Earlier this week, I told you about the Morada Bay Beach Café , a lovely beachside eatery in Islamorada , a resort town in the Upper Florida Keys . Overseen by the same family that owns and operates The Moorings Village , a lush, upscale resort on the ocean side of the Overseas Highway, the Morada Bay Beach Café shares the same bayside beach with Pierre's Restaurant  – indeed one of the finest restaurants in the Florida Keys archipelago.
As mentioned in my Moon Florida Keys  guidebook – which is being released this month – Pierre's Restaurant (81600 Overseas Hwy., Upper Matecumbe Key, 305/664-3225, 5-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., $34-40) is truly a top pick in the Sunshine State. Linked to the Morada Bay Beach Café via a covered boardwalk and housed within a picturesque French Colonial-style mansion – which is, incidentally, identical to the plantation house on offer at the affiliated Moorings Village across the highway – Pierre's provides a fine dining experience that's on par with some of the most elegant restaurants in the Caribbean.
Set amid swaying palm trees, lined with French windows and white columns, and accented by blue shutters, this impeccably white, two-story mansion is indeed a stunning sight. The interior is equally alluring – a blend of sailing-related photographs, model sailboats, and exotic Moroccan-themed furnishings throughout the entire space, including the Green Flash Lounge on the first floor, the staircase in the foyer, and the second-floor dining area. Even the restrooms, with their aromatic incense, embrace this Moroccan vibe. Of course, in spite of the well-appointed decor, Pierre's is decidedly comfortable. After all, as with most eateries in the laid-back Florida Keys, the dress code is quite casual.
Before or after dinner, guests can relax on the sofas and rattan chairs in the downstairs lounge – or if it's a pleasant night (which it usually is down in the Keys), you can certainly opt for the inviting porch that faces the beach. Families and couples alike seem to appreciate dining amid the fancy cushions and striking wall sconces upstairs, but as my husband, Dan, and I discovered on our first visit to Pierre's, dinner is especially memorable on the candlelit balcony that overlooks Florida Bay. On the night we dined at Pierre's, we were treated to live music from the neighboring Morada Bay Beach Café and to the romantic sight of tiki torches on the soft sand below. Despite the unseasonably chilly air that night, it was indeed romantic.
After ordering our drinks – a mojito for me and a gin-and-tonic for Dan – we discussed the small but eclectic menu with our waiter Scott, who, at the time, had worked at Pierre's for well over a decade. Seafood certainly dominated the ever-changing menu, as overseen by Executive Chef Ben Loftus. In fact, among the items proffered that night, some of the more tempting appetizers included shrimp bisque, sashimi salad, blue lump crab salad, oysters Rockefeller, and thin tempura fried soft shell crab. Entrées, meanwhile, ranged from grilled yellowfin tuna and pan-seared Florida dolphin to diver sea scallops and hogfish meunière. Of course, carnivores would have found some equally delectable selections back in January, from duck confit and spiced quail to braised veal short ribs and herb-seared Australian rack of lamb.
That night, Dan and I shared two intriguing appetizers: the French goose liver foie gras with brioche toast, fig purée, yuzu marmalade, and port wine reduction ($24) and the translucent Maine lobster sashimi with fresh ginger, yuzu ponzu, and grape seed oil ($18). For the main course, I opted for the filet mignon ($38), which, though delicious, paled in comparison to Dan's choice: the tempura lobster tail with a soy glaze, hearts of palm hash, and wasabi crème fraiche ($40), a heavenly dish that's been popular ever since it was initially offered more than 10 years ago.
Following dinner, we couldn't resist the dessert menu, which featured traditional items such as tiramisu and crème brûlée, plus refreshing choices like the basil-strawberry sorbet. Surprisingly, no key lime pie was available, but considering its ubiquitous presence from Key Largo to Key West, I was actually pleased by the omission. In the end, Dan, the chocolate lover, opted for the chocolate bomb, while I, the native New Orleanian, chose the banana beignets. Both were scrumptious.
Despite the casual dress code at Pierre's, reservations are definitely recommended. Be advised, too, that the wine list is on the pricey side. For instance, the half-bottle of pinot noir that Dan and I ordered that night cost $50 – though I admit it went well with our meal. While I heartily believe that a good meal need not be expensive, I confess that sometimes an exceptional experience is well worth the high price tag, so needless to say, Dan and I are planning to return to Pierre's during our next visit to Islamorada.
For more information about the Islamorada area, including details about local attractions, restaurants, accommodations, events, and other diversions, consult the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce  (MM 83.2 BS U.S. 1, 305/664-4503 or 800/322-5397, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun.). If you're curious about the rest of the Florida Keys, be sure to pick up a copy of my Moon Florida Keys  guide, which will be available online and in major bookstores this month.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad  blog and my Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of Pierre's Restaurant  / Text © 2010 Laura Martone