By Samantha Joseph
STUART -- There's nothing like living on tropical islands to develop a taste for the best, freshest seafood in the world. So it was a most pleasant surprise to discover Tin Fish in Stuart, tucked away on Indian Street, between U.S. 1 and Willoughby Boulevard.
This beautiful restaurant does seafood like no other, serving dishes with incredible flavors that never overpower the main attraction, the fish itself.
Take the aptly named "kaboom" shrimp, bursting with sweet and spicy undertones, thanks to its lovely cream sauce, which by the way, is available for other dishes. This restaurant has mastered the art of adding dollops of interest to the delicate natural flavor of its plump shrimp without drowning the seafood.
This is never more apparent than in its signature tacos, where each ingredient augments the next, and fresh homemade salsa meets a squiggle of hot sauce, ranch dressing, cheddar cheese and shredded cabbages all served on a Baja California soft flour tortilla. Offered grilled or fried, depending on the type of fish, mine arrived with a beautiful cut of fried flounder, the fish of the day.
The secret to all the winning entrées is the straight-from-the water seafood, brought in from St. Augustine by a friend of owner Eric Olson, who some diners might remember as one of the former owners of Bono's Bar-B-Q and Grill in Stuart .
Sunshine Johnson is Tin Fish's marketing manager. Her daughter, Jocelyn Olson, owns the restaurant with husband Eric. They said guests have noticed the food's freshness.
"We get compliments all the time on the fish," Ms. Olson said. "Nothing overpowers the flavor, so you can tell it's really good and tender fish."
Its menu also includes choices, such as several chicken entrées and giant burgers.
But whatever it serves, Tin Fish places a premium on freshness, and that's clear even in the cocktail sauce, made daily with grated horseradish.
The New England clam chowder is loaded with shellfish, diced potatoes and still-crunchy vegetables. Every spoonful is delicious.
That day's soup -- shrimp and corn chowder -- had fresh kernels that burst on the tongue.
The wild-caught salmon was also a treat, as were the homemade hush puppies and conch fritters. The shellfish is served "garlicky" or spicy, and the fish fingers are fresh and lightly breaded. The menu includes a variety of fish, including wahoo, flounder, grouper and red snapper, all caught off the Florida coast.
Tin Fish does it right. Located in a 7,000-square-foot, contemporary-style building with a small garden and plenty of outdoor seating under a large awning, this restaurant hits all the right notes.
I caught a peek of staffer Eduardo Lopez chopping beautiful leaves of romaine lettuce for the day's Caesar's salads.
The water in the cappuccino machine is purified through an on-site double filtration system; and near each bar stool are tiny hooks for patrons to hang pocketbooks or coats.
The price is also right, with everything on the menu ranging from $3.95 to $18.95.
This family run business is a great addition to Stuart's dining scene.
Its outdoor patios transforms on weekends, with live music and dancing on Fridays and Saturdays, from 6 p.m.
The bar serves two-for-one beers, well cocktails and house wines every day during happy hour, from 3-7 p.m.
Tin Fish is located at 1411 S.E. Indian St. For more information, call (772) 286-6711.