By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
It doesn't offer suggestions on where to go once you've become stressed out by the cuisine. Seafood cocktail, a flat plate spread with a pile of mushy and spongy (apropos, perhaps, as Key West was a sponging haven) seafood substance (calamari, shrimp and whitefish, according to the menu), was drenched in cocktail sauce and deposited on a bed of shredded red cabbage. Key West shrimp and conch fritters were lightly battered, misshapen sponges that, while relatively greaseless, held little if any shrimp or conch flecks.
Prospects brighten when you leave the Keys and slip into Texas (though steer clear of the margaritas). Chicken tortilla soup was hearty and thick with a robust tangle of chicken shreds infused with a pronounced lime tang. But traditional Texas brawn falters like the seafood. The pork chops were dry, chewy and bitter from an acute grill torching.
Florida surf n' turf was supposed to contain a "melt-in-your-mouth" top sirloin. "Bounce in the mouth" is more accurate, as ours had the resilience and mouth feel of weather stripping. The steak was puffy with a deep blood-red center and tough and stringy demeanor, though it did bleed a considerable amount of juice. A pitched pile of thin onion rings, flaccid hoops sopped with grease, somehow allowed some of the onion sweetness to peek through. Shrimp were firm and juicy but sweated still more soap.
Working in this grill's favor is price, with most of the entrées hanging well below $20. But like the Ritz, Florida is in dire need of liberation. Perhaps someone should stock the pantry with a bevy of Cheval Blanc and let Ernest handle the rest.