I was visiting a friend in Fort Lauderdale and went along for a "tasting" at Candela Restaurant in the Wilton Manors county (not a true tasting per se, but rather trying several dishes to get an idea of what they were about). Candela is a little off the main street and in a somewhat sketchy-looking area. It's located in a small strip mall (yeah, I know what you're thinking... because we were skeptical at first glance).
Upon entering the restuarant, the cozy size and open-style kitchen gives it a warm, friendly feel. The owner/chef Armando is a gregarious guy who welcomes you to his place as thought it was his own home kitchen. The decor is the kind you'd find in a taverna in an island country - but not tacky. The tables are neatly set and there's a counter you can sit at if dining alone.
The menu declares it to be "contemporary Cuban cuisine". Chef Armando infuses his Cuban and Spanish cooking backround to create some very delightful dishes for us.... 6 of them to be exact!
- Steamed Maine Mussels in an aromatic jus served with crostinis (although I don't eat mussels, I did partake in the aromatic jus and sopped it up with the crostini)
- Fried Yucca sticks (so crispy on the outside while fluffy on the inside) served with homemade aioli, red pepper and jalpeno dipping sauces
- Pan-seared Rainbow Trout with roasted garlic and herbs (a dish so sumptuous that it was demolished in minutes!)
- Crab-stuffed Roasted Red Peppers in a silky tomatoe & saffron sauce (sooo silky was that sauce that I almost forgot about the red peppers!)
- Vaca Frita (shredded fried beef) that was delectable and perfectly seasoned that we wanted more (even though we were already on course 5!)
- Crispy Pork Tenderloin that was so tender we could cut it with a butter knife!
We thoroughly enjoyed our "tasting". Throughout the meal, we could see into the kitchen where Chef Armando worked his magic into these simple yet tasty dishes. We liked the open kitchen concept as it gave us a view to his cooking skills & techniques, his strong commitment to cleanliness, and a chance to chat with him.
He said his goal is to give the best quality food at an affordable price, but not cut corners. His prices range from $6-$15, but many could easily be $20+. He is a stickler for taste and seasons his dishes just right without over garnishing or over-plating.
A lovely place for breakfast, lunch or dinner... or even take out... plus he's open to customizing your dish to your taste (or daily craving) as well...
Next time I'm in Fort Lauderdale, I know I'll be back for more of Chef Armando's cooking... what a great find!