Rickenbacker Fish Company fails to produce

The first surprise at Rickenbacker Fish Company Restaurant and Market was the pack of barking, teeth-baring dogs that welcomed us as we exited our cars in the self-parking lot by the eatery's entrance. A tall, white iron fence separates customers from those careening canines, but the experience was jolting just the same; you may want to park via a complimentary valet service a little farther away.

Once safely ensconced indoors, where the dining room was abuzz with a robust Friday-night crowd, there was another unexpected development: We'd made reservations and arrived on time, and there were still seats available, yet the hostess led us to a cocktail table in an empty bar lounge. I politely asked why, if the restaurant was fully booked, nobody let us know when we'd made reservations. Without saying a word, she did a turnaround and switched us to a spot in the main room. It was, physically, the same tiny, round cocktail table as before, but at least we were in with the action.

Rickenbacker's room has been remodeled since the last tenant moved out. The new space features seafaring photos, boat propellers, and a few other nautical knickknacks hanging here and there, but it isn't of the funky driftwood/fishnet genre of fish house. Instead it is a warm, handsome room defined by large picture windows lined with the slats of dark wood blinds, an opening to the kitchen, and shiny, laminated tabletops set closely together atop light grey carpeting (I would quickly learn that these tables are treacherously slippery and the carpet absorbs liquid fairly well — but more on that later). "Breathtaking views" of Biscayne Bay are touted, but the bay isn't visible from indoors, and most of the outside seats on the wood party deck face boat yards. Sitting outdoors at night yields a glittering vista of downtown skyscrapers, but you have to endure the incessant howling of hounds.

Conch fritters
Conch fritters

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Rickenbacker Fish Company

3301 Rickenbacker Causeway
Key Biscayne, FL 33149

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Key Biscayne

Details

3301 Rickenbacker Cswy., Key Biscayne; 305-361-0040; rickenbackerfishcompany.com. Lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday noon to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon to midnight, and Sunday noon to 10 p.m.

View our Rickenbacker Fish Company slide show.

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A predinner serving of one warm, crusty roll apiece was a long time coming. This gave me more than enough time to peruse the somewhat compact menu. The selection of starters (most cost $10 to $13) is fairly standard for a seafood house; it includes steamed mussels and clams, fried calamari, and ceviche in a martini glass. But it's a bit short on raw-bar picks: just clams and Blue Point oysters on the half shell, and peel-and-eat shrimp. Other appetizer choices such as bacon-wrapped shrimp with mango barbecue glaze and coconut-battered shrimp with orange marmalade seem overwrought.

We settled with less fussy fare such as a crab cake of lump backfin (mostly shredded) and a quintet of conch fritters. The plump patty of crab was lightly breaded and pan-fried, with a mustard/horseradish bite to the otherwise mellow flavor. A redundant mustard dip came on the side along with mesclun greens. Disk-shaped conch fritters were moist and imbued with pleasing shellfish flavor, but the "homemade sauce" of ketchup and mayonnaise certainly didn't enhance.

Clam chowder tasted an awful lot like potato chowder, the velvety-textured soup flush with spuds but with neither a clam nor even an oyster cracker in sight. The Caesar salad arrived woefully underdressed, but the crisp romaine lettuce was fine once a side of lemony dressing was delivered.

Entrées are, as one would expect, mostly seafood, and the fish we sampled was undeniably fresh (all but one range from $24 to $27). But unlike many fish houses, there is no option for straightforward grilling or frying of items although they will surely do so if asked nicely. Composed plates include grilled mahi mahi filet blackened and capped with pineapple salsa, crab-encrusted salmon pooled in pineapple beurre blanc, and wasabi-coated tuna with balsamic glaze and pickled ginger. The owners proudly tout their focus on serving "the freshest locally sourced fish," and rightly so: The sweetness of a recently hooked snapper is easily discerned. But when buried under such garish garnishing, the pristine product might as well have been imported from Disneyland. That's the sort of coverup treatment you give fish when it isn't fresh.

There are, to be fair, a few simple preparations. Chilean sea bass comes steamed, with grilled vegetables. Chilean sea bass, however, is in danger of extinction and seems a strange menu choice by those who boast of sustainability. "Oven-roasted" snapper, which comes pan-seared, is served straight-up with a lemon butter sauce. And whole yellowtail snapper is straightforwardly deep-fried, plated with rice pilaf and a "garlic seafood broth." The fish was beautifully fresh, and the battered crust was greasy; the rice was reminiscent of lunchroom cafeteria versions and the "broth" was thin, seafood-based tomato sauce.

It might be noted that the shrimp, clams, oysters, crabs, squid, tuna, trout, salmon, and Chilean sea bass on the menu are not from local waters; the mahi mahi, yellowtail, and snapper probably are. Then again, a big deal is also made about utilizing "locally grown organic produce." Asparagus, green beans, zucchini, and yellow squash are the vegetables that accompany entrees; side dishes are rice pilaf, coleslaw, green beans, vegetable du jour, French fries, mashed potatoes, and baked potato. There must be more potato farms in Homestead than I realize.

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12 comments
had4
had4

We ate there last night. Our service was great, the food was average and very over priced for what we received. Glad I had a certificate from Restaurants.com to help with the bill. $10 burger, $1 more for cheese, $1 more for bacon, $4 more for french fries.... we tried the smoked fish dip, which tasted more like canned tuna fish, nothing smoked about it. The surf and turf was good although pricey as well $34. It came with a baked potato and grilled asparagus.

Galashelties
Galashelties

A co-worker and I opted for the RFC when the Rusty Pelican overbooked themselves for Sunday brunch and we were thrilled. The food was excellent, from the conch fritters app to the ahi tuna (main course) which was perfectly cooked and well presented. We sat outside and the view complimented the entire meal. Our server, John, was knowledgable about the menu, attentive without being overbearing and added to the quality of the experience, as an excellent server should. I may not be a noted food critic but I know good seafood when I taste it! Can't wait to go back!Can't wait to go back!

M Proenza
M Proenza

This restaurant is the worst restaurant I have ever dined at. The servers are short staffed and over worked. The cooks are also very short staffed. It takes about an hour and a half to receive your food. Its cold and tastes horrible. Do not come here!!!!!!! Its also a zoo cats and dogs everywhere literally!

C.O. Jones
C.O. Jones

I used to go there often, when Chef Jorge was there. Then he was fired, and the new menu is greasy and very unimaginative. That goes to show that changes, for the sake of change, do not always work. Fire the fool in the kitchen and get Chef Jorge back.

zqxz
zqxz

Finally (48 hours) time limit to buy.

LV Muffler $ 5.99LV Bags $ 19.9 LV Wallet $ 6.55Armani Glasses $ 5.99LV Belt $ 6.9

Buy addresses---- tntn.usTips (48 hours after the special product is invalid)

Barracudabeach
Barracudabeach

Lee Klein went a little bonkers in this review. As proven by the picture submitted by New Times staff photographer, the view IS amazing. Klein admits that the fish is incredibly fresh which is key to the whole concept.I've been there several times for dinner and the service was casual yet very friendly and efficient. For the menu prices and casual theme of the place, the service is very much on par. Maybe Klein thought he was reviewing Azul for a second. I've never once heard a barking dog, which Klein uses to open his review, mentions again and wraps up the review with just like my high school teacher taught me how to write a paper. Boring...! Tell us about the experience WE will have, not an isolated experience you had or something your dinner guest said. Who cares? Anyway, it's a great "Tiki Bar" style escape along the water with a great view of the sun setting over the Miami skyline with really fresh fish. All this without driving to Key Largo or Islamorada.We all reach a time when we should just retire... Lee...

miamirox
miamirox

We just had dinner at the Rickenbacker Fish house, over priced for blah food. The salmon was not bad but comes with this carrot mash...and that's exactly what it is, mashed carrots, no flavor. The whole snapper has more breading than anything else. The mahi mahi was too blackened if that makes sense and the rice pilaf was a bit under cooked and not much in flavor. All in all not a great experience. We are seafood and restaurant regulars and it was disappointing. I rarely ever leave comments anywhere, because even "not too bad" would be ok for me, but this was way under my "not too bad" level

John
John

Lee Klein is the "Ellsworth Toohey" of restaurant critics - second hander par excellence. Who the "F" goes out of their way to trash one of the few CASUAL dining restaurants on Biscayne Bay only to give rave reviews on some of the trendy overpriced dives in Wynwood and Midtown. I dine quite frequently at Rickenbacker and keep my boat at the adjoining marina. I found the fish and produce to be the freshest in town. The clam chowder is the bomb.com and nowhere else where you get local treats like tilefish? The service, while a tic slow at times, does not bother me. After all, if you are going to eat at a casual waterfront joint, you're probably not in a hurry. So while Mr. Klein continues to guzzle Hatorade to fuel his feeble attempts at being the New Times restaurant czar, I'll be having a beer and watching the setting sun reflect off the the Brickell skyline, from my favorite seat at the Rickenbacker Fish Co. For real reviews on the Fish Co., check out tripadvisor, yelp, and the Herald to name a few, and not the local malcontent rag of choice known as the Miami New Times. Cheers

Who's Minding the Kitchen?
Who's Minding the Kitchen?

It's a shame to have this nice looking restaurant with sub-par service and food preparation...Quite frankly, when I read their menu on their website, I was somewhat dissapointed because I thought it sounded like something from the late 70's or early 80's(in terms of style). I worked at the original Horatio's(building they are in) when it opened in December 1985 and was excited that someone was going to go in and remodel and institute a new menu. Training is the most important part of cooking, consistency is key! As a former chef, I always told applicants that I was interviewing, "If you're here to work your 8 hours("clock punchers") and leave, don't bother applying, I want someone who has a passion for food!" It sounds as if they better find a chef who has stricter standards in the kitchen. In my book, you're only as good as your last plate to leave the line...

Lee
Lee

You're being purposefully dishonest Barracudahead. If you've been there as you claim, you'd know that the photo you reference was taken from the only spot on the entire deck that you can see water from (during the day) -- and even this view is obscured by boats. And the dogs are there, barking, 365 nights a year. Just saying...

Who's Minding the Kitchen?
Who's Minding the Kitchen?

Three scenarios for Barracudabeach: 1) He's a friend of the owner. 2) He works there. 3) He's getting paid to say that. Or... he's not from around these parts and he doesn't know good food or service if it bit him in the ass...(" it's a great "Tiki Bar" style escape"...LMAO!)

had4
had4

we ate there last night, had a certificate from restaurants.com. the service was great, the food so-so. we had to send back the "un"smoked fish dip. I dont think I would waste my time or money going there again.

 
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