The red doors you pass by as you enter Red Door Asian Bistro are off to the side and really there just for show – but it’s a helpful clue you’ve found the right place. In case you’re wondering if you’ve found the new Asian spot on Las Olas, a few more décor clues inside will help put your mind at ease.
A massive, 2,000-pound Buddha sits out front, while another one, ornately golden and many-headed, guards the front of the bar that runs almost the length of the east wall.
Large Buddha busts hang on the walls over the bar, interspersed with TVs that are on this day tuned to ESPN. Facing the bar is a series of standard tables and booths. You have to go around the corner of the L-shaped restaurant to find the seats-around-a-grill hibachi tables. They’re guarded from above by more golden statues perched on a high shelf and seemingly plucked from Chinese antiquity. So yeah, you’re not going to walk into co-owner and head chef Tony Liu’s new place under the mistaken impression it’s an Italian joint.
This is Liu’s second restaurant in South Florida; there’s another in Sunny Isles. He and his restaurateur partner have eight places in the Hamptons and around Long Island. It’s there where he gained a reputation, dating back a decade and a half, as an early adopter of Asian fusion cooking – the notion that customers might want, say, Thai green curry, sushi and Peking duck all on the same menu. Liu laughs when he remembers early reviews of what he was doing. “People thought I was crazy,” he says. “They called it ‘Asian confusion.’”
Years later, Liu’s restaurant count has just hit double digits, and he’s looking to Orlando next. Patrons don’t seem all that confused.
Liu sees it this way. Let’s say you’re having a big family night out. Grandma and Grandpa might want a nice, traditional dinner. Mom and Dad want fancy cocktails and something different. The kids want an entertaining show. Liu reckons he can offer all that – plus a bar stop-off for the Las Olas after-work crowd.
“I call it ‘one-stop,’” he says.
The menu’s a Lonely Planet tour of the Far East. There’s a dim sum section, a list of appetizers that includes a Malaysian pancake dish alongside the many sushi-based options, pad Thai alongside lo mein and a list of options for either hibachi or sushi. For several of the specialty sushi rolls, Liu’s gone local. You can get the Fort Lauderdale Lady (lobster tempura, asparagus, avocado and tobiko with soy paper), Las Olas Friday (shrimp tempura and spicy lobster topped with avocado and “colorful caviar”), Florida Sunshine (shrimp tempura with crunchy spicy tuna on top) or even a Miami Heat (tuna outside with spicy crunchy tuna inside). (Other local sports teams are not represented, although dishes called the “Florida Panther,” “Miami Marlin” etc. might give people the wrong idea.)
Red Door came to Fort Lauderdale in the way so many New Yorkers do – by other New Yorkers talking about Fort Lauderdale. “For a long time we’d wanted to come to Fort Lauderdale and finally there was a spot for us,” Liu says.
“A lot of clientele is from New York. When they taste the food, they know the food.
“I didn’t find this location, my customers found this location. They’re like, ‘Tony, let’s go to Florida, let’s go to Florida.’ I finally did. I want to keep the New Yorkers happy!”
The Dish: Tempura Fried Ice Cream
- Vanilla ice cream (or any other ice cream flavor you’d like) – about 2 scoops or about the size of a baseball
- 2 slices of pound cake – quarter inch slice thick
- Saran wrap
- Tempura batter (enough to fill a bowl)
- Whip cream
- Chocolate syrup
Get about two scoops of vanilla ice cream, about the size of a baseball. Then take two slices of pound cake and mold them around the ice cream till you have a large ball with ice cream in the middle and the pound cake on the outside. Then plastic wrap it and freeze it overnight. Once ready to prepare, take it out of the freezer and remove plastic wrap. Then dunk it into tempura batter so that it is completely covered in tempura. Then fry in a deep fryer at about 400 degrees for about a minute or so until it has a golden brown appearance. Remove and cut in half, add whip cream in the center and drizzle hot chocolate across the top-then enjoy!