Posted by Claiborne Young | Posted on 03-11-2011
There is something pleasingly ironic that worthy sushi is hard to find in Florida and in particular the Keys, so when Heidi Garbo, my favorite foodie informant in Key West and proprietor of Garbo’s Grill, told me there is superlative sushi here, she got my attention.
It’s a good thing I trust Heidi, because there is no way I would have spent good cold cash on sushi in a restaurant named Ambrosia that is on the site of a hotel named Santa Maria, and has a modernist sleek interior architecture that is the antithesis of Conch. In fact, I nearly turned around when I saw the front door, and nearly left when I passed the glass-looking-like-waterfall room dividers and followed the blond-haired waitress with an East European accent to our table.
We ordered sushi despite the menu offering several items I remember well from Japan and don’t often see on menus in the states. Salmon skin roll, a vegefuto roll (a scaled back futomaki), and the Ambrosia sushi for one. It was more than enough. The miso soup that quickly arrived at our tables was special. Beautiful broth, not too salty, sweet flavor of miso really there — not just salty water with a fat globule. Shitake mushroom slices… excellent quality tofu… I’m already a happy girl. Auspicious beginning to what turned out to be some of the finest sushi either of us has had.
The Ambrosia Sushi assortment on the menu at first glance looks pricey for $40, but if you look at how many pieces of sushi it includes, it’s actually almost a bargain. It’s plenty for two people to share if you can get past feeling like a cheep skate and doing the share. The salmon skin roll had perfectly crisped and crunchy salmon skin — fresh and perfect. This is a roll that is only good when it’s great, so I view it as a sushi test. The vegefuto was an excellent contrast to the salmon skin, slightly sweet pickled vegetable and small enough to make it more manageable than a futomaki, one of my personal favorite sushi rolls. We were so impressed we came back for lunch and focused on a few special rolls.
So much for judging a restaurant by its name, hotel ambiance and architecture. Extra bonus is that just down the street is the southern most point of the United States. You can stand on the sidewalk and if there’s a fresh breeze (that’s sailor speak for big uncomfortable wind) blowing, watch the waves splash over the retaining wall.
It’s a little over a mile’s walk to Ambrosia from the Key West Bight Marinas or you can take the Green bus on Caroline Street there and the Blue bus back. If you like sushi and Japanese food, this is a great excuse to see this part of Key West. Ambrosia is located at 1401 Simonton Street; they offer lunch from 11:30 to 2, Monday through Friday, including bento box and other lunch specials. They serve Dinner seven days a week from 6 to 10. From the action we saw on Saturday night, we recommend reservations on weekends. Wish I could tell you about the miso cod or the various home made dumplings — it’s just that we had a hankering for the rolls when we went back. If someone reading this review samples some of the other items on the menu, please post and share your experience.
S/V Lady Jane