Second Strong

Two pan-roasted spiny lobster tails were succulent and juicy, covered with a delicate yet assertive Creole-conch sauce. Unfortunately the lobster was so briny it was inedible, tasting as if it had been fished from the Dead Sea rather than the Caribbean. Even the sweet relief of the aforementioned plantain mash couldn't overcome the seasoning.

Sesame-and-wasabi-crusted grouper, however, utterly restored our faith. Two flaky white fish fillets had been perfectly tended. Under their sinus-clearing layer of wasabi and nutlike coating of sesame seeds, the fillets were firm and generously fleshed, barely requiring a dip in the accompanying ponzu sauce. Side dishes of aromatic jasmine rice and stir-fried vegetables were equally well executed.

Like the rotisserie-prepared entrees, our dessert seemed to suffer from the late hour. A huckleberry pastry that had been listed on the menu with a white chocolate sorbet arrived with passion fruit sorbet instead. Our waiter, apparently tired from dealing with the crowds, offhandedly admitted that the kitchen had run out of the white chocolate. (The restaurant was missing quite a few dishes that evening, a situation the server told us about at the beginning of the meal.) We kept the dessert but found the berries at odds with the even more mouth-puckering sorbet.

Open barely a month, Mark's Las Olas still has some kinks. But the combination of tantalizing signature dishes and partylike atmosphere is also a kick, destined to knock Las Olas Boulevard into Ocean Drive status. Mark my words -- and his cooking.

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