TERRY’S PICKY PALATE / A gourmet feast at the Hot Tin Roof

BY TERRY SCHMIDA
Every so often I’m asked to review a restaurant of such high quality that narrowing down my order from its near perfect menu becomes a challenge in itself.
As anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of dining there knows, Hot Tin Roof, located on the second floor of the Ocean Key House, at 0 Duval St., is one such eatery.
Upon my arrival I was greeted by General Manager Mark Englehart, who gave me a quick tour of the inviting dining room and balcony before sitting me down for one of the more memorable meals I’ve had in Key West.
Taking up the challenge of selecting from the dazzling menu, I decided to start with the Crispy Pork Belly appetizer. This dish, with its Asian flavor, is a something of a departure from the Latin-inspired menu, courtesy of Executive Chef Scott Mauer.
To wit: The delicious pork belly morsels were served on a bed of spicy cabbage kimchi. Space limitations prohibit me from describing the process that goes into the creation of this superb appetizer, but believe me when I tell you it was the tastiest pork belly dish I’ve had in this town. Crispy, spicy, and extremely flavorful–a veritable cornucopia of interesting tastes!
My main course was the Pan Roasted Grouper, served with chorizo sausage, corn, carrots, Thai pepper, poblano peppers, and coconut. Here, Latin met Asian at a party where the locally-caught black grouper was the guest of honor. And what a bash it was!
The sauce and accompaniments were fabulous, but didn’t overwhelm the taste of the fish, which was suitably crispy on the outside, yet tender and flaky inside. I mopped up the sauce with bread, and loved every bite.
It’s one of our best sellers,” Chef Mauer said. “We use black grouper, because it comes in a nice, big filet, with an excellent flake. It’s as sweet as can be.”
Dessert isn’t always on the menu in this job, but I simply couldn’t resist trying the Cuban Coffee Creme Brulee. I’ve been privileged to try Creme Brulee all over Key West; this one is about as good as it gets.
Everyone down here drinks Cuban coffee, so I thought it would be cool to put this one the menu,” Mauer said. “And it’s turned out to be a real hit with our customers.”
With that, I stepped out into the night, my appetite sated, but with curiosity and eagerness to sample the rest of the menu.
Picking from offerings this good is tough. But deciding to eat at Hot Tin Roof is a no-brainer. Book a table today, and experience your own menu quandary. (Just don’t forget to order that Creme Brulee for dessert!)
Hot Tin Roof serves breakfast from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sunday brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dinner is served from 6 to 10 p.m. daily. All credit cards are accepted. Parking is available at the Ocean Key House.
For reservations, or more information, call 305-296-7701, or visit http://www.oceankey.com/