the finish, or perhaps, the beginning…
“This new restaurant is best geared towards couples. This is the kind of the place you will leave and make passionate love afterwards. Every night here with couples should feel like a Valentine’s Day.”
Michael Castellano is as passionate about his new boutique eatery featuring small Caribbean plates as he is about the future.
“Me and my partners are all in our mid 30s, and we have the energy to do this now,” he shared. “In next couple years, we’ll be making babies. We’re ready to have those Conchs, and we’ll have to divert some of our attention to our families. None of us had the money to open up the place by ourselves, so we decided to work together. This is the level food should be on.”
He is one of three men who recently arrived in Key West from New York City to wine and dine islanders in notably posh settings. He, his brother Joey Castellano and best friend Tommy Quartararo opened Blackfin Bistro.
Now, they’ve collaborated with Cape May, New Jersey native chef Michael Schultz bring us Fin.
“We transformed the place into a small, Caribbean palace and really brightened the place up with turquoise and sunset orange colors, stainless steel accents, and we showcase the bottles of wine we have on the wall,” offered Castellano.
More tantalizing than the interior and outdoor, gardenlike seating are the menu items.
“I was going for French Caribbean with small plates served very progressively. We want to run the gamut of tastes and textures so the diners are excited about the experience; especially with the tasting menu. For Valentine’s Day we will have passion fruit, and chocolate covered strawberries with a twist. This is definitely a place to come with your date,” says Schultz.
After enjoying a glass of Marquis de la Tour, a sparkling rose from Italy, to the outdoors to take in the tastes of Fin. One diner and county official was so blown away by the ambiance and sophistication; he couldn’t help but demand several times, “What is this?”
A tasting to thrill our senses!
Castellano explained the concept, “We thought the island really needed an eatery like this. Schultz puts a lot of love into the plates. Everyone likes small plates, but this is not tapas. The concept is similar in style. The portion sizes are smaller, but unlike tapas, every dish has all of the components of a complete meal.”
The prices are scaled down, and the detail of ingredients, elevated – from Skillet Roasted Grouper with sweet corn and jalapeno croquette with roasted red bell pepper sauce, to Five Day Crispy, Jerk Cured Pork Belly with almond cornbread and citrus honey and Braised Cabrito, tender young goat shoulder with cinnamon yams.
Every item is priced between $8-$20.
“Ahhh, utopia!” I think as I taste the Key West Pink Shrimp poached in an island coconut curry sauce with calabaza pumpkin. We were a week out from Valentine’s Day, and Monday night football had ended; I’m thinking, “The ambiance, intimacy and elegance is hard to top.”
The breeze is wafting through a hidden garden, and some business associates announce they’re meeting us. Our mouths are watering over the Costa Rican Peach Palm paired with sweet potato salad and a cilantro almond pesto before we sink our forks into Seared Diver Scallops with foie gras flan, honeydew melon and a sauternes sauce.
Schultz sets the table with a description, “The pairing of sea scallops and foie gras is a classic French pairing. The foie gras is very fatty, and this is a nice balance. The honeydew adds sweetness and a Caribbean touch.”
All of the creations are paired with a fine wine. We sipped stainless steel Chamisal Chardonnay from Monterey and a Paul Blanck Gewurztraminer from Rhine region of Germany among others before deciding on the Fine Herb Mahi Mahi with paella lentils and saffron aioli and finally the most aristocratic item on the entire menu: Dry Aged Prime New York Strip with glazed carrots, prehistoric salt and temperanillo sauce. All four of us were in awe and enamored with the two million year old salt sprinkled ever-so-lightly on our steak.
“The salt was found in a cave in Utah. What’s crazy is the fact that, when the mineral formed, there weren’t carcinogens or pollution in the air. The salt is very, very pure. The New York strip steak is as good as it gets. This is the most expensive cut you can buy,” Castellano supplies, then solidifies, “Everything is so sexy here. The food Schultz is preparing is incredible stuff. From the beginning to the end, or ‘Fin,’ if this doesn’t scream out impression, then I don’t know what does. I wanted Fin to be the end all of dining, so you don’t feel you need to seek satisfaction anywhere else.”
Fin is located at 613 ½ Duval down the path between Antonia’s and Mel Fisher’s.