As evidenced from our title, we like to focus on fine dining. So, we were obviously excited for the opportunity to visit Verandah, located at 39 Beach Lagoon in Amelia Island, FL. Verandah is part of the Omni Amelia Island Planatation Resort, but diners do not need to be staying at the resort to visit the restaurant. The restaurant was recently updated when Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort completed its extensive renovation in 2013. These renovations seem positive across the board and we are excited to tell our readers about our experience at Verandah:
The first thing you should know about Verandah is that it is not physically located on inside Omni Amelia Island Resort Hotel. Rather, the restaurant is situated about 3 minutes down the road at the tennis center. In other words, don't go to Verandah expecting an ocean view. The exterior of the restaurant is unassuming and can be somewhat difficult to find. However, what Verandah lacks in view and curb appeal, it makes up with a clean, modern design that feels less "beachy" and more upscale than most restaurants in Fernandina and surrounding area. Despite the upscale feel, jackets are not required and dark jeans, button ups, etc. are certainly acceptable attire. The music in the restaurant is at a good volume and there was an enjoyable mix of down-tempo music playing during our visit. Overall, we thought the decor, ambiance, and cleanliness level in the restaurant was excellent.
Verandah really shines in the food department. There is one dish in particular here that we consider one of the best dishes in Jacksonville. But first, we should discuss the appetizers. We started our meal with a amuse-bouche of corn chowder, compliments of the chef, and corn bread. Note that corn appears as a theme throughout several dishes at Verandah and both items were delicious. The corn chowder was rich and we enjoyed it greatly in the small amuse-bouche portion, but it may be too much in a larger portion. Next, we ordered the Verandah Sampler ($19). This dish allowed us to try an assortment of Verandah appetizers: two crab cakes, four bbq shrimp, and two fried green tomatoes. We liked that the portions were relatively small, so as not to overeat prior to the main entree. All three items were good, but it is worth mentioning that the sauce for the friend green tomatoes was exceptional. For our main course, we ordered two fish dishes. Verandah is a seafood restaurant after all and we find that the time to order seafood is when you're as near as possible to the ocean. The first dish was the Shrimp & Grits ($26) with Anson Mills grits and Benton's Country Ham. The Anson Mills grits are a bit chunkier than most grits, but they are quite good. The sauce was smoky and the country ham was very bacon-like, so expect some strong flavors. Overall, this was a solid and enjoyable dish. The other dish we tried was the blue crab crusted grouper ($32) with lemon butter sauce. This is one of the best fish entrees we have ever tried. The combination of extremely fresh grouper with crab crust was a fantastic combination. The dish also has a light layer of cheese that reminded us a bit of a grouper fromage-type dish, without it being too heavy. We highly recommend this the blue crab crusted grouper at Verandah and we feel strongly that it is worth the trip from Jacksonville to Amelia Island!
Verandah has an extensive wine list that includes lots of wine by the glass. The restaurant offers both 6 oz. and 9 oz. options for each wine-by-the glass choice. We applaud this because it allows diners to try multiple wines at the 6 oz price or get a larger glass of one of their favorites. Our personal recommendation is the Dr. Loosen, Dr. L. Riesling from Mosel, Germany. This is an affordable glass of wine at $6 for 6 oz. and $9 for 9 oz. This is a crisp and not overly sweet reisling, that pairs well with fish. We also recommend the Silverado Vineyards, Cabernet from Napa Valley. This 2009 wine was available by the glass on the night of our visit (although it doesn't seem to appear by the glass on the online menu. Silverado Cabernet is not so bold that it wouldn't pair well with a fish, but it would also go well with some of the red meat dishes on the menu.
Our waitress was excellent during our visit. She was prompt, and most importantly, she recommended some excellent items in the Verandah Sampler and blue crab crusted grouper that we might not have ordered otherwise.
We at Jacksonville Fine Dining Examiner were extremely impressed by the overall quality of our experience at Verandah. The experience at Verandah rivals that of the other upscale fine dining restaurant on the island, Salt at The Ritz-Carlton, but at a cheaper price. In particular, the blue crab crusted grouper at Verandah was a memorable dish that we feel fully confident recommending to our readers. If you are staying or live in Jacksonville or surrounding areas, we believe the short trip out to Amelia Island to visit Verandah is certainly worth your while.
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