The baked scallops appetizer bathed in sherry cream and topped with streusel-textured parmesan bread crumbs was my first clue. But the Mediterranean Clay Pot Grouper cinched it.
The Kalamata olives. The capers. The whole cloves of mild, soft garlic. The plump mushrooms. The artichoke hearts and fingerling potatoes. The fennel-tinged roasted tomato sauce. The grouper! – so perfectly cooked to the very brink of doneness. It’s as if Executive Chef Patrick Fitz had peered into my deepest food fantasies when he created this elegant comfort food.
The grouper dish is unequivocally the star of the new, brilliant dinner menu that Chef Fitz introduced recently at the Normandie Seaside Café. Named for the famed French ocean liner, Normandie stands, in more ways than one, as the flagship restaurant at West Wind Inn, ‘Tween Waters Island Resort’s sister property on Sanibel Island.
The new chef comes to Normandie from the Blue Coyote Supper Club, an establishment renowned for its fine cuisine. He brings to this restaurant a flair for Italian and Mediterranean flavors, immediately recognizable in the fennel sprinkled through the new menu.
While I went for the new, my husband stayed with one he has long loved: crab-stuffed snapper with lobster cream sauce. It shines brighter now from Chef Fitz’s polish and magic. He has added his tweaks to many of the familiar favorite appetizers and entrees on the menu. The garlic mussels app, for instance, has evolved into a curry cream rendition. The pan-seared scallops entrée benefits from a tomato fennel sauce and chef’s evident know-how when it comes to cooking seafood to the proper degree.
Our scallops appetizer, another tweaked rendition, came with two gigantic scallops in a ramekin, baked to a lovely pink rareness. My husband didn’t exactly lick the bowl, but he did bread-sop up every last drop.
Besides the grouper dish, a beef tenderloin tips appetizer with caramelized onion, mushrooms, and brandy reduction; and a roasted half duck entrée glazed with raspberry and accompanied by sweet potato puree also make a first-time appearance on the menu.
Expect more signs of Chef Fitz’s accomplished meddling on Normandie’s breakfast and lunch menus. He has effectively elevated the legendary café to so much more than your typical hotel food.