Dining Out: Cafe de
Marco is a terrific spot for seafood diners
By JENINE OUILLETTE, Special to
June 17, 2005
Call it serendipity. Call it luck.
Call it area restaurants able to get their act together now that
our seasonal feeding frenzy is over. Whatever the reason, I've
been telling you about some very fine dining lately (if you
haven't been paying attention), and saving you a few dollars
with specials here and there!
That said, I must tell you about the lovely dinner my friend
and I enjoyed last week at the Café de Marco. I love the
restaurant's casually elegant ambiance and white tablecloth,
crystal and silverware setting of the main dining room and, of
course, the consistently excellent quality of the food. It's no
wonder the restaurant has been voted "best seafood" for six
consecutive years. I'm equally fond of the low-key, very
flattering lighting and surroundings conducive to friendly
conversation, as well as the attentive and professional service
of the experienced wait staff and especially our server, Scott.
May I also add that early dining here (5 to 5:45 p.m.) is
rewarded with a menu of nicely balanced (usually poultry, meat
or fish) selections called Twilight Specials? These dandy
dinners are also cooked to order and served with a garden salad
(choice of dressing), fresh vegetables, rice or potato, and
fresh baked rolls just like the Main Selections in the regular
menu. Speaking of regular, the Café's wine list is anything but.
It is spectacular, featuring the best vintages (by the glass or
bottle) from American and international vineyards.
Speaking of food, I just love saving money on main courses
(like my scrumptious tilapia Twilight Special) so I can splurge
on starters such as our delectable Maryland blue lump crabcakes
and divine oysters Rockefeller and Oscar combo! The two plump
crab cakes were just that — mostly all sweet blue crab meat
subtly seasoned and sautéed golden brown — perfectly paired with
piquant mustard sauce.
While the oysters Rockefeller were deliciously topped with
bacon, spinach, cheeses and a whiff of anisette, the oysters
oscar stole the show with a bountiful blanket of crab in gratin
sauce topped with seasoned crumbs and baked till bubbling —
simply superb! More tilapia tidbits: I just love experiencing
epiphanies, especially when they're food-related like my first
ever taste of that scrumptious sautéed tilapia fillet.
Reposing elegantly on an oval platter, the fillet was golden
brown, plump and glistening with buttery juices as it separated
seductively into opalescent flakes when pierced with my fork. My
last epiphany of note occurred when I inhaled the ambrosial
essence of Williams-Sonoma's Dish Soap with Essential Oils of
Pink Grapefruit. Go figure!
Suds aside, my guest's gorgeous grilled grouper topped with
succulent Nantucket Bay scallops swimming in divine, creamy wine
sauce with indescribable layers of flavor got thumbs up from
both of us. The dish, one of the evening's specials, was
perfectly paired with parsley potatoes and verdant florets of
broccoli — just lovely, we agreed. Among other stellar seafood
selections available that evening was the Café's signature
Shrimp Lenny, a fabulous melange of large shrimp stuffed with
surimi crab, wrapped with bacon and broiled till sizzling and
crowned with a golden coverlet of hollandaise — too wonderful
Although the restaurant's award-winning menu focuses on
seafood, the meat lover can feast on several equally stellar
selections such as chicken marsala, a 10-ounce grilled filet
mignon, a rack of lamb or the 12-ounce New York strip steak.
Incidentally, a petite version of this popular cut was one of
the featured selections of the Twilight Specials menu.
Vegetarians would delight in a beautiful blend of fresh
vegetables sautéed with meaty mushrooms, then simmered in a
white wine teriyaki sauce and served over rice or pasta called,
of course, Vegetarian Delight.
More than delightful was the section of the menu called
Finishing Touches that featured the Café's "homemade selection
of after-dinner delectables," and urged diners to "save room to
taste and enjoy." We were happy to take that advice seriously
and decided to bypass the signature Café Puff (big enough to
share) and splurge with two — cheesecake and chocolate cake —
decadently rich and delectably delicious. The dense and creamy
cheesecake slice was appropriately adored with raspberry sauce
and whipped cream rosettes, while every surface of triple layers
of chocolate cake was embellished with Valrhona bittersweet
chocolate and sour cream frosting. Both definitely to die for, —
Jenine C. Ouillette is a retired features editor of the
Key West Citizen and a former food writer and restaurant
reviewer for other publications in the Keys and mainland