Well, this was a new adventure for me. Opening last March in the Bass Pro Shop in Broken Arrow, Islamorada (pronounced eye-lah-mah-rah-dah), is a large, themed restaurant in the very large Bass Pro Shop.
An oversized eel curves above the hostess desk at the entrance, a 70k gallon fish tank with more than 10 different species of warm water fish serves as a floor to ceiling "wall" behind the bar, and views into the store and onto the lake outside are part of the visual stimulation here. (By the way, fish feeding hours are Tuesdays and Thursday at 6pm, Saturdays at 2pm).
Framed black and white photos of fishermen showing off their catches on fishing adventures decorate the walls, as well as large, fabricated fish.
The atmosphere is entertaining and welcoming; booths and tables with large leather lounging chairs fill the large dining room. A banquet room was busy with people lining up at a buffet before their corporate meeting via power point presentation.
The history of Islamorada is worth mentioning. The Florida Keys prides itself with the original Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant, beginning as a marina snack bar in the late 1940's next door to World Wide Sportsman, the famous fishing outfitter and retailer.
Today, Islamorada restaurants are found in Bass Pro Shops around the country.
The service we had was remarkable--not rushed, yet very attentive to our dining needs. We were impressed with our first glance of the menu--a full bar, a decent wine list and a list of mixed drinks with island themes.
I ordered a Planter's Punch and my friend a Manhattan. To begin, we ordered the Smoked Trout ($8.25) from the Starters menu. Other interesting appetizers include Venison Stuffed Mushrooms and Alligator and Smoked Fish Dip.
The Trout is described "From our Big Cedar Lodge chefs in Missouri--bite-size filets, smoked and served cold with our homemade horseradish dipping sauce." These very cold filets were served on a bed of shredded lettuce with a few chopped tomatoes on the side. The sauce was creamy and mild, and a complement to the fish. This Starter comes highly recommended.
With our Starter, we were served a small loaf of hot Bimini bread (named after an island group west of the Bahamas), which was light and airy, with a sweet, sugary crust on top. With soft butter, this is a must for bread lovers.
Before my dinner, I ordered a cup of Chicken and Corn Chowder ($3.65), an Islamorada original recipe. It was delicious! This creamy chowder was filled with small pieces of potatoes, corn, celery, red bell pepper and chopped parsley. It was delightful.
Regarding our choice for dinner, we had a difficult time selecting from among dishes In the Shell (Steamed Shrimp, Clams, Black Skillet Mussels, Oysters), Signature Seafood Dishes, Fried Seafood Platters, Grilled Seafood Platters, On Dry Land, Sandwiches, Pastas & More.
Some of the more intriguing dishes include Tuna Steak Wasabi, Grouper Portofino, Double Smoked Pork Chops, Elk Steak, Grouper Reuben, Buffalo Burger and Southern Style Shrimp and Grits.
In the rustic setting of Islamorada, I could not think of any dish more appropriate this evening but the Elk Steak ($21.95). My friend's refined tastes guided him toward the Mahi Chardonnay ($17.45).
Elk Steak was a first for me. This farm-raised elk is broiled to perfection! It was served as elongated medallions, cooked medium rare at my request. These filets were rich with flavor, tender and had a distinct taste like no other meat I have had.
Elk is a very lean meat, tasting somewhat like dry aged beef in that its minerally, meaty flavors are very concentrated, compared to ordinary beef; there is no gamey flavor since it was not caught in the wild. It is high in protein, iron and B vitamins with just a little of the fat and cholesterol found in beef or pork--a very healthy choice!
This meal came with a vegetable medley and either wild rice or baked potato. I chose the rice which was soft and fluffy--not as rustic as I like, or as I expected. My dining companion and I commented about his being wary of a "vegetable medley" side, for we find the veggies usually overcooked and pale in color. These were just that: too soft to be enjoyable. More fresh, firmness is preferred.
My friend's Mahi is an 8-ounce filet of Mahi Mahi, topped with mushrooms and tomatoes, then baked in a California Chardonnay sauce. This was excellent! The flakiness of the filet was remarkable--then, topped with the Chardonnay sauce, it burst with flavor.
Both dishes are highly recommended.
I sampled the Key Lime Pie for dessert ($5.25). It is homemade, our server told us, and a little on the tart side. Perfect for my tastes! The pie came in an oversized coffee cup, placed on a saucer. The thick graham cracker crust lined the side of the cup with the thick, rich and creamy key lime filling inside. Another highly recommended dish.
Islamorada turned out to be a very pleasant dining surprise for my guest and me. Great rustic atmosphere, great service and very good food give reason to visit Bass Pro Shop for more than shopping.
Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant
101 Bass Pro Dr., Broken Arrow
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