By Samantha Joseph
STUART - It's always interesting to return to an old haunt and find it better than you remember.
In the case of Wahoo's Riverhouse, a $500,000 renovation accounts for the brightened ambiance and refreshed tropical island feel.
The overhaul was extensive after new owners Frank Kilain III and Jim Dowdy bought the company and then spent the next six months renovating it. When they reopened the restaurant in May, it was after a nearly year-long hiatus for the popular waterfront spot.
But a recent trip to Wahoo's for lunch proved the restaurant known for its creativity had not altered that aspect of its brand.
Case in the point is the lobster campenelle and cheese, Wahoo's upgraded version of mac and cheese.
Packed with fresh Maine lobster meat, it is a gorgeous entrée of campenelle pasta in a creamy cognac sauce made with parmesan, cheddar, Gruyère and cream cheeses.
The starters, too, have fresh kicks, touches of Asian inspiration and lots of local flavor.
Take the fireworks shrimp, which start out as crispy, golden and fried but end up dressed in a sweet chili garlic and sriracha sauce.
The Maryland crab balls are loaded with colossal crab, fresh herbs, spices and just a hint of cheddar. They arrive at the table with an interesting remoulade that balances sweet, tangy and spicy flavors.
The Cobb salad also got a makeover, with dolphin replacing the chicken, and house-made mango vinaigrette finishing this perfect summer dish.
And sautéed jumbo shrimp, butter sauce and three cheeses are part of a rich shrimp Alfredo.
This is a restaurant that pays attention to the trends and adapts them to the local market.
The gator bites, for instance, on its starter list have 18 ingredients that give the flash-fried alligator tail a New Orleans-inspired flavor.
"We try to look and see what we can do with the products that are available to us, while staying on the edge as much as we can. We certainly have the standards that most people look for - chicken wings, Mrs. Peter's smoked fish dip, conch salad, Caesar salad - but we also run the gamut," said Paul Brick, executive chef at Wahoo's Riverhouse. "It's a whole brand new menu, quite a bit different from the former menu."
Wahoo's Riverhouse is located at 915 N.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart. It opens daily at 11 a.m. For more information, call (772) 692-2243.