30A is a scenic detour off of State Route 98 in the Florida panhandle. It runs along the shore and has precious beach front villages strung along it like charms on a Pandora bracelet.
Normally we spend more time on the eastern side of 30A in communities like Rosemary and Seacrest, but we decided to give the Destin side of the road a shot this time and booked a reservation at Vue on 30A.
We had an 8:15 reservation and were thrown a curve when a section of 30A was closed because of flooding. This brought us to the restaurant about ten minutes late. I had called ahead to let them know that was the case and they assured me that everything would be fine.
When we arrived they asked us if we would like to sit inside or outside. Let’s see, we are right on the beach…is this a trick question? We let them know we would love to sit outside if it was possible. They sent us to the lounge to wait for a moment.
The lounge area was striking, in a sort of art deco way, with marble topped tables. The layout was a bit strange but it was very pretty.
It was also odd to see as many open tables as they had and be asked to wait when we had a reservation. I went back to the hostess and let her know where she could find us when our table became available. She responded with, “Wonderful, would you like to sit inside or outside?”
We watched them seat several parties in front of us before going back to check in with the hostess again. “It will be just a moment, would you like to sit inside or outside?”
This was beginning to feel like Groundhog’s Day.
Finally, thirty-five minutes after we arrived at a restaurant, with a reservation, we were seated.
The table was right on the water. While it was late enough that we could not see it, the pleasant splash of the water set the mood nicely against the solo musical performer who was singing and strumming at the far end of the patio.
The table was also very dark. Dark enough that we could not read the menus without using the flashlight app on my phone. My wife has a theory that any restaurant that has entrees above a certain price really needs to have a candle on the table. Given that the entrees at Vue on 30A start at $21, and we couldn’t see the menus, a candle would have been a really nice touch.
Being seated cued another wait. Another fifteen minutes elapsed before a waiter apologetically came by and asked if we had been waited on yet. He apologized and said he would be back with us in a minute.
Frankly, at this point I am concerned that if we try to eat here we are never going to leave. When the waiter returned, he proves to be knowledgable and engaging. After quizzing him on how far behind the kitchen is, we decide to order an appetizer to see if the kitchen is going to run at the same speed as the front of house.
Breaking every Iron Chef rule, we opted for the Lobster Trilogy. This appetizer consisted of a lobster wonton, lobster ceviche and lobster claws in a coconut curry sauce.
Triple dishes break the Iron Chef rule because something always disappoints by comparison. The claws in the coconut curry sauce were wonderful, but the ceviche was more of a salsa with fish accents and was far too heavy on the red pepper. The wontons were good, but I would not have known that there was any lobster in them. It is a shame to be disappointed by such a decadent ingredient.
The appetizer actually came very promptly, so we decided to forge ahead and order dinner at Vue.
My wife ordered the scallops and I ordered the fruits de mer in a saffron broth.
The scallops were cooked very nicely, sweet and fresh with the salt and crunch of bacon making a really nice contrast to the soft scallops. The mango beurre blanc sauce that they sat in added another layer of richness that took the scallops over the top.
The sides were a couple of pieces of asparagus and risotto. The asparagus was left a little undercooked and the risotto was underdone and still a bit crunchy, but it did have nice flavor.
I opted for the fruits de mer which had a lovely description of a wealth of shrimp, mussels, scallops, local grouper and a half lobster tail in a saffron infused broth. Truly a fusion of seafood and decadent spice!
The seafood was served over the same undercooked risotto, but it was surrounded by a tasty broth redolent with the perfume of saffron. The seafood was a mixed bag. The mussels and scallops were excellent. The shrimp and lobster were good, but the local grouper tasted like it had been frozen and then overcooked. The dish left me a little underwhelmed.
Our waiter was very personable and well-informed on the menu, but I did get him to let me in on the fact that he had seven tables which he was covering by himself. This is really too much ground to cover in a restaurant that is reaching to be at the level that Vue on 30A claims.
At $93 for two entrees, an appetizer and a single glass of wine, I felt like the experience was quite simply not worth what we paid for it. We visited Vue on 30A on the Sunday night before Labor Day, and perhaps they did not expect to be busy. It had the feel of a restaurant that was ready to close down for the season and was more annoyed that we showed up at the end of a shift, rather than a high-end restaurant eager to serve a patron.
Vue on 30A’s motto is “As if the view was not enough”. With all of the great options along 30A, I cannot picture going back to Vue on 30A, no matter how spectacular the view.