Little Palm Island

Little Palm Island is the place people dream of when they picture the idyllic Florida Keys. Secluded and three miles off the coast, Little Palm Island is only accessible by boat. We arrived at the ferry parking lot and were greeted warmly by the attendant. After about three minutes we were escorted to the boat with four other people, all of whom appeared to be spending one or more nights (the suitcases gave them away.)

We arrived at Little Palm Island and pulled in right next to some rather impressive yachts (they looked a bit like small cruise ships). We were greeted at the dock by the restaurant hostess, who immediately wished my parents a happy anniversary and escorted us to the restaurant. We were offered a table on the beach, but as we are local, were warned that it may be a little chilly. It was about 70 degrees, but breezy, and I was freezing. That did not deter us, however, and we went on to enjoy our meal on the beach.

While settling in and perusing the menu, a little key deer happened by our table. Charming? Absolutely. We started with a bottle of 2008 Sandrone Dolcetto d’Alba, which at $65 was a bargain on their list. The appetizer course consisted of broccoli and cheese soup, island Cesar salads and mahi mahi ceviche. I always think broccoli cheese soup was invented so it could sound like you were eating something really healthy, but in reality it is terrible for you. This was a perfectly creamy soup and the perfect warmer on a cold (by South Florida standards) night.

The Caesar salads have “chimichurri tomatoes” which were marinated and perfectly delicious. The salad was topped with cheese and tostones croutons. Yum and yum. The ceviche was loaded with lime and accented by coconut flavors. Delicious.

Next came the over-the-top entrees. We had rack of lamb with a brandy peppercorn sauce, a 12 ounce ribeye topped with blue cheese gratin, and a grouper filet topped with chimichurri. All were cooked perfectly. The rack of lamb was just beautiful, although the sauce was not at all needed, and was a tad salty. The ribeye was also cooked exactly as ordered and delicious. The grouper was a huge filet of fresh fish and the chimichurri was a perfect accompaniment. Overall the entrees were a huge hit, and I mean huge. They are big portions, but for the price (approximately $55 each) they should be. We also ordered some totally unnecessary side dishes: asparagus gratin with parmesan cheese and papas bravas with a spicy aioli. Both were very well prepared and a good addition to the meal.

With our entrees we had a bottle of 1997 Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, which we brought ($40 corkage fee).

By the time we finished all of that, there was no chance anyone was eating dessert. Our waitress, who was awesome throughout the meal, did not accept that. So she brought us, on the house, their version of tiramisu, complete with little chocolate medallion that said “Happy Anniversary”. I really didn’t want to eat dessert, as I had plenty already, but I could not resist the little gelatin cubes: coffee flavored and coconut flavored. It was a good textural element. The main part of the dessert was less tiramisu and more chocolate mousse with a little coffee soaked ladyfinger in the middle, and it was delicious. It would have been a perfect way to end the meal if our waitress had not then brought out little oatmeal cookies.

Little Palm Island is outrageously expensive (dinner for 4, over $400) and well off the beaten path. Located at mile marker 28.5 you need a reservation to board the ferry. There are plenty of restaurants that are really expensive, but Little Palm Island is totally, 100% worthwhile. It was a wonderful dining experience in addition to having amazing food and service. Would I go back? In a heartbeat, but I am going to have to save up for a while first.

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