For years I have lamented the fact that there are no really good seafood restaurants on an island that hails as the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry. People are always asking my opinion on the best seafood restaurant on Amelia to which I always reply, “Espana for higher end seafood dishes and Timoti’s for casual seafood”. That’s it. That is the only seafood that I feel safe recommending on this island without the additional disclaimer of “please make sure that your tetanus shot is up to date before dining at the location”. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that the Ritz Carlton Amelia planned to open a seafood concept.
I cannot quite remember how long I have followed Chef Andrew Yeo on Instagram but I think that it began around the time that he posted a picture of a giant Lego Elmo so that places my guess at around 27 solid weeks of cyber-stalking. It was obvious the he was a chef at the Ritz, but something that stood out to me about Andrew and his postings was that he showed particular love for Amelia Island which always catches my attention. Then came the post announcing Coast, the new seafood concept. I remember the exact post with the “Seafood” sign and oysters with the caption, “Coming soon…Coast” followed by the typically thorough Art2Snap (Chef Yeo’s Instagram name) hashtags such as #wooden and #sign. The following week he posted the story of Coast and noted the plan to incorporate local flavors and businesses into the restaurant.
I will save the details and accolades that the Ritz deserves for their thoughtful approach to community and tourism for another post because I know that what you really want to hear about is my dining experience. But let it be noted that the Ritz is a phenomenal example of a business that respects the communities in which they do business and work to create balance and mutually beneficial interactions. Organic tourism as I call it. Moving on to the dinner.
First, the visuals. The renovations are beautiful. The concept is cohesive in every way. The rugs were designed to mimic the look of fishing nets sitting against the perfect blue backdrop of ocean. That blue is carried throughout various design elements in the restaurant, including the butter dish and serving dish pottery created by local artisan, Fernandina Clay. The dining room is surrounded by windows that overlook the ocean, furthering the illusion of the sea reaching right up to the structure and then being pulled inside by the food and design. Lovely. The thoughtful care that was given to every detail is obvious.
I began the meal with a drink that was some type of ginger beer concoction that was so refreshing and balanced that even though I had planned to move on to wine once the dinner progressed, I chose to stick with this drink. Now, I would love to tell you the name of the drink but I cannot remember and recognize this as a failure to you my readers. Just go in and ask for the lemony ginger beer fizzy thing. Surely there cannot be more than one…
The Truffle Mushroom flatbread was the first dish that I ordered based on a recommendation on the Ritz Facebook page. I was not disappointed. The earthy flavor of the mushrooms paired with caramelized onions, cheese, sparse greens on a crispy flatbread was a winner. Following the flatbread, Chef Niko brought a sampler plate to the table which highlighted several of his signature flavors. While all of the flavors on this plate were flavorful, unique, and perfectly executed, the deviled egg deserves special mention. Blue Crab, House made mustard, and Bearnaise stuffed deviled eggs to be exact. These little treats were so insanely good that I would have loved nothing more than to eat fifteen of them in one sitting but the richness of the filling really only allows a person one, two at most.
For the main course I opted for the seafood platter which is Mayport Shrimp, Salmon Tartare, Lobster Seafood Salad, and Raw Oysters accompanied by three accent sauces. I chose this for my first visit so that the seafood was in a primarily stand-alone position, highlighting the freshness and flavor providing a baseline on quality. The oysters were the prettiest, freshest, most perfect oysters that I have ever tasted. The shrimp was fresh and delicious but nothing really to write home about UNTIL you dip them in the hybrid cocktail sauce, which takes them to the next level. The seafood salad was buttery and rich with freshness again at the forefront. The Tartare was outstanding with a powerful amount of flavor packed into the tiny little artisan pottery bowl. The beauty of this dish goes beyond the impeccable flavors and overflows into the presentation which includes a whole lobster on display, plated atop a oval serving plate colored with blues and grays reflecting the colors of the ocean.
Other highlights of the meal include the waitress who was very knowledgeable on all of the dishes and ingredients as well as the kindness of Chef Yeo and Chef Niko who both took the time to stop by the table to converse about the food and the concept of Coast. The Ritz has always been an example of quality and perfect execution to me with Salt being my favorite restaurant on Amelia Island and Coast lived up to the Ritz brand. I do plan to go back to try their breakfast and brunch and will report back as soon as I do so. In the meantime, please take the time to go for a meal. Tomorrow launches Amelia Island Restaurant Week and that would be the ideal time to give Coast a try. Do call ahead for a reservation though as they are very busy.
A very special thank you to Chef Niko Anagnostou for gifting me a very sweet wooden fork, cut from the Coast menu, with a handwritten note saying “OPA! Chef Niko” (his trademark phrase) attached. And to Chef Yeo, your love of Amelia Island is so evident in your postings and in the care that you took in creating this concept. Both chefs and Coast are the perfect addition to this island.