Miami chef and restauranteur Ralph Pagano says his new Fort Lauderdale restaurant, Naked Crab Seafood Kitchen, has one thing no one else in the area offers: mermaids.
"There's a lot of things that make this concept unique, but I don't think anyone else has tiki cocktails and a seafood house with a live mermaid show," Pagano says.
Last year, Pagano partnered with the newly renovated B Ocean Resort (1140 Seabreeze Blvd.) in Fort Lauderdale — formerly the iconic Yankee Clipper — to bring his third Naked concept to life following the success of his Miami Beach hot spot Naked Taco and Miami’s Naked Lunch.
Today it seems only fitting that his latest seafood-centric concept also offers diners a chance to catch a show before or after dinner at the hotel's famed Wreck Bar MeduSirena mermaid show, a live underwater performance hosted every Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Moving forward, a new aquatic burlesque show will be held every Friday and Saturday at 9:30 p.m.
After a six-month renovation, the 150-seat restaurant welcomes guests with a neon Naked Crab sign, extra-large squid art piece, and #GetNaked selfie wall. The walls, adorned with photos of Fort Lauderdale and the Yankee Clipper from the '50s and '60s, create a chic coastal vibe. The Florida Bar, an existing wraparound bar with ocean views, has been upgraded as part of the hotel's expanded lobby.
Pagano says he thought of every palate when designing the menus for the Naked Crab — an all-day establishment that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He describes the fare as a mashup of modern and classic dishes. Think lobster rolls topped with crumbled potato, and eggs and bacon served with caviar and butter-slathered toast.
"The whole Naked concept is about stripping everything down. It's a stripped-down but also dressed-up crab and seafood and steak house where I cook impeccably sourced fish," Pagano says. "The only thing I need to dress up some crab is a pad of butter and a splash of lemon to make it delicious. That's pretty much nirvana to me. I could live my whole life eating hot fresh crab and cold beer."
The all-day menu is divided into a variety of sections, including starters such as that bacon, eggs, and toast, served with osetra caviar and crispy pork belly confit ($31), and chilled plates such as salads and poke bowls ($12 to $16). Seaside classics include an $18 lobster roll, while pasta dishes rife with seafood include a traditional linguine with red or white clam sauce ($21).
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Billed as a seafood house first, the restaurant presents guests with a fish scorecard listing the day’s fresh fish, oysters, clams, lobster, and daily crab specials. If the raw bar doesn't do it for you, try the "crabster," Pagano’s take on a seafood turduken: two pounds of Dutch Harbor (think Deadliest Catch) red king crab stuffed with shrimp, more crab, and lobster. Priced at $100, the whole creation is meant to be dipped in butter and serves up to three people.
The "Landlubbers" section lists options such as filet mignon ($24) and a 32-ounce porterhouse ($79). If you can't decide between surf or turf, forgo the usual seafood tower (there's also one of those) for the Ménage a Trois ($59), which lets you try filet mignon with crab-stuffed shrimp and garlic shrimp, while the Steak & Stinger ($59) pairs a 16-ounce rib-eye steak with snow crab. The Key Party ($59) includes one pound of large Florida stone crab claws and blackened snapper topped with crab and cracked conch.
Naked Crab will also provide a good amount of tableside service, Pagano says, via rolling racks that serve everything from whole fish filleted at the table to fresh-shucked oysters and flaming coffee or bananas Foster for dessert.
"I just love this space, and with the view of an Atlantic Ocean, it seemed pretty much like a no-brainer to me to expand into Fort Lauderdale," Pagano says. "The Yankee Clipper, in its day, was the spot to be here in Fort Lauderdale. Now I can say it's been restored to its grandeur, but also way beyond what that grandeur used to be."