Ryan Knight: Mangoes’ sushi master

As sushi chef, Knight works hands-on with the freshest fish from our local waters.

As sushi chef, Knight works hands-on with the freshest fish from our local waters.

When it comes to sushi, Ryan Knight knows a thing or two about rolling. Sushi, that is. The Florida-born sous chef arrived on the island eight months ago with a backpack in hand from Wilmington, N. C. After Hurricane Florence ran through the state, Knight decided it was time for a change, so he bought a one-way Greyhound bus ticket and headed south. Upon arriving on the island, he hopped off the bus and walked straight into Mangoes Restaurant on Duval Street looking for work. He was hired on the spot and that’s where his culinary journey in Key West began.

As the resident sushi chef, Knight is in charge of assisting the executive chef in making creative decisions and is his right-hand man when it comes to the raw features on the menu. He is second in command and assists the executive chef to ensure a smooth dining experience for patrons.

When it comes to the menu, Knight is in charge of rolling and plating the various sushi options. He takes pride and passion in making each roll both flavorful and aesthetically perfect, a trade he learned just this past year.

Knight gets up close and personal with his next victim.

Knight gets up close and personal with his next victim.

Originally from Clearwater, Fla., Knight started working in the kitchen at an early age. From doing the dishes to making pizza dough, Knight has mastered every aspect of the craft of cooking. Having learned to cook at an early age from his single mom, he puts his love of flavors to work in the kitchen.

Although he never aspired to become a chef, the vocation seemed to follow him wherever he went and he grew to fall in love with cooking. Knight spent his early years cutting hair in the neighborhood he grew up in, longing to become a barber. But looking back now, it seems he was always destined to be in the kitchen.

Of the many sushi options on the Mangoes menu, the sushi chef says the Hawaiian and Double Lobster rolls are to die for. When asked what his favorite thing is about cooking, Knight says he enjoys “eating it and seeing the look on everyone’s faces while chowing down” on his creations.

Like anyone who works in the kitchen, Knight knows the ins and outs of the restaurant. When he’s not in the kitchen playing sous chef or slaying sushi, he spends his time basking at the beach or snorkeling in the ocean.

Locally owned and operated Mangoes restaurant serves lunch and dinner at 700 Duval St. Over its long history, Mangoes has evolved into a local hot spot where residents and visitors alike can people watch while sipping on an array of hand-crafted beverages.

The location and layout of the space make it an ideal place to stop and enjoy a respite from Duval Street. The covered dining area makes enjoying the island weather bearable, while the bright indoor space allows you to cool off away from the oppressive summer sun.

The menu at Mangoes is Caribbean with an Asian influence, inspired by traditional Conch and Caribbean dishes and featuring indigenous ingredients. The fish is caught locally and cooked or rolled to perfection. Because it embraces a diverse cultural palate, Mangoes offers an eclectic menu that is sure to have something to please even the pickiest eaters, from salads to the always freshly caught fish of the day.

My personal favorite item on the menu is their fish tacos, because let’s face it, who doesn’t love tacos? The mango pico de gallo is out of this world delicious. You can choose to have your fish prepared with their signature Mangoes blackening spice, grilled or fried. You all should know your girl by now and know that if fried is an option on the menu, fried is the selection I’m choosing.

The lunch menu at Mangoes boasts an impressive selection of fresh seafood options with an island twist to them and dinner at the hot spot is equally impressive. The Caribbean Coconut Curry is something to write home about, so come prepared with a stamped envelope. The dish features lobster, shrimp, locally caught fish, clams and tomatoes, all cooked in a coconut curry sauce and served over basmati rice. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

If you prefer to expand your taste buds, then you must venture into the sushi menu and let the sushi chef show off his skills. Start with the Wakami Seaweed Salad or Mango Tuna Poke bowl. Let your senses run wild as you explore the flavors in each handcrafted roll, like the Drunken Hearts Roll (shrimp tempura, mango and avocado topped with shrimp, pineapple salsa and drunken eel sauce) or the Key West-inspired Bubba Roll (conch salad, avocado and cucumber topped with key lime aioli and conch fritters).

If you’re looking for somewhere to perch before your dinner reservation, the restaurant serves up a mean happy hour from 4-7 p.m. Who doesn’t love a two-for-one drink special? And if you’ve had a dreadful week and it’s only Monday, fear not. Mangoes celebrates mojito Mondays with $6 mojitos (classic, mango and strawberry) — a girl can get in trouble with these kinds of prices.

Once you start slurping down the beverages, you’re going to need something to nosh on. Well, Mangoes has you covered with half off all dinner starters — go for the Salsa Trio (black bean hummus, mango pico de gallo and tomatillo avocado chutney served with plantain and tortilla chips), but make sure you save enough room to savor Ryan Knight’s impressive sushi creations. ¦

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