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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Welcome to El Vez, James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Stephen Starr’s newest addition inside the W Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

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This is Starr’s 3rd El Vez. The first opened in Philadelphia followed by New York and now South Florida.

Executive Chef Steven Menter, who opened El Vez in New York, explains the name.

“El Vez is an Elvis impersonator from Mexico named Robert Lopez. That’s who it’s named after,” said Menter.

The restaurant has an electric vibe with whimsical and decorative elements thrown in such as the beer can wall art installation and all the artwork is designed by local artist David Lavernia.

For Chef Steven, the challenge in this location is to stand out to bring locals into a hotel restaurant.

“We’ve got to be one of the better restaurants in Broward County to get non-tourists over here.  It’s the challenge and that’s the goal to get people over here to see us on the beach as well,” Chef said.

The cuisine is Mexican with a modern edge.

“In general, it’s less about what the food has to be, and more about bringing out all sorts of ingredients. I think that what I and the chef team try to focus on, capturing the essence of Mexican cuisine,” Chef Steve explained.

First on CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo’s tasting menu is Tacos Al Carbon, which is a traditional “build your own tacos” with flat iron steak, shrimp peppers, onions, queso fresco, guacamole, crema, salsa & warm flour tortillas.

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“The texture is perfect with the meat and vegetables and there’s a kick of spice,” she said.

“I think it’s a great dish to share, drink margaritas and eat Tacos Al Carbon. You get a nice size portion,” Menter said.

Next, seafood Tostadas with ceviche, shrimp and poached lobster and of course the specials sauces.

“Heaven on a cracker Mexican style, that what I say about that!” said Petrillo.

The classic guacamole is classically delicious.

“You should be tasting lemon. They’ve been candied and fried and then we added Meyer lemon juice and a lot of herbs,” said Menter.

“Love it,” said Petrillo.

They end on a Mexican ice cream sundae.

It’s Mexican vanilla bean ice cream, chili chocolate brownie pieces, crunchy peanuts, and cream.

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El Vez is open 7 days a week for breakfast rich and dinner. For more info: https://elvezftlauderdale.com

Lisa Petrillo