For three decades, 11 Maple Street, located in a century-old Florida cottage on a side street just off the main thoroughfare in Jensen Beach, has been regarded as arguably the best restaurant on the Treasure Coast.
It’s a bit of a drive for dinner from Vero – close to an hour each way either via U.S. 1 or tracing the river down St. Lucie County’s narrow, winding Indian River Drive (you don’t want to choose the latter for your return home if you have been savoring the wines they suggest pairing with each of 11 Maple’s dishes).
But this charming old home with antique furniture and lace curtains on the windows is one of our favorite dinner spots. Owner Mike Perrin, a self-taught chef, has not only developed a large, loyal following for such seldom-seen-locally dishes as spotted skate wing, sturgeon and elk, but has regularly won high marks from Zagat, Florida Trend and other guides.
The first surprise awaiting a newcomer to this restaurant is that bread is listed at the top of the single-page menu as an appetizer – with a price.
On this visit, we ordered the house-baked walnut sourdough bread – a beautiful crusty half loaf ($5.95 – full loaf, $8.95) served with herbed goat cheese, salsa verde and yummy roasted garlic. We’ll cheerfully pay for bread this good anytime. I could have made an entire meal out of it.
Next on the menu are 10 small plates – dishes ranging from crispy okra with black mission fig tapenade ($13.95) to entrée-sized seafood, beef and rib specialties topping out at $23.95 for the roasted quail. Listed beneath these are five entrées.
We decided to start by sharing two small plates: warm escarole salad with crispy calamari, fennel, white beans and parmesan cheese ($16.95), and roasted beets atop goat cheese with arugula, dressed with a walnut vinaigrette ($14.95). The plating of these dishes was a work of art, and the tastes matched the presentation. The elements came together flawlessly.
For entrées, I went with a large plate, Provencal fish stew ($38). My husband, however, opted for one of the larger small plates, the sautéed skate wing with Canadian bay scallops ($22.95), and our companion chose another small plate, the fresh jumbo lump crab cake ($23.95).
My fish stew was a spectacular mix of Pacific red rockfish, bay scallops, shrimp, little neck clams, and PEI mussels in a tasty saffron, leek and tomato broth. Our companion’s crab cake was served atop a fried green tomato, all surrounded by a delicious carrot reduction. My husband’s skate wing was topped not just with bay scallops, but tomatoes, capers and olives in a herb beurre blanc. Exquisite.
On previous visits, we have enjoyed a variety of small plates which seem to not be on the current menu – the small-plate menu changes every couple of weeks – as well as what seems a permanent fixture (and the most expensive item) on the large-plate menu, the wood-grilled North American elk tenderloin at $50.
The farm-raised elk when we had it came medium rare, accompanied by roasted faro and butternut squash, with a dried porcini sauce. The oak grill imparted a slightly smoky flavor, and the elk was surprisingly moist and tender.
Dinner for two, accompanied by the suggested wine pairings, is likely to run about $150 before tip.
This restaurant was described by Emeril Lagasse last year as a “hidden gem.” If it was in a major city, it would be nationally renowned and you’d have to book three months in advance to get in. Happily, this gem is just down the road, and making a reservation a couple of days in advance should get you one of the best meals to be had in Florida.
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The reviewer is a beachside resident who dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of this newspaper.
At a Glance
Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 5:45 pm to closing
Beverages: Beer and wine
Address: 3224 Northeast Maple Ave, Jensen Beach