If there is one place that is considered Key West’s top fine dining experience, it would definitely be Latitudes Restaurant. As a special treat, my parents offered me and the chef dinner there to celebrate our move to America and show us the best of Key West. While the dinner and view were absolutely amazing, there’s more to the story than that…
The location of the restaurant is plain and simply TO DIE FOR. Located on a tiny island just off of Key West, it shares the land with the Westin’s luxury Sunset Key Cottages. You have an amazing view of Key West from the docks and the most perfect place to see the sun set. (More on that later, though.) The restaurant itself is tastefully decorated, but honestly I didn’t give too much thought to that since we ate outside. Their outdoor dining area features white tablecloths, palm trees and sand. When you imagine a romantic dinner on the beach: this is it! Honestly, there’s just not enough I can say about the ambiance-it really is exceptional.
After a short 5 minute boat ride, we docked up and headed straight to you know where: the bar. Before the appetizer, an integral part of any meal is always a little aperitivo. While perusing the menu, I was instantly a bit disappointed that the cocktail menu was very standard. They did however have a Key Lime Martini, which sounded right up my alley. The texture was super thick and there was only the faintest hint of acidity from the limes. It didn’t work well as a before dinner drink for those reasons, but it might have been decent as an after dinner drink/light dessert. Between the martini and the Pirate’s Punch from Captain Tony’s before we left the mainland, I was pretty loose-y goose-y.
Now on to the big guns: the meal! Latitudes has a refined menu that offers light, upscale island-inspired fare. While there is absolutely nothing groundbreaking, you can certainly expect an excellent meal. (And for the price, that’s what you should get!) For an appetizer, I ordered the Chilled Seafood Salad. This is basically one of my favorite Italian standards: insalata di mare. And this plate didn’t stray far from tradition. Calamari, shrimp, and octopus mingled with olives, a light dressing and a frisee-fennel salad. Unfortunately, I felt that the seafood overall was missing the correct seasoning to make it come alive and the frisee salad tasted like it was dressed with water, not oil. For 18 dollars, I was incredibly disappointed, especially since any decent restaurant in Italy would have a better version of the dish for a fraction of the price. I also got to try the tuna tartare, which I would have preferred. The flavors were more pronounced and overall it just seemed to work better than an insipid seafood salad.
Moving on to the main dishes, I ordered the Yellowtail Snapper. Dusted with cumin and coriander, the snapper was served with chive risotto and a corn veloute. I believe it was the shisito peppers and jicama lime salsa that really convinced me though. To be honest, the fish was cooked excellently and seasoned well, even though by the time it arrived to the table it was merely warm and not hot. The jicama salsa lit the plate up a bit, but the risotto really got me. In a bad way. (I will have to do an entire post about risotto and what it is not since American chefs seem to have a hard time preparing it correctly.) Overall, I was left neither contented nor disappointed with the dish. Others enjoyed their meals but we didn’t really discuss them as in-depth as we normally do. The reason shall follow shortly. Bear with me.
At a fine-dining restaurant the service should be excellent, and I must admit that Latitudes does have good service. Our waiter was very patient and knowingly answered all of our questions. He was also very nice, without being too intrusive or nosy. During our meal, we sipped a decent bottle of Lange Pinot Gris. One thing that really gets my goat is when they serve wine long before your appetizer arrives, especially when it is so hot out. Is that just me or does anyone else feel that way too? I wish they would simply ask. Anywho, that and a young busboy who didn’t quite understand our requests for more bread were the only major snafus.
During our meal, we were in perfect alignment to witness a spectacular sunset. Unfortunately, we were also in perfect alignment to sweat like pigs whilst eating dinner. Truth be told, I was barely holding it together while our entrees were on the table. Sweat dripping down my forehead, sun in my eyes and a lukewarm fish dish, things were getting to be too much to handle. Thankfully I found a nice pair of Burberry sunnies in the bathroom which helped a bit. (Hehehe.) I feel like an excellent waiter may have noticed my discomfort and would have offered for us to change tables. I was dabbing myself with a cool cloth and generally being a bit dramatic, so it wasn’t too hard to notice. I would have held out for dessert and the sunset, but it was honestly just too much for me (and the rest of the table.)
The dinner was all fine and good. It was sad that we were almost forced to leave, since the dining conditions were extreme. Especially for the price we paid. Just imagine before-dinner drinks, wine, appetizers at 18 dollars, entrees all upwards of 36 dollars…all times four. Oh, and a tip. But the worst was yet to come.
Bedded down comfortable at Simonton Court, I laid my head to rest. That is, until about 5 a.m. when I was awaken with strong stomach cramps and terrible nausea. From there on in, I doubt I must elaborate. The entire morning was spent either very close to the loo or trying to sleep it off. Yes, I got food poising at Latitudes!!! Interestingly enough, my mom called the establishment later on in the day to report this and they seemed as if they did not care. Sorry, but sorry doesn’t give me the rest of a family vacation back. (And I’m sure anyone who has had food poisoning on vacation can agree with me!) I got it together to visit the Hemingway House the next day, but stomach pains plagued me for the rest of the vacation and then some.
I feel like our experience at Latitudes may have been a bit out of the ordinary. (At least I hope it was!) The food is good, that is for sure. The service is very professional and the view is just out of this world. The whole taking a boat to the private island thing is pretty cool too. Will I be back? No, never. If you’re looking to impress (or maybe propose to someone), this is definitely the place. Next time, I’ll stay on the mainland and eat my conch fritters and drink my Hogarita.