TERRY’S PICKY PALATE / Sumptuous seafood and superb water views at One Duval at the Pier House Resort

It’s not often that I get invited to dine at hotels. They’re normally the preserve of tourists to our island. Yet, I’ve always felt that the Pier House Resort & Spa was different, given its history as a meeting place for many legendary Key Westers, and launching pad for Jimmy Buffett’s career in its Chart Room Bar.
Yet, I’ve often enjoyed spending time at the Chart Room – as well as the resort’s other watering hole, the Beach Bar, with its delightful breezes and glorious view of the Gulf of Mexico.
But the crown jewel of the Pier House is an elegant restaurant called One Duval, after the hotel’s street address. This surprisingly local-friendly eatery not only shares the aforementioned view of the Gulf (both inside and on the patio) but offers top-notch steaks, local seafood, and other organic and farm-raised fare–all prepared with love by Executive Chef Maria Manso and her team.
Recently, I got to sample several menu items, including the Tuna Poke and Shrimp Tempura appetizers, as well as the Key West Yellowtail entree. All three were ambrosial, and arrived attractively garnished with a pink hibiscus flower.
The Poke is a relatively new item.
We won first prize in the Master Chef Classic for our tuna a couple of years ago,” Chef Manso said. “So I thought we ought to put a tuna dish on our menu.”
After just one bite I understood why. The ahi tuna salad was high-quality, perfectly complemented by avocado, nori, sesame seeds, ginger soy vinaigrette, wasabi mayo, and crispy wontons for dipping.
I tend to avoid fried foods, but One Duval’s Shrimp Tempura was irresistible. The Key West pink shrimps wrapped in a light and fluffy batter were meltingly delicious. Off-the-boat fresh, they were served with a marvelous ginger soy vinaigrette dipping sauce.
I was starting to get a little full at this point, but the sight and aroma of my main course were too tempting to forego it. The crispy-yet-flaky pan-seared yellowtail was served atop a scallion potato cake, sautéed garlic spinach, and a citrus reduction. I savored every bite.
The sweetness of the citrus and slight bitterness of the spinach works really well with fish,” Manso said. “This is one of our most popular entrees.”
My culinary adventure hadn’t yet ended. Before I left, the chef insisted I try a slice of house-made Key Lime Pie. I was knocked out by her take on this Key West classic; tangy and satisfying, and topped with crispy meringue.
If you’re a local and the food and view aren’t enough to entice you, visit the restaurant from 5 to 7 p.m. daily and enjoy a special two-course menu dinner, including a starter or desert, and an entree, for just $20. What a deal!
And what a meal. Come see for yourself!
One Duval is located at the rear of the Pier House, at the north end of Duval Street. Parking is available and credit cards are accepted.