When I go onto sites like Yelp and Chowhound, I’ve noticed a lot of user reviews that start out by saying things like, “Longmont is a culinary wasteland, but…” or “Even though most restaurants in Longmont suck…”
It seems that every reviewer who takes umbrage with Longmont for its lack of fine or quality dining recants himself in the same sentence to provide a stellar exception. It may just be Longmont’s curse of the back-handed compliment, but in my experience, every town has its highs and lows: the underperforming restaurants making the good restaurants seem finer, the food more delicious, the atmosphere more elegant.
But there is something extraordinary about Tortuga’s. It’s not your typical exception to the “sub-par” rule.
Tucked away in a quaint old house on a mostly residential street just blocks from Main Street, it’s the sort of place that makes you feel like you know something that others don’t—because you probably wouldn’t find it if you weren’t looking.
On our visit we were seated outside on the lovely patio beneath the mature shade trees that line the lot. We ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, perfect for any meal of mahi-mahi and halibut, and we began to chitchat; the atmosphere is definitely conducive to it. Before long, our appetizer arrived: a tower of lightly fried eggplant layered with goat cheese and then topped with a robust red sauce and a sprinkling of pine nuts. Eggplant and goat cheese are two of my favorite things in the world, but I’d never eaten them together. And while the flavors complemented one another beautifully, we agreed that a little less goat cheese might have been a boon so that its piquant flavor didn’t overwhelm the rest.
We both ordered one of the catches of the day. My companion had the mahi-mahi prepared with jerk seasonings and a mango salsa and served with rice and beans. The jerk brought serious heat to the plate, with habanero peppers lighting the spices ablaze; I was glad for the sweetness of the mango to temper the burn. I ordered the yucca-crusted Alaskan halibut served with a green chili corn cream sauce, which was utterly addictive. I’d never had yucca before, but it was quite similar in taste and texture to a potato; it gave the fish a lovely crisp, starchy crust. Both entrées were served with crispy fried pieces of plantain, which were just barely sweet but had a subtle flavor that was quite lovely.
Finally, we couldn’t resist the chocolate bread pudding for dessert. With some bread puddings, the chunks of bread are still distinct and visible in the dish; this one had more the consistency of a brownie, but with a lighter chocolate flavor. The caramel sauce was a wonderful addition that we had to restrain ourselves from licking straight off the plate.
Tortuga’s doesn’t hit you over the head with a “fine dining” experience; it does not try to wow diners with a drawn out menu or with uniformed wait staff. It’s comfortable and welcoming and it succeeds in creating immaculate dishes that are perfect in their simplicity and bold in their taste. It’s obvious that the kitchen knows well and loves the food it is preparing.
Regardless of whether you think Longmont is a culinary wasteland save for a few stars or simply a town—like all towns—that has a variety of restaurants, each serving its purpose in the eco-system of gastronomy, you know there are gems to be admired. Torguta’s runs ahead of the pack…not because it’s overwhelmingly chic or because the food is a modern take on anything. It’s merely excellent execution of good, simple ideas, which no matter where you are, is much appreciated.
218 Coffman St., Longmont
Bottom line: A definite star in the sea of Longmont dining.
My husband and I had the pleasure of eating at Tortuga’s several months ago and I can’t stop thinking about the banana salsa my fish was topped with. It was unlike anything I’ve had before and I can’t wait to go back next time we’re in Longmont to have it again.
Awesome! Thanks for the comment.