Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Walt's Fish Market & Tiki Bar: A Taste of Old Florida

A Sarasota institution, Walt's has been run by the same family for almost a century and using the same local fishermen for almost as long. Walt’s boasts Sarasota’s best-known fish market, frequented by visitors and local chefs alike. There’s something for everyone at Walt’s, from the unique mobile raw bar fashioned from an old fishing boat to the Native American thatched-roof Chickee Bar. Brett Wallin, stays true to his family’s philosophy and legacy. Part owner of Walt’s Fish Market and Restaurant, Wallin represents the fourth generation of a family steeped rich in Sarasota seafood history, begun by his great-grandfather Claus, who arrived in Sarasota in 1918 as a roustabout with the Ringling Circus. Claus Wallin quickly developed a love of fishing, a passion inherited by Brett’s grandfather Walt, who passed it down to Brett’s father Tom. The passion lives on in Brett. Local knowledge, a strong presence on the water, and good relations with fellow local fishermen allow Wallin to keep close tabs not only on what is in season, but on what is abundant and available. 

He spends a minimum of four days on the water during the season, and when time permits, is on the water at every opportunity. “You get to bring a variety of species to your own market,” he says proudly. Just this week, he caught flounder, pompano, sand perch, mullet, blue crab, and stone crab. Each guest is greeted at Walt's with a complimentary cup of delicious smoked mullet dip with saltines to get them started, as they look over the fabulous menu with appetizers such as conch fritters, wild gator bites, oysters, clams, mussels, and ceviche, and an extensive selection sandwiches, soups, salads, and house specialities. There's even an option for local fishermen to catch and bring in their own fish, and have Walt's cook it any way thy like — grilled, blackened, broiled or fried. Fun, friendly and easy-going, Walt's serves great fish and seafood everyday that's so fresh "The Fish We Sell Today Slept in the Gulf Last Night!"

Walt's wall of mounted locally caught fish

Walt's menu of local fish and seafood "right from the boats"

Cold Stella and an iced glass

Lovely Smoked Mullet Spread

Bahamian-style Conch Fritters with chipotle mayonnaise

Grilled Grouper Sandwich 

Walt's Fish & Chips with Florida caught flounder, french fries and cole slaw

Pompano with Costa Rican Coconut Lime Sauce
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Walt’s Fish Market and Restaurant

4 8-oz fillets fresh Pompano 
Sea salt to taste
Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can of coconut milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lime
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 tsp minced lemongrass or lemongrass paste
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted for garnish

Season fish with sea salt and pepper to taste, then set aside. Add the olive oil to a sauté pan and heat. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté until fragrant but not brown. Stir in the coconut milk, bring to boil, and then reduce to a simmer, allowing it to cook for 2 to 4 minutes.

In separate bowl combine heavy cream, lime juice, salt, and sugar. Whisk this into the coconut milk mixture along with the lemongrass. Reduce on low heat for about 5 minutes, while preparing the fish.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat, then add the fish, browning it for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Drain the oil from the pan and pour coconut lime sauce over top of fish and bring to a good serving temperature while plating the sides.

Just before serving, place the generously sauced fish on plate. Garnish with toasted coconut flakes, if desired. Enjoy. Best accompanied with sautéed market fresh vegetables and seasoned brown and jasmine rice.

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