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Amelia Islander

La Mancha Seafood and Tapas

Dec 08, 2014 01:46PM
When my friend, Cindy, came for a visit from Jacksonville, she was eager to try La Mancha Seafood and Tapas, which features Spanish, Portuguese, and Brazilian food, since she had heard some great things about the restaurant. Manager Netto and his friendly staff were there to greet us at the door, and they had planned a fabulous feast for us. We started our meal with a glass of Mont Marcal, a sparkling wine, or “cava,” from Spain. What a treat to sip those bubbles while enjoying La Mancha’s homemade bread and dipping oil! Our server, Andrew, brought us an appetizer to share, Gambas Carmen Miranda, fresh local shrimp sautéed with fresh pineapple in a creamy coconut honey mustard curry sauce. The shrimp were sweet and tender, and the sauce was rich and loaded with curry, mango, and pineapple. The dish was served in a hollowed out pineapple, a beautiful presentation. We also shared Ensalada Ciudad Real, two fried goat cheese medallions served over mixed greens, with caramelized onions, and fried beet chips, drizzled with honey mustard dressing. Andrew brought us each a glass of Vivanco White Rioja, a very light dry wine, which paired very well with our salad course. For our main courses, another server, Edwin, brought us Grouper Mondragon, fresh grouper fillet topped with a creamy roasted poblano pepper sauce, served with two panko-encrusted sea scallops, and  Espada de la Reina, herb-encrusted jumbo shrimp and large sea scallops skewered, and char-grilled on an open flame. Espada is Spanish for “sword,” and the presentation was quite impressive, with the sword dangling from a large hook. Our server removed the ingredients for us and placed them on our plates to share. I love grilled seafood, and this dish was probably my most favorite of the evening. But the grouper was a delight, as well. It was nicely cooked, with the pepper sauce making it a little spicy while the creamy sauce kept the heat under control. The scallops were crispy and delicate. La Mancha’s side dishes were wonderful. They serve a homemade potato salad that tastes better than any I have ever made, and they served a mélange of summer squash, red cabbage, and snow peas that were buttery and delicious. Andrew also brought us each a glass of Periquita Reserva Red Wine that was a pleasant surprise. I often go automatically with white wine when I enjoy seafood, but this wine—a medium-bodied Portuguese wine—was perfect, especially with the grouper. Netto suggested we sample two desserts, Tres Leches Cake (made with three milks) and Caramel Flan, both paired with a tawny port. What a treat they were! Heady with wine and a fabulous meal, we settled down to talk to Netto a little more about the restaurant. They have been open for about a year and a half, to rave reviews from their customers. Located very close to the beach and hotels on Sadler Road, it has been a paradise for visitors who are looking for an upscale dining experience in that area. La Mancha has live Flamenco music on Sunday evenings, a special room for private parties, and an outside patio. They also offer private catering and special platters, and mounds of paella for parties. For more information, call (904) 686-8785 or visit www.lamancharestaurant.com.