The Place: Naked Crab is in the newly renovated Yankee Clipper. Designed to mimic an ocean liner in 1956 by architect M. Tony Sherman, the hotel is now a B Ocean Hotel beachside in Fort Lauderdale. Blackboards are filled with whimsical chalk art of fish, an octopus, seahorses and crabs plus a steer jumping over a moon with a chef in hot pursuit. A neon sign says “Teach A Man to Fish” in the large space, done in neutral tones with beige curtains blocking out the sun during the day. On Friday or Saturday have dinner and then enter a ’50s time warp: a live underwater mermaid show, in the Wreck Bar viewed through portals of the pool.
The History: Chef-owner Ralph Pagano, a second generation Lebanese-Italian-American was a contestant on the first season of “Hell’s Kitchen.” The fast talking native of Brooklyn in 2007 also hosted “Pressure Cook,” in which he had 72 hours to use his culinary skills to make enough money for a ticket home from where ever in the world he was. The graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, started working at an Italian place on Staten Island in high school, working his way up. He then worked at restaurants in New York and the Hamptons, where he developed his stripped down style of serving seafood with just lemon, salt and butter, although he is not against serving a more luxe dish like crab with caviar. He came to South Florida in 2007 to visit his mother and stayed, working at STK — where he met Reiner Mendez who is now his chef de cuisine.
The Food: Seafood is the obvious star here, but there’s also steaks, surf and turf combos, salads, hot fried chicken with honey and pickles, a burger and several pastas. One could start with oysters or clams on the half shell, mini lobster rolls made with Maine lobster knuckle (meat from above the claws), octopus ceviche with bell pepper, celery and red onion or spicy tuna poke with avocado, wasabi aioli, soy and sesame. The so-called “world famous” crabster consists of a five pound Alaska king crab with the body hollowed out and stuffed with crab meat, shrimp and lobster served with buerre blanc, enough to feed 3-4 diners. A Key Party brings stone crabs, cracked conch and crab crusted snapper, while the steak and stinger is a 14-ounce ribeye with a snow crab cluster. Get a grilled grouper fillet naked (just lemon) or Oscar-style topped with crab, asparagus and hollandaise. Chocolate coffee cake is good with a cappuccino.
You Didn’t Know This: Both crabs and lobsters are decapods, or crustaceans with 10 limbs. Crabs are known as “spiders of the sea” because both have legs that bend at the joints. Crabs have large compound eyes made up of hundreds of tiny lenses. A crab can use its claws as a vise for crushing, like scissors for cutting or like chopsticks to pick up food. Crabs do not have teeth inside their mouth but in their stomach that grind against one another when the stomach contracts to mash up food. We consume 1.5 million tons of crab annually.
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If You Go
The Place: Naked Crab Seafood Kitchen & Cocktail Bar
Address: 1140 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale (in the B Ocean Hotel)
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. daily
Prices: Appetizers $10-$16, raw bar/salads $12-$19, entrees $15-$36 ($79 for a 32-ounce porterhouse), vegetable sides $7
FYI: MeduSirena mermaid show is Friday and Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (no kids at the later show). Pagano also owns Naked Taco, South Beach, and Naked Lunch in the UM Life Science & Technology Park.