At 11 Maple Street, for three decades regarded as one of the best restaurants on the Treasure Coast, dining goes on.
But things did not seem the same last week in the absence of co-owner Margie Perrin, the front-of-the-house manager who died unexpectedly last November at the all-too-young age of 61.
Husband Mike still presides over the kitchen of this century-old Florida cottage just off the main thoroughfare in Jensen Beach, and he is still preparing the seldom-seen-locally dishes like spotted skate wing, sturgeon and elk that have won the restaurant high marks from Zagat, Florida Trend and other guides.
But this charming old home with antique furniture and lace curtains on the windows seemed a bit empty in the absence of Margie’s ubiquitous presence and cheery generosity.
When we visited a year ago, we mentioned to her how much we loved the house-baked walnut sourdough bread – which is offered as an appetizer with a price ($5.95 for a half loaf, $8.95 for a full loaf).
To our amazement, at the conclusion of our meal, she presented us with a loaf of the bread to take home for breakfast the following morning. Who does that?
So naturally on our visit last week, we started with the bread, and a beautiful crusty half loaf was brought to the table along with herbed goat cheese, salsa verde and yummy roasted garlic. I could have made an entire meal out of it.
Next, from the seven small plates on the menu ranging from pan fried Caicos conch (19.95) to wood-grilled Spanish octopus ($23.95), we decided to share an order of roasted beets with Laura Chenel goat cheese, mixed greens and a walnut vinaigrette ($14.95).
The plating of this dish was a work of art and the tastes matched the presentation. The elements came together flawlessly.
For entrées, I ordered the Provencal fish stew ($39) and my husband opted for the pan-seared sea scallops ($38).
My fish stew was described as “just like a bouillabaisse” with a filet of ahi tuna sitting atop a mix of bay scallops, shrimp, and little neck clams in a saffron, leek and tomato broth. The tuna was nicely seared, and the other seafood components were very tasty, but the dish would have benefitted from more broth.
My husband’s two (!) pan-seared sea scallops were cooked perfectly, and were served with shitake mushroom empanadas that had been blackened with squid ink, along with two slightly spicy sauces – a yellow crema made with the amarillo chili pepper, a staple in Peruvian cooking, and a red sauce made from fresno chili peppers. The sauces perfectly complemented the scallops, but the taste of shitake mushrooms was largely lost among the other ingredients in the rather doughy empanadas.
On previous visits, we have enjoyed a variety of the small plates including the sautéed skate wing with Canadian bay scallops ($27.95), 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 ($59).
Dinner for two, accompanied by the suggested wine pairings, is likely to run over $150 before tip.
This restaurant was described by Emeril Lagasse a couple of years ago as a “hidden gem,” and it remains one of the better dining establishments on the Treasure Coast.
But if you’re planning to make the drive down from Vero, a couple of parties were turned away the night we visited for lack of a reservation – so be sure to book in advance.
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The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.
11 Maple Street
Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 5:45 pm to closing
Beverages: Beer and Wine
Address: 3224 Northeast Maple Ave, Jensen Beach