No surprise: Fish is what shines at the Fish House. The daily catch is brought in fresh and filleted in the kitchen. From the sweet mild flavor of hogfish to moist Cobia and full-flavored Wahoo, the focus is all about the bounty of local waters.
It’s Saturday night when we visit, and it’s busy. Waiters and waitresses in matching Hawaiian shirts are running around frantic, slinging margaritas and pina coladas, delivering trays of steaming fish and shrimp, stone crab claws, and conch chowder. Our waitress lets us know that the Grouper and Yellowtail snapper are the specials of the day, then leaves us to peruse the menu, which is full to the brim with delicious dishes.
Fish is available fried, blackened, grilled, broiled and dusted with paprika, or Jamaican-jerk style. Other preparations include pan sautéed with butter, lemon, and sherry and Hemingway-style, with white wine, garlic, and basil cream sauce.
Named after a neighborhood within the village of Islamorada just 20 miles south of The Fish House, Matecumbe style is the house favorite: Your fish of choice is topped with fresh tomatoes, shallots, and basil mixed with capers, olive oil, and lemon juice, then baked. We get Yellowtail, which is light and flaky, capers offsetting the sweetness of tomatoes. There’s nothing fancy here. It is good, simple fish, prepared well.
Drunken shrimp are all over the place with white wine, garlic, tequila, and butter, hot sauce, and cilantro. Simpler would be better.
Conch fritters (pronounced conk) are like crunchy hushpuppies with a faint taste of conch and heavy breading, served with a bright cocktail sauce and sliver of lemon.
Key lime pie is traditional, plus a meringue topping. The Key lime flavor is mild, and the lightly-salted Graham cracker crust stays intact.
The vibe is busy and festive, with tropical-themed lights strung all the way across the room. Each kitschy frame on the wall is slightly off kilter, but no on really cares. They’re here to relax, have a drink, and enjoy the day’s fresh catch.