken platters, bowls, sandwiches and salads, there are creative, tasty sides. Lunch, dinner. Inexpensive. Reviewed 4-19-17.
★★★½Tropical Acres Steakhouse – 2500 Griffin Road, Dania Beach, 954-989-2500
This family-run South Florida institution isn’t hip or trendy, but it has offered good steaks, chops and seafood at a great value for generations. Founded in 1949, it has rebounded from two fires. Moderate-expensive. Dinner. Reviewed 9-1-17.
Palm Beach County
★★★½ Eathai — 1832 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach, 561-270-3156
Chef-owner Sopanut Sopochana, who owned restaurants in New York before opening this strip mall eatery in 2016, puts a modern spin on traditional Thai cuisine in a fun and family-friendly setting. Try chicken French toast, spicy oxtail soup and grilled lamb with noodles, and finish with fresh-rolled ice cream. Moderate. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 6-8-18.
★★★★ Oceano Kitchen — 201 E. Ocean Ave., Lantana, 561-562-5055
Every bite is delicious and every plate is a polished gem at this cozy patio restaurant with a menu that changes daily from the husband-and-wife team of Jeremy and Cindy Bearman. He earned a Michelin star in New York and she makes exquisite desserts. This dream come true is one of South Florida’s best restaurants. Cash only and no reservations for parties fewer than six. Moderate-expensive. Dinner. Reviewed 12-8-17.
★★★½ V&S Italian Deli – 2621 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, 561-395-5206
Prepare to wait in line at this cramped sandwich shop run by brothers Vinny and Sal Falcone, New York transplants who opened in 1985. The counter crew is friendly and the craftsmanship of the subs are impressive. Inexpensive. Lunch. Reviewed 10-11-17.
★★★½ Amara at Paraiso – 3101 NE Seventh Ave., Miami, 305-702-5528
James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz has created a love letter to Miami with this gorgeous eatery overlooking Biscayne Bay featuring a Latin-inspired menu of grilled meats, seafood and veggies. Do not miss the yuca cheese puffs or decadent flan. Expensive-very expensive. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 7-13-18.
★★★½ Ariete – 3540 Main Highway, Coconut Grove, 305-640-5862
Chef Michael Beltran pulls off a culinary highwire act blending haute concepts with Cuban comfort food and the thrilling results lead to treats such as headcheese croquetas with kimchi, bone marrow with black beans and foie gras with smoked plantains. Moderate-expensive. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 9-14-18.
★★★½ Awash Ethiopian — 19934 NW Second Ave., Miami Gardens, 305-770-5100
The scarcity of Ethiopian cuisine in South Florida is rectified at this friendly, family-run eatery where the spongy injera flatbread is cool and the well-spiced flavors of lamb, chicken and vegetable dishes can run hot. Wash it down with sweet Ethiopian honey wine or smooth fresh-roasted coffee. Moderate. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 3-23-18.
★★★★ Bazaar Mar by Jose Andres — 1300 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-615-5859
A shimmering seafood dream, you just might eat an entire aquarium’s worth of fish and sea treats at this joyous Philippe Starck designed dining room in the SLS Brickell. The Spanish-born Andres has trained his crew well – nearly every plate is a delicious culinary adventure. Dinner. Expensive-very expensive. Reviewed 3-3-17.
★★★½ La Petite Maison – 1300 Brickell Bay Drive, Miami, 305-403-9133
This playground for the 1 percent was taken global from its Nice original from the same luxury outfit behind Zuma. The menu features simple yet exquisite French and Mediterranean fare, including impeccable seafood, but the prices could lead to bankruptcy. Very expensive. Dinner. Reviewed 8-17-18.
★★★½ Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann – 3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 786-655-5600
A stunningly gorgeous restaurant at the Faena Hotel from acclaimed Argentine grill master Mallmann. Indulge on flame-charred and smoke-kissed meats and sea creatures, and don’t miss the chocolate profiteroles for dessert. Very expensive. Lunch, dinner. Reviewed 7-28-17.
★★★★ Stubborn Seed — 101 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 786-322-5211
Chef Jeremy Ford, fresh from a winning turn on Top Chef and triumphant stint at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Matador Room, puts his prodigious talent on full display at this small, sophisticated corner eatery where meticulous dishes taste as good as they look. The seasonal menu changes frequently. Expensive-very expensive. Dinner. Reviewed 2-9-18.
For all listings printed: Please phone in advance. Changes often occur in menu and other facilities and businesses often close without notice.
PHOTO: At Eathai on Federal Highway in Delray Beach. Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel