Sunset Key Latitudes Restaurant Review – Flair for Freshness and Finishing Touches

 

If you harbor a stereotype that hotel food usually isn’t that great, Sunset Key’s Latitudes Restaurant demands that you leave that assumption at the door. 

 

 

Or, more accurately, leave it at the pier as you board the quick ferry ride to Sunset Key Island from a centrally-located Key West dock.  It’s a quick ride and sometimes skirting between behemoth cruise ships, but long enough to perk you with excitement for the meal to come.

 

 

“Exciting” is a good way to describe what Latitudes’ Chef Todd Holender brings to your table.    You will likely taste ingredients that you have never had before.  You will definitely savor innovative combinations that compel you to linger with every mouthful.  Fresh, flavorful gourmet food –especially seafood--does not come any better than this.

 

 

Our first dish, a sausage of lobster and grouper had a pate texture and the appearance of a sausage casing that was actually created simply by compression.  A rich and fresh lobster taste predominated, with the tartness of the vinaigrette salad pairing well with it.  It not only appetized; it astonished.

 

 

It was the spectacular accents in the second dish--a fried green tomato with a cheese topping--that totally commands your attention to the culinary adventure Chef Holender is bringing to your table.  How perfect were the black caviar morsels and where can we get this powerful German thyme used sparingly but with explosive power?  It was the cream cheese-like texture of the cheese topping that paired so well with the slight tartness of the tomato that again, made us want to savor our sampling bites ever so slowly in pure delight.

 

 

You’ll see signs for conch fritters throughout the Keys, but these are similar more in name than any way else.  Yes, the conch itself had a chewiness that is inherent in the dish, but it was the heat of the chutney aftertaste warming the palate that made this such a standout.

 

 

As if to remind just how fresh the seafood at Latitudes is, the seafood salad course was relatively simply dressed with olive oil and lemon. 

 

 

Again with the beef carpaccio it was the small touches that made it unique and tasty.  Fried capers? Yes!—and paired with parmesan, arugula and garlic aioli.  This was an extraordinarily thin piece of meat but so rich in flavor that you felt as though you had a full beef course.  While the meat dissolves in your mouth the crunchiness of the sesame cracker brings in a nice nutlike contrasting flavor.

 

 

When you first bite the scallop dish that is newly being added to the menu your first taste sensation is smoke from the tomato sauce.  Here again the fresh taste of the seafood breaks through with the seeming Latitudes signature of fresh herbs on top combining to give the entire dish a soothing and comforting feel.

 

 

Imagine a duck breast without any fatty taste with mango and pomegranate accents that still let duck be the predominant flavor. 

 

 

With the poached grouper dish the first taste to hit your palate is the lemon sauce with an echo from the lime in the avocado puree.  This was so lightly poached that it seemed to be a ceviche.  There is nothing guacamole about this avocado puree. Perhaps it will make you too imagine that there might be infinite ways to make good use of avocado that you have yet to explore. 

 

 

The attention to detail by Latitudes strikes you when you pick up your warmed knife handle that seems to be at that perfect baby bottle temperature to cut your soft beef skirt steak.  The goat cheese accompaniment is rich and mild enough to let the beef define the top taste in your palate.  This is extraordinarily tender meat, almost but not quite enough of a lure away from the many seafood dishes on the menu, each better than the last.

 

 

And the top choice dish was the last entrée sampling—a poached lobster.  We had never tasted lobster as sweet.  The counterpoints of green taste from the snow pea puree and the crunch of the carrot for texture were simply perfect.  If you like lobster definitely make this your top order.

 

 

Room for dessert?  Not really, even though we were limiting ourselves to one or two forkfuls of each dish on this sampling menu.  The beignets overcame this in an instant and we absolutely finished them—how could we not!  New Orleans step aside—these are airy with an explosion of cinnamon that make for an extraordinary ending to an extraordinary meal. 

 

 

Latitudes is THE special occasion restaurant to head for in the Keys. 

 

 

Lucky for Sunset Key that Chef Holender likes to fish in the Keys’ waters.   When he is not creating this food adventures he is catching sharks, dolphins, mahi mahi, tuna and more on his boat.  Keep fishing—keep cooking!

 

Holender has been the master chef in many resorts--- from Alaska, to Maine, and many places in between. 

 

 

Apparently thriving by the challenge, Holender commented, “This is like being a chef for an entire city because this resort is a destination spot for people of all types….It’s a challenge in Key West sometimes to get the best ingredients because we are so far from the mainland.. but even if we need to get some things fedexed in we get them.” 

 

 

Holender is an artist of the first order.  If you go to the Keys, treat yourself to a dinner at one of his tables.

 

 

Latitudes

 

Check in and Boat Launch to Sunset Key: 245 Front Street, Key West, Florida

 

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

 

For toll-free reservations:  US 888 477 7786. 

 

-30- Photos:  Peter Kachergis unless otherwise indicated

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