Cafe Marquesa

Warm yellow/gold walls, accented by dark mahogany molding and large mahogany framed mirrors create an inviting atmosphere for Cafe Marquesa, an intimate 50 seat spot about two blocks from Duval. Add wide-paned windows with views to the street, shaded table lamps, crisp linens and you have the makings for a very romantic meal. The open kitchen adds a bit of theater and the buzz in the dining room tips you off that you are in for something special.

Start with a cocktail at the small six seat marble-topped bar and watch the evening unfold. Celia makes a killer dirty martini.

Susan Ferry’s cooking is creative and innovative. Some think it is the best in Key West. My last meal there was fantastic and started with seafood potstickers with a spicy pistachio sauce and kim chee. The potstickers were full of seafood chunks and the sauce had just the right amount of kick to it. As an entrée I enjoyed a green onion crusted yellowtail snapper with a porcini mushroom broth, roasted wild mushrooms, pasta purses and a delicious truffle butter. The onion crust hid a delicate fish and the woodsy flavor of the mushrooms was a great accompaniment.

Loath though I usually am toward dessert, I couldn’t resist sampling one after reading the description; chocolate, pumpkin and almond cheesecake with ginger crème anglaise topped with chocolate granache and an Oreo cookie and almond crust. Quite a mouthful to say and eat. Let me tell you, though, it’s worth the trip just for this dessert. Sinful but I didn’t eat it all.

The wine list is heavily slanted toward California selections with some very good values. International selections are varied and also fairly priced. There are 10 Special Limited Selections including Sassicaia, Caymus, Silver Oak and Plumjack, surprisingly well priced as well.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: Medium. While the overall restaurant is sexy and intimate, individual seating is not. Opt for a window seat, tables #14 or #15, on Simonton Street side for the most privacy.

“For a taste of sophistication Key West-style, this superb 50-seat eatery in the Marquesa Hotel offers beautiful presentations of outstanding New American-seafood fare, a relaxing ambiance and excellent, unfussy service; if you find a few rebels railing against unnerving prices, royalists trumpet this oasis and want to make her a queen.- ZAGAT