If you look at lists of the top restaurants in the Florida Keys, Chef Michael’s always comes out near the top. Their sign features the hogfish, a local mild-tasting fish that can be prepared any number of ways. And they do.
Despite the unprepossessing façade, Chef Michael’s is a fine restaurant with excellent food and a knowledgeable staff. Since our hotel was close by, we walked over about 5:45 only to find the place already very busy. They were able to get us one table, but take our advice, and make a reservation. People come from all over the Keys to eat there.
Their menu includes seafood as well as meat and poultry. Interestingly, while the actual fish they serve change daily, they offer the same preparations:
- Pontchartrain – lightly blackened then topped with crawfish & shrimp in a piquant Creole cream
- Ambassador —sautéed w/ crabmeat, shiitake’s, capers & key lime butter
- Adriatic — grilled, then napped w/ our olive oil & herb concoction
- Juliette — seared w/ shrimp, scallops, chardonnay butter & toasted almonds
- Mixed Nuts —pistachio, cashew & macadamiacrusted, served w/ our “nearly famous” mango sauce
as well as Grilled, Sauteed, Fried or Blackened.
For appetizers, we chose the Conch and Crawfish Fritters and the Bahamian Conch Chowder. The chowder was rich, spicy and filling, but we ate every bit. The conch fritters were excellent: mildly spicy and crispy and a remoulade dipping sauce.
Since hogfish was on the menu that night, we ordered Hogfish Pontchartrain, and while it looked at first like a small portion, it was incredibly delicious and very filling, especially with the crawfish and shrimp on top. The Creole cream went well with the fish and with the accompanying rice.
We also ordered the Seafood Pasta, Shrimp, Scallops & Lobster, Oven Roasted Tomato & Basil Cream, which was a huge portion that might feed two or three people. But every bit of it was delightful, and way above what you normally get in seafood pasta dishes.
Chef Michael’s is the kind of place where the waiters are really knowledgeable and happy to help you choose your food and wine. Our waiter also made it a point to stop by several times to make sure that we were pleased with everything. We were.
We have to admit we skipped desserts, but they appear to be house-made, and the Salted Caramel Cheesecake Brûlée and the Chocolate Toffee Mousse Cake both sounded terrific.
Chef Michael’s is not to be missed if you are visiting Islamorada, or the Keys in general.