Blackfin Bistro, Key West, Florida, USA ****

Q: What is it? A:Fancy that, an ambitious and friendly seafood restaurant in the culinary-wise so heavily abused area that is Key West! Do you know how rare that is? Do you? Really?

Blackfin Bistro, Key West, Florida, USA – soup du jour
According to other reviewers, the Soup du Jour is a pretty safe choice at the Blackfin. They obviously have a few recipes that they use as a backbone. Our waiter sold me this: A lobster bisque for ya. Creamy, rich and… wonderful. No regrets.

Blackfin Bistro, Key West, Florida, USA – grouper
So many people are raving about the Blackfin burgers (I’ll try those next time). Followed recommendations and had their blackened grouper on a pile of basmati rice with a tremendous passion fruit reduction sauce. One of the best fish I had in this entire year. Fresh. Well balanced. Perfectly sized.

Blackfin Bistro, Key West, Florida, USA – Alsace wine
This evening’s selected bottle of white: A 2011 Pierre Sparr Gewürztraminer. A wine that with aeration got very friendly with the grouper. The slight sweetness and the passion fruit reduction just happened to be a superb match. Or maybe it wasn’t a coincidence. No, it wasn’t. No.

Blackfin Bistro, Key West, Florida, USA – Key Lime Pie
Key lime tart. Very colorful but not quite the explosion you would expect but on the other hand, any dessert would have to be a divine creation to beat the experience of the grouper above. Ordering this was more or less a ”yeah, since I’m Key West I’d better try it”-decision.

Blackfin Bistro, Key West, Florida, USA – the courtyard
Their patio is in the back. It’s hard to say which is the nicest table in this restaurant, but the evening was warm and there weren’t that many people out here. Plus, you will create a safety zone between you and Duval. And in my book that is a good thing.

Blackfin Bistro, Key West, Florida, USA – the exterior
You may pass it because the outside so nondescript. Even dull. Now, I strongly suggest you don’t judge this particular book by its cover. The inside is way nicer and the staff is somewhere between very friendly and amazingly friendly. Highly recommended.

First you need to understand its location.
It’s on Duval, probably the most well-known stretch of drivable land in Key West. Closer to Mallory Square it turns into a bar district with Key West lore-themed bars*, Hemingway-themed bars* and pirate-themed bars* – all come with the mandatory screens displaying some kind of sports activity. The rest of Duval Street is shops selling t-shirts and souvenir cups plus an impressive number of art galleries displaying stuff (stuff is not art) that would suggest that someone offered a lot of money to have said stuff displayed. People are friendly and joyful, but that is valid for the entire little island they call Key West. The Blackfin Bistro is not in the worst area of Duval, but it’s still Duval. And I don’t like Duval. To be honest, I hate it.

Then you need to ignore the outside.
It’s not exactly screaming ”look at this ambitious restaurant with superb food”. In fact, it doesn’t scream at all. Its outside is about as boring and bland as the inside is friendly. And behind the inside is the patio. Whichever you choose, you will be in good hands as service at the Blackfin Bistro is very attentive, friendly and focused on giving you a very good meal experience. Their attention to wine pairing deserves an honorable mention. In a burger-heavy environment like Key West, such a focus is more of an exception than a rule. But when the 2011 Pierre Sparr Gewürtztraminer lands on the table, I’m a happy man.

They changed my opinion about food in Key West.
The Blackfin Bistro opened in October 2009. Older reviews all points in one direction: The three guys behind this restaurant are very ambitious and take a lot of pride in giving you the best of what has been caught in the waters around Key West. In some reviews, people complain about the prices on the menu, but if accustomed to Swedish or New York price tags, this will not upset you the slightest (the final bill may be higher than the Key West average, though). It’s just great to find an exception from greasy burgers and sad crab cakes. But the next time I’ll try their 8 oz. Wagyu Burger. With truffle fries.

Blackfin Bistro
918 Duval Street
Key West, FL 33040
United States


Opening hours: Daily 11:00 – 23:00

*yes, those bars would be more or less identical. That’s correct.

Blackfin Bistro on Urbanspoon

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