Spencer’s By The Sea, Key West

Chef Orr came out to make sure it was all superb.
Chef Orr came out to make sure it was all superb.

When I learned The Strip House, in The Reach Resort, was closing, I was disappointed, but not surprised. On each visit, the expansive dining room was mostly empty, except for the nude women decorating the walls. Even they looked bored. 

I was eager to see the next incarnation of this large space, but approached it with a bit of

Sushi platter was an unexpected delight.
Sushi platter was an unexpected delight.

apprehension, as I knew it was unlikely I would still find the amazing twice baked potato. I was right. There was no twice baked potato on the menu, but the overhaul of the restaurant seems positive.

Gone are the nudes, replaced with relaxing landscapes and warm beach scenes. This is, after all a hotel restaurant that overlooks the beach. The outside patio is set up the same way, only this year on July 4th, it was packed. We’ve had the same table, overlooking the beach and fireworks, each year for the past five or six, and the views are spectacular. We are so close to the fireworks, if the wind is blowing in the right direction, we find ashes on our table.

MId-meal entertainment.
MId-meal entertainment.

I did not notice a familiar face in the crowd, though, as it seems most of the host, management and wait staff is new. The chef, Brendan Orr, is still there and making sure everything is perfect. We started with two orders of the sushi plate for our table of six. Each dish came with a spicy tuna hand roll, tuna tataki and hamachi crudo. Fresh, simple and elegant, and we were fighting over the last bites of spicy tuna hand roll. The chef sent out a couple of orders of the beef carpaccio, served with an arugula salad, too. Although I

Mac and cheese is always a good idea.
Mac and cheese is always a good idea.

am not usually a raw meat kind of gal, this one was tender and tasty.

As we were finishing our apps, the fireworks at Casa Marina, next door, began. We had an excellent table and saw the show through the palm trees. It was so typically Florida. Just as the fireworks were ending our entrees were served. At the table were two “fish of the

Perfect.
Perfect.

day”, a red snapper in a coconut curry. Delicious. Two others had the short ribs served over five cheese macaroni with a Cabernet sauce. Although the short ribs were good, and the mac and cheese delicious, I preferred the other two dishes. I had the filet with a blue cheese crust, cooked to a perfect medium rare. I love steak, and this was no exception.

I was not confident that my friends with the short ribs would share, so we ordered an extra side of mac and cheese for the table, because, really, you cannot possibly have too much. Creamy, luscious and artery clogging, this was a very good version of a classic. We also had an order of loaded hash browns, but I am sticking with the fact that no potato dish will be as good as the twice baked potato. Oh well. I will remember it fondly. My waistline, however, will be delighted never to see it again.

Along with all of the delectable foods, we had fabulous wines. We brought with us a 2012 Chateau

Catch of the day, snapper curry.
Catch of the day, snapper curry.

Latour Martillac blanc, 2001 Don Melchor and 2008 Neal Cabernet Sauvignon in a magnum. (Come on, did you really expect anything less than super sized?)

I believe I may have uttered something along the lines of “I’ve eaten mac and cheese and a giant steak and the fireworks are over…. Must. Go. Home. Now.” just as the chef sent out two different desserts. The first, a rich, dark, creamy chocolate cake served with whipped cream. One of my big pet peeves in life is fake whipped cream, or whipped topping. It is a travesty and should not exist in the world. This, however, was the real deal. Just to be sure, I may have checked both plates several times. We also had a cheesecake with a caramel topping. Yum, yum, yum… but no whipped cream with that one.

Short rib over mac and cheese.
Short rib over mac and cheese.

Overall, the meal was wonderful, the company always spectacular and it is good to see that they are finally marketing this wonderful space. I am looking forward to my next visit.

Spencer’s By The Sea is located in The Reach Resort and is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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