STORY: Pescado Seafood Grill & Rooftop Bar in Rosemary Beach

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    By JAN WADDY
    News Herald Features Editor
    Jul 31, 2019

    ROSEMARY BEACH — The view alone led to the creation of —Pescado Seafood Grill and Rooftop Bar looking out over Rosemary Beach rooftops and the Gulf of Mexico calls for elevated cuisine and wine.

    Owned by Joe Freer, Steven Sapp, Greg Wakeham and Executive Chef Ken Duenas, Pescado opened March 1, 2018, as part of Last Call Restaurant Group.

    “The bar is great, and the sunsets are magnificent,” Wakeham said. “We had always talked about having a pizzeria. We got to the top and saw the view from the top floor, and Joe said, ‘This is the restaurant.’”

    Initial plans for the Orleans building were to have a restaurant on the back half with condos and two penthouses on top. Pescado’s understated coastal colors, modern lines and natural lighting complement the space.

    “The patio doors open like an accordion. The windows also open on the outside bar, and drinks are served from both sides of the bar. No other place here (has) a view like this, to walk out and feel like you’re in Europe and see all the rooftops,” Duenas said. “It’s still resort casual. I’ve had women come in at 4 o’clock in bikinis and a sarong around it — as long as it’s covered up. I’ve seen them dressed to the nines or in flip-flops and shorts and T-shirts. We are on the gulf on the beach; some call it ‘island feel, chic’ ... laid back but very professional.”

    The Last Call Restaurant Group includes Southside Slice Pizzeria downstairs, as well as Shaka Sushi and Noodle Bar, and Shades Bar & Grill in Inlet Beach.

    “Next to Shaka, we are doing an oyster bar,” said Duenas, who added the next restaurant is scheduled to open in Spring 2020.

    Duenas, “self-taught,” has been cooking professionally for more than 30 years — 11 of those at Café Thirty-A in Seagrove Beach. His resume includes Marina Cafe in Destin and Destin Chops.

    “I started when I was 15,” he said.

    Pescado’s menu pulls from Duenas’ childhood.

    “I’m a military brat; my father retired from the Army at Fort Rucker,” he said. “I’m originally from Guam, born there, and then went to Hawaii. I was influenced from my grandmother, an Asian-Pacific Islander. A lot of influences on the menu are from that area, the cuisine I grew up on, utilizing every part of the animal and vegetable, and let it speak for itself. Some of these are her recipes.”

    PESCADO
    What: Seafood Grill & Rooftop Bar

    Where: 74 Town Hall Road, Suite 4B, Rosemary Beach

    Hours: 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday and 4-11 p.m. Monday through Saturday

    Details: Rooftop30a.com

    The Chef’s Feast — shareable for two or more — features whole-grilled fish, shrimp, fried pork, chorizo sausage, shrimp fritters, clams, mussels, red rice, pickled cucumbers, red onion and tomato.

    “The Chef’s Feast is something I grew up having as a kid. It’s a whole thing of seafood with rice on the bottom. ... We went and caught fish, and it would be whatever we would bring back,” Duenas said. “A lot of people love the Cantonese Lobster with stir-fried noodles — a 3-pound Maine Lobster lightly flash fried with tempura.”

    The “Shareables” section includes wine pairing suggestions — from Dom Perignon (Champagne, France, 2006) to Quintessa Red Blend (Rutherford, Napa Valley California, 2015).

    Wines are a very big part of this,” said Duenas, who worked with the in-house sommelier, Doruk Gurunlu, on the menu. “Doruk is going for his third level (in Certified Sommelier status). Our wine list changes a lot.”

    The extensive list includes 20 available by the glass, as well as selections of sparkling, white, red and reserve by the bottle. Plus, Pescado features craft cocktails and spirits.

    “And we have dessert wine flights,” said Duenas, who also makes desserts in house.

    Pescado’s menu — even the craft cocktails — change with the season.

    “I think it’s a diverse menu, a little bit of everything,” Duenas said. “This one is changing in September.”

    A handful of Chef’s Features change twice a week — a chance for Duenas to showcase the fish of the day — including those flown in from his native Pacific waters.

    That’s where John Dory comes in and Alfonsino and Opakapaka and Ono — fish from the Pacific end. I like the fish over there, and it’s not just because that is where I’m from. The water is cleaner, the temperature is colder, there’s not much pollution; it’s just a nice clean fish. That’s why I have the Chef’s Features, because I can change things — anything from shrimp to octopus,” Duenas said. “We get a lot of our seafood from Water Street, Southern Seafood, Inland Seafood.”

    The Raw Bar features pepper-seared tuna & blue crab, seafood salad, and seasonal Chef’s Ceviche, as well as steak tartare. Small Bites include spiced lollipop lamb chops and pan-seared diver scallops, plus pan-roasted pork belly and Korean BBQ short ribs. Pork also makes an A La Carte appearance in the mac & cheese with bacon fat bread crumb.

    “It’s to the point. That’s why it’s greasy; it’s the bacon fat,” he said. “I remember my grandmother had a Maxwell House tin of grease and lard, and one with bacon fat stuffed under the sink. Fat is flavor.”

    Pescado seats about 120, though the seating feels intimately arranged with family-style dining.

    “We are pushing the limit with private events, just had a wedding of 105 last month,” Duenas said. “We can cater to every need available.”

    He also accommodates dietary requests: “I just changed the soy sauce to a soy without gluten, and we cater to vegans and pescatarians, too,” he added.

    Duenas and his wife have two children, and he says the area is “a great place to raise a family,” but Pescado is geared toward adults ages 18 and up, except Sunday Brunch.

    “During Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. we allow kids, and then after 2 p.m. it’s 18 and older,” Duenas explained. “We are a family resort, but it’s nice for Mom and Dad to get away from the kids.”

    Pescado Seafood Grill and Rooftop Bar elevates experience

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