“I get excited when people enjoy the food. That’s what makes me get up in the morning,” said chef and owner of Turquoise Mike Hines.

Hines’ has done every job in the restaurant biz. That includes consultancy work for failing restaurants, similar to Gordon Ramsay on the show “Hell’s Kitchen.” He uses the experience gained in those 64 restaurants, plus the Southern cooking he learned from his mama growing up in Tennessee, in every dish prepared at Turquoise on Fitzpatrick Street.

Nestled in a quiet downtown neighborhood a block from Duval, the restaurant’s décor is cozy — candlelight and warm colors. It’s a step away from the bustle of Duval Street, while still close enough for an after-dinner stroll through Key West’s nightlife. The biggest draw, though, is the food.

“Every dish is made to perfection,” Hines said.

Crown Royal Bacon sauce has a sweet savory creamy taste that harmonizes with the bacon and is delectable on the seared jumbo scallop appetizer. The Three Way Mahi entrée showcases all his skills. The mahi is served three ways on one plate— Thai caramel sauce with water chestnuts and mukimame (edamame), pineapple ginger sauce, and madeira with mushrooms. The fish fillets and sauces are separated with miniature dykes of mashed potatoes.

Another signature dish at Turquoise is the seafood potpie with scallops, gulf shrimp, and fresh fish combined with rich and creamy broth and hints of thyme and white wine topped with a puff pastry. For some southern comfort food try the zesty crawfish ´Etouffe made with Louisiana crawfish tails smothered in a blend of dark roux, tomatoes, butter, onions, pepper, celery and garlic served with coconut jasmine rice.

Flavors are so well received at Turquoise it has earned the No. 7 ranking on Tripadvisor out of 341 restaurants, despite only being open for six months. One of the numerous five-star reviews said, “ Turquoise is a gem. It is a cute little place, and we were greeted and seated right away in a quieter spot for the six of us. Took awhile to decide what to get because it all sounded good. And it was— very good. We were delighted that the chef stopped by to say hello and we let him know.”

To finish the meal is another specialty at Turquoise — dessert. The French Macaroons take a week to make and the painstaking effort is worth it. Or try the beignets dipped in a vanilla cream sauce.

This article was originally published in the Key West Weekly and written by Alex Press. http://keysweekly.com/42/indulge-in-the-flavor-of-turquoise/