It used to be that only Sanibel islanders and guests staying at low-key West Wind Inn knew about the seaside resort’s on-property restaurant. There’s nothing in the least bit fancy about Normandie Seaside Café — pretty old-school, in fact. (You can’t even see the sea from inside.)
Until recently, it was unable to advertise – something to do with number of parking spaces. And whereas even islanders loved it mostly for its breakfast and lunch, that too is about to change.
In November, new Executive Chef Patrick Fitz rolled out a new dinner menu. An accomplished chef, he most recently worked for the highly hailed Blue Coyote Supper Club group.
Smartly, Chef Fitz did not scratch it all and go rogue on us fans. He undoubtedly understood he must continue to please a loyal clientele.
The new chef tweaked a number of items: garlic mussels became curry mussels, for instance; the pan-seared scallops entrée now benefits from a tomato fennel sauce and chef’s evident know-how when it comes to cooking seafood to the proper degree.
He did introduce three new dishes, one of which is bound for fame. The Mediterranean Clay Pot Grouper puts a Southwest Florida and Euro-African spin on an ancient method of cooking traceable throughout the world.
Baked and served in the same dish, my grouper was stewed to a milky juiciness in its bed of roasted tomato and fennel. Kalamata olives, capers, artichoke hearts, plump mushrooms, fingerling potatoes and whole cloves of garlic made it a mouth-festival of salty and mild elements succinctly balancing acidic flavors.
Besides the grouper dish, a beef tenderloin tips appetizer with caramelized onion, mushrooms, and brandy reduction; and a roasted half duck entrée glazed with raspberry and accompanied by sweet potato puree also make a first-time appearance on the menu. I shall attempt to give them a try the next time, but quite frankly I am too smitten with the grouper to promise anything.