Saturday, May 24, 2008

H2 Tapas and Wine Bar in Fort Myers Rocks!


NOTE: AS CHEF HAROLD BALINK WAS, "LET GO" FROM H2 IN 2009, THE QUALITY HAS DECREASED. THIS REVIEW IS LEFT IN STRICTLY FOR HISTORICAL INTEREST, AND IS NO REFLECTION ON THE CURRENT OFFERINGS AND QUALITY SINCE HAROLD LEFT.
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H2 exceeds expectations for service, food quality, and live music. It’s THE place to go in Fort Myers for an evening overlooking the River, in the historic River District. There’s weekend live music, and top quality food, served as a delicious assortment of tapas. Tapas, while often tiny tasting portions at some restaurants, are beautiful and generous portions at H2, served at 1980’s prices.
And did I mention the great atmosphere? H2 is known for its friendly waitstaff.

We were greeted by Evan as soon as we walked in, and fortunate to be seated at my request, in the “catbird seat”- the table in front of the open kitchen. Why? To see Chef Harold Balink and his sous chef magically create his tapas and entrees. While “his fingers never leave his hands”, as they say, the opportunity to see fine chefs in action is educational and entertaining. Seated at our choice four-top, we had a great view of the wait staff selecting wine bottles from the ceiling- high wine racks, and a great view of the central oval bar, which can seat close to 25 people. Its dark matrix surface embeds innumerable rounded stones and minerals. There are 4 large semicircular booths, and the tables have comfortable, stylish wooden chairs. Not to mention, the great view of the live entertainment.

The "Catbird Seat" by the Kitchen
We started with a Raspberry Beret Martini, with Bacardi Raspberry, Bacardi Limon, Chambord, and a splash of Lemonade-hit the spot!

Raspberry Beret Martini
Since were were going to the nearby Florida Repertory Theater at 8 pm , I needed a pickmeup, and Evan brought the Espressotini, with Espresso Vodka, Tia Maria, and a double shot of fresh Expresso…and if I finished it, I’d have been up till dawn! Key Lime Margarita The wine list is 10 pages long., just what I’d expect at a quality wine bar. Wines by the glass are a generous pour, and range from $6 up, representing well known vintners, including Tuscan Brunello’s, a Spanish Borsao (Grenache/Tempranillo), a Frédéric Magnien Bourgogne, and a Joseph Swan from California's Russian River, just to name a few.

Selecting a Great Wine
Sous Chef
The Escargot are served with garlic, tomatoes and anisette cream, with crisp toasted baguette slices ($8), a delight! The Shrimp Tacos (8) is a generous taco quartet, with tender baby shrimp, baby Napa cabbage, and hints of basil, cumin and garlic, with a dusting of cilantro. No one herb predominates, the mark of a great chef, and the crispy mini- taco shells give a contrasting “crunch” to the luscious shrimp.

Chef Harold's Finshing Touches on Shrimp Tacos Shrimp Tacos Close Up! The Snapper Ceviche (9), my partner said, tastes “ really alive, with an attitude” with spicy jalapenos, tomato, lime and ginger wonderfully accompanying the frewsh snapper, with bits of red onion. And a ginger aioli on top, with a crisp home made potato chip!
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One of Three Parts of the Snapper Ceviche
Chef Harold and Server
The Grilled Vegetable & Goat Cheese Pizza (9) has a thin, thin crisp crust, and is laden with cheese, then zuchini, asparagus, broccoli, onions and red peppers, then topped again with sprinkled goat cheese! The veggies are richly tasty, as Chef Balink roasts them, prior to putting on the pizza. The Seared Scallops (11) are a steal at this price, with the tender trio seared then bedded on a black bean puree, with a lively Pico de gallo sauce, red onions and sliced green onions, topped with a slightly spicy aioli.
The BBQ Beef Sliders (6) are a favorite of the house at happy hour. The pair features luscious slow cooked beef in BBQ sauce, served with home made potato chips. The Lobster Raviolis (10) are served with a Truffle Boursin Cream sauce, and quite a few orders were served while on our watch.The entrees, include Grilled “Cowboy Steak (29), Sared Black Sea Bass 28), and Marinated and Grilled Organic filet Mignon, with a Cremini Mushroom risotto (34).

We shared a cheese platter, and selected the Forme d’Ambert, a mild French blue cheese ($2), the Boucheron (3) a French creamy-soft goat cheese, and the Saenkanter (2.50), a hard Dutch Gouda-my favorite. These came with Harold’s homemade orange, lime and honey chutney, and toasted baguette slices-truly a feast of very high quality cheeses, for under ten dollars!

Cheese Platter
Happy Family
It was getting close to theater time, so we shared the Caramelized Orange Montrachet Goat Cheese Cheesecake, which comes with fresh fruit.
Entertainment, oh, yes! H2 has LIVE acoustic and amplified music of all types, starting at 10 pm. Call for this week’s lineup.

Put on the Dancin' Shoes! Sammie J and The Guys Kick it up!
Stop by for Happy Hour, 4-7 pm for $2 Draft beer, $3 Well brands, $4 Select wines and $5 Martinis, to go with the best tapas around.

I met Chef Harold years ago in Naples, at a high end charity event. Harold's catered delights ranged from heavenly marinaded fajtas to the tenderest seared tuna, all artfully displayed. Guests then visited Harold at Harold's, formerly Peter’s La Cuisine. H2 then followed, just across the alley. While Harold’s closed May 24, largely due to two years of the City of Fort Myers' ill conceived and prolonged street construction, some of the favorite dishes will continue be served at H2’s.

H2 Tapas and Wine Bar, 2214 Bay St., Fort Myers. (239) 226-1687.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

H2 is by far my favorite spot for dinner in downtown Fort Myers. The spot to be for good friends and great wine! Yes, the tapas keep bringing me back and there is always something new to try.
~c

Anonymous said...

H2 has a wonderful atmosphere and amazing food. Whether you are in the mood for a good beer, excellent wine with a great selection, or a martini, it’s the place to be.
The staff are great, fun, and welcoming. Harold is an 'on-hands' owner whom you can see almost every night. His establishment is everything downtown Fort Myers needs and a basis for what other restaurants should strive to achieve.

Anonymous said...

H2 Rockz!

Philly said...

We are from Belgium and have a second home in Ft Myers. We finally found a place which can compete with the very best of the Midwestern European kitchen. The trendy but cosy interior and friendly service add value to the modern, fresh cuisine... and all this at honest fares! There is live music and a great bar, which have the ideal atmosphere for after and before meal gatherings. Definitely nr 1 Historic Old Fort Myers.
Philly and Hilde

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