Remember Chef Josie from Top Chef?
She was a chef-testant on that Bravo show for several seasons and used her culinary celebrity to become an out and proud spokesperson for GLAAD and the ACLU.
Most recently, Chef Josie Smith-Malave has opened a restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (in the LGBTG enclave of Wilton Manors), and I had the pleasure of dining there a short time ago.
Bubbles+Pearls, a champagne and oyster bar as its name implies, is an intimate and very casual space. There are only a few tables, several are high-tops, and a long wooden bar with a dozen or so bright metal barstools and view into the surprisingly tiny kitchen.
A pile of oysters on ice behind the bar greet diners upon entering, and then you see the stunning wall of wine, featuring all manner of bubbly selections. Serving a good selection of beer on tap, plus a large list of mostly white wines, lots of them bubbly, like prosecco, champagne or cava. It’s a lively, fun atmosphere.
In addition to the oyster and champagne selections, Chef Josie offers a remarkably sophisticated menu of small (and not so small) plates to delight any diner.
Bonnie and I perched at the bar, struck up a conversation with a friendly young bartender/waiter, watched several of the sous chefs and staff prep oysters and side dishes, and checked out the menu.
We started with a unique radish salad in anchovy sauce–delicious and so very different, featuring red and white radishes. We followed up with another appetizer, pork belly baos. The Asian style buns with delicious pork belly slices in a sweet/savory sauce were a delight.
For our entrée we split the lamb chop platter, served with couscous, and perfectly prepared medium rare. Heavenly. The complex recipes coming out of that tiny kitchen are a sweet contrast to the casual, welcoming atmosphere.
Not to miss sampling dessert, our bartender pal told us that the freshly made key lime pie was to die for. He was right. It was kind of an upside down key lime pie, first the filling on the plate, topped with a crumbly crust, then smothered in whipped cream. Fortunately, it was a small portion!
Reviews for Chef Josie and friends have been stellar and the place fills up fast. I know that many of our Letters readers are down Ft. Lauderdale way this month and they would be well advised to check out Bubbles+Pearls. It’s friendly and fabulous and the work of a very top chef.