There are very few restaurants here that conjure up the image of fine dining, professional service and great food all at once. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good places here – those with great food, wonderful atmosphere and more, but the Marquesa is special. We went to Cafe Marquesa for Florida Keys Guy’s birthday. After not having been there in almost a year, we were delighted to have rediscovered this gem.

It’s not for any reason we haven’t been there. We have been going to Cafe Marquesa for over ten years, we just hadn’t gone in a while. We won’t be making that mistake again.

The lovely dining room, with crisp white tablecloths and tromp l’oiel painting outside the kitchen, is welcoming and comfortable. The service is friendly and professional. The real star of the show here is the food. In addition to the regular menu, they have a “smaller plates” menu which has, as the name implies,  smaller, less expensive versions of several appetizers and entrees.

I ordered the goat cheese stuffed pepperdews, which were three little peppers stuffed with warm goat cheese atop a lovely salad. For dinner, we had the vegetarian feast. This was no misnomer: pear and cheese stuffed pasta purses alongside truffled risotto, wonderful caponata and a mass of perfectly grilled vegetables – everything from eggplant to endive.

We also had the almond and coconut crusted mahimahi served over spicy udon noodles. The fish was not at all lost in the crust. It was delicious. The noodles were spicy, but not overly so, and full of flavor. I am already looking forward to my return trip just so I can eat more noodles, and pasta purses.

If you haven;t been there, I highly recommend you give it a shot. Cafe Marquesa is in the Marquesa hotel, on the corner of Simonton and Fleming Streets and is open for dinner nightly.

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