Ambrosia Sushi Restaurant (Japanese)
1100 Packer Street, Key West, Florida
Phone: (305) 293-0304
Hours: Open 6 days a week for Dinner
Notes: No MSG used
Daily Specials and Take-Out
I was a sushi virgin. I know it’s embarrassing to admit at age 49, but other then an impulse buy at a local grocery just for a change I had never tried the real thing until recently. Someone near and dear who actually lived in Japan recommended I get adventurous and as long as she was there to give me a play by play I went along. All I asked is that we make the first experience as real a Japanese one as Key West had to offer and she had no hesitation about the location…Ambrosia.
We have 3 very popular sushi restaurants on the island and I’ve heard good things about all of the above, so I won’t delve into comparisons. I just know that Ambrosia is nestled into a neighborhood of moderately sized homes and unless someone directed you to the place you’d miss it. You have to shake off the idea of being on America’s only Caribbean island before you arrive so you can get into a cultural reboot and enjoy the opportunity from the get go. We’re used to eating foods from European ethnic locations in the U.S., but with Asian specialties you have to be open to a wholly different approach to eating.
The setting here is quite intimate and I was told by my special guide that the first time out of the gate you should sit at the sushi bar and observe the preparation. The variety overwhelmed me at first and that’s where I was especially glad to have a sushi pro at hand. The Miso soup was the starter and I can tell you right now it has become my favorite of all time. You have to take the time to let your olfactories play with the aroma before consumption ensues. This is another piece of the puzzle I learned. All your senses get a workout here. The fast food/immediate gratification lifestyle we have insisted on living in this country has deadened us to an entire universe of food experiences. Slow it down and enjoy the ride when you walk into this place please. I also got some valuable information on the symbolism of the décor and how this is actually done in Japan where there’s a difference in how and what is served in the home verses what is served and how it’s served in commercial establishments. Altogether I was transported for a couple of hours into what this sushi thing is all about.
Okay, you are scared of raw fish (sashimi). Break yourself in on the yellowtail and tofu. If you absolutely refuse to try it then there’s always tempura or other “cooked” items. I insist on getting the full impact of a new eating experience so I did the tuna and octopus etc, etc. It’s fine; just use the dipping sauces and you will not only survive the event, but also look forward to the next trip! Add sake or some Sapporo beer to wash it all down and you’ll feel completed in the meal.
I was fortunate to have an expert at my side and to be deflowered sushi-wise in an environment that is as close to the real thing as you probably can get in the southernmost city. I highly recommend Ambrosia if you are looking for a change of pace from the Duval Street corridor establishments. Oh, by the way, you get what you pay for so just be aware that fish prepared with great care and effort does not come cheap, and you will want to show your appreciation to the sushi chef(s) with a healthy tip. I will just say that it’s worth it.
Doug Heyman in Key West
for the Food Reference Website