One of our favorite places on the Florida east coast is U-Tiki. It’s beautifully situated on the Loxahatchee River with a view of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and a small marina. As you can see, some tables are set up right on a sandy beach, and there’s a view from most of the interior tables.
U-Tiki is a good-sized place with three sides open to the air. The food is very good, fresh seafood cooked with a U-Tiki spin on traditional presentations, as we’ll discuss in a minute. The only problem with U-Tiki is that it’s so popular. Often there’s a long wait for a table, especially during the season. There are two bars at which one can while away the time, but they’re usually packed as well, so you may have to spend some time walking around the marina in beautiful weather. That’s what we call a First World Problem.
When we came by (slightly off season) with Willie King and Joyce Deroy (whom you met most recently at Captain Charlie’s Reef Grill), there was a 40-minute wait for a table, but four seats at the smaller bar opened up right before our eyes.
After a drink or so, we were seated and proceeded to order. Willie ordered the tuna roll tempura.
Now tuna rolls aren’t usually fried, but “usual” isn’t a boundary for U-Tiki. Willie really liked it, and for good reason. I got a taste, and it was very flavorful. As you can see, it wasn’t that over-thick tempura you get so often — just a nice crisp crust — and the tuna seemed unaffected by the brief cooking. It was very good.
Joyce ordered a shrimp po’ boy.
The shrimp had been tossed in shaka sauce, which is similar to bang bang sauce — sweet and hot. It wasn’t a traditional po’ boy by any means, but it tasted good.
Nancy and I both ordered the yellowtail snapper almondine.
Again, it wasn’t a traditional almondine. U-Tiki includes cream in addition to the usual butter and almonds in their sauce. It works just fine, thank you. Nancy chose rice as her accompaniment. This was basmati rice and it was remarkably flavorful. Nancy commented on it a couple of times, and, in the interests of science, I confirmed her judgment: unusually good. I chose the U-Tiki potatoes, a casserole of shredded potatoes, sour cream, and cheese, and worth every single calorie. I get the U-Tiki potatoes every time we go there. They’re a great comfort food, and where better to be comfortable than in Florida during the winter.
Our waitress, Alexis (not Alexa), was very friendly and responsive. U-Tiki manages all of this great food and friendly service with remarkable efficiency, so that they move the crowds through their excellent meals while at the same time making customers feel welcome and at once convivial and relaxed. I guess 40 minutes at the bar doesn’t hurt, nor does the live acoustic music. U-Tiki really has a smooth operation.
If you’re in the Palm Beach area, make it a point to have a meal at U-Tiki. We’ve been with friends a number of times, and on each visit, every dish has been a hit. And do try the U-Tiki potatoes.
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