We polled a handful of Opal’s restaurant kitchens to bring you this list of most-ordered dishes – and to get you thinking (and drooling) about your next Opal meal in the process.
Pan-seared Hogfish [Opal Sands Resort]
The menu at Sea-Guini at Opal Sands Resort changes a couple of times a year (usually in the winter and summer), but there has been one fixture since the restaurant opened in early 2016: the pan-seared hogfish. Served over shrimp and smoked bacon hash, sweet corn broth, and roasted cauliflower, it commonly receives compliments as glowing as, “That was the best dish I’ve ever had!” and has set itself apart from the restaurant’s other dishes in terms of its raw popularity.
Why so popular? The signature ingredient of local hogfish doesn’t hurt, says Sea-guini’s Executive Chef Michael Crosby. With a funky snout, comparable to a pig (hence the “hogfish” moniker), it’s prized for it mild, delicate taste. It’s sweeter than grouper, flakier than mahi-mahi, and as rich as scallops. It’s no surprise, then, that this sought-after fish is a favorite among tourists looking for an authentic Florida dish.
The Maple Lavender Duck Breast [Lake Placid Lodge]
Rich in fat from the local duck, sweet from the maple syrup, floral from the lavender, spice from the Szechuan, and sour from the pickled rhubarb – you get a little bit of everything in Artisans’s maple lavender duck breast. “It’s one of those dishes where you’re going to experience the full scale of flavors in one bite, but they all work together – like an orchestra in perfect tune,” says Derek Leinonen, executive chef of legendary farm-to-table restaurant that makes its home off the lobby in the Lake Placid Lodge in the Adirondacks of New York.
While featuring lavender, maple syrup, and vegetables all sourced locally – local being a very common theme in the rustic fire-lit restaurant – the signature dish’s starring ingredient is perhaps the local Moulard duck breast from a 43-acre farm in Ferndale, New York. “It’s not a gamey type of duck – gamey sometimes frightening people off – but one that cuts like beef and features a similar flavor, like filet.”
Grilled Australian Lamb Chops [Zota Beach Resort]
Zota Beach Resort’s on-site restaurant, Viento Kitchen + Bar, which opened in June 2017, has already garnered a loyal local following. That’s likely because of the restaurant’s open-air vibe featuring a floating wine wall and sleek fireplace and its unique “Floribbean” flavor, drawing from a blend of Florida, Caribbean, and Mediterranean influences, like roasted chicken saltimbocca, sea scallops over creamy ratatouille parmesan risotto, and blackened jumbo shrimp with crumbled feta.
But the dish that diners have been drooling over most is the grilled Australian lamb chops, served with sun-dried tomato polenta and pistachio mint pesto. The mint pesto is a particularly popular twist, and should be familiar to diners who grew up eating mint jelly with their lamb, though the pesto is a fresher and more refined approach, says Jason Pellett, Viento’s executive chef. Plus, by forgoing the heavy veal demi sauce used in many lamb chop recipes in favor of the pistachio mint pesto, the dish eats well in the Florida heat and doesn’t weigh you down.
Salmon Florentine [Samoset Resort]
Richly furnished with wooden touches, romantic lighting, a wood-fired brick oven, and artwork inspired by the boot-shaped peninsula, the Samoset Resort’s restaurant, La Bella Vita, pulls out all the stops to deliver an authentic Italian dining experience. The gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean and golf course, combined with the mouthwatering menu – think antipasti dishes, pizza, homemade pasta, filet, and chicken and veal piccata – make La Bella Vita a destination in itself.
But when it comes to picking one dish as the guest favorite, La Bella Vita Executive Sous Chef Leucio Pacelli says it’s got to be the salmon florentine. Why? Pacelli surmises that it’s the black garlic puree – made with fermented black garlic mixed with a balsamic reduction – that complements the risotto perfectly. We’re sure the local Atlantic salmon – milder than that of the wild salmon species – doesn’t hurt either.
Crab-Crusted Grouper [Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa]
Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa’s Drift Kitchen + Bar is an oceanfront eatery serving up delicious Italian and seafood. But the one particular menu item that seems to steal the show is the crab-crusted grouper. Not just because of the flaky fish it features (which is a restaurant staple in Florida as much as key lime pie), but for the way it’s prepared – instead of rolling it in breadcrumbs and frying it, as it’s done in many Florida restaurants, this twist utilizes a crabmeat and panko crumb mixture instead. It’s then pan-fried and finished it in the oven, then served with citrus butter sauce.