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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
I had heard this place mentioned before and somebody said they put on a pretty good spread on Sundays. So we gave it a try for bunch one Sunday afternoon and it was pretty good.
As far as I know, it's the only restaurant in the area that sits right on the Atlantic offering superb views from most tables.
As we entered The Reef we saw a nice, big aquarium with familiar fish that we had seen in the South Pacific. Nice touch. And a guy was playing guitar. Not loud and obnoxious, but nice, soothing tunes. Another nice touch.
We were seated and asked if we'd like champagne (which came with the brunch) or some other concoction like mimosas. Too early for me. We stuck to iced tea--unsweetened. You've got to emphasize unsweetened in this part of the country because they love their sweet tea in the deep south.
We quickly invaded the buffet area and took note of the following items: Hot Alaska snow crab legs, a carving station with prime rib, a small offering of salad, smoked salmon filets (cold), Alaskan king crab (cold), peel-and-eat shrimp (cold), various cheeses and breads and on the other side of the narrow corridor they had fried catfish, lobster ravioli, shepherd's pie, steamed veggies, mashed potatoes, jalapeno grits, and Manhattan clam chowder. Didn't try the veggies, mashed potatoes, grits or chowder.
The snow crab was good. Very good quality and you could more or less select the individual leg or claw you like unlike some places were the crabs are served in big clusters. The drawn butter served with it was fairly flavorless. Sometimes when you clarify butter (that's what drawn butter is), you lose some of the flavor depending on the butter and the quality varies greatly. The peel-and-eat shrimp were perfectly cooked and very good. Probably from a far away foreign country but what the heck, they were good. The chilled king crab was tasty. The prime rib was served rare and was a little on the chewy side but still good. The lobster ravioli in a cream sauce was great! Just as soon as they would put a new batch out, it would be snapped up. The fried catfish was surprisingly good. Often times battered fish doesn't hold up on a buffet dish. This one did. The cheese board was so-so with cubes of the usual, household cheeses and a large wheel of very good, possibly imported brie. I wasn't impressed with the salad. And I didn't see any pasta salads. The only thing that scored a zero was the shepherd's pie. I've had it in England where it's delicious. Here instead of using mashed potatoes on top, they just put some potato chunks (long, flat slices) on top of poorly seasoned meat. Couldn't tell whether it was lamb or beef. Didn't care, either because it wasn't worth eating.
They offered some bakery pastries, which my wife buzzed through like crazy. And they had a revolving carousel of tempting looking desserts. However we were too full up on the protein to even consider it.
So what's the bottom line here? The cost per person was $28 including all the champagne you wanted. I suppose if you were a big morning or mid-day drinker, this would be a great value. As it was, I wouldn't consider it a poor value. Overall, I think they could have done a little better job with a few more choices. And the serving area was extremely narrow making for some tricky foot work getting at the food you wanted. But add the beautiful view--especially on a sunny day--and it's a nice experience.
The Reef is located at 4100 Coastal Highway (Florida's famous A1A) in St. Augustine. You can get all the info you need on this restaurant at their web site here.