I've eaten at the Bay House over the past 14 years, and the food quality slipped from very good, to ho-hum pricey mediocrity by 2006. That changed with new management in 2007, when Naples Turtle Club owner Mike Moore, joined with Peter Tierney and revamped the Bay House. They cleaned out much of the nautical bric-a-bac, enhanced the views of the Cocohatchee River's mangroves, and most importantly, brought in Executive Chef William Blum and Chef de Cuisine Mickey Bergeron to ensure high food quality.
The Bay House now features a casually elegant setting and some Charleston, S.C. style "Low Country" culinary touches, with classics such as Fried Oysters, Shrimp and Grits, and even Pulled Pork.
It's a little hard to find Walkerbilt Road the first time, on the west side of Naples 41, on the south side of a strip shopping center, and just north of the BMW dealer's east side of 41 location. The restaurant is a large tall white single story white Florida style building, with ample windows to view the river and the surrounding greenery. Upon entering, we veered right, into the bar area, where a suspended wooden boat drifts over the large bar.
The Stuart Shelton Duo was playing light jazz with Stuart on keyboard, and Patricia Dean on drums. We paused to enjoy their music. We continued north to the largest of several dining areas, and were seated in the upper tier of tables, under three beautiful antique small New England wooden boats.We had requested a window-side seat earlier, with the only inattentive staffer we encountered; that request "disappeared" before we arrived. Not a problem, as many seats have a nice view of the mangrove lined river. As the summer sun sets, blazing in on those at the choicest window seats, movable blinds keep the bright light from blinding those patrons. The view becomes magical just after sunset, as outdoor lighting highlights the foliage, and an occasional boater may come into view.We and nearly all diners had the same mission, to try the $25 per person summer daily three-course special offering of appetizer, entree, and dessert, with complimentary glass of wine, served from 5 pm onward. (NOTE: The price has since increased to $29 in 2009.) Also offered is the special Chef's 5 course summer tasting menu for $60, with wine pairings for $30. It'll be interesting to see what pricepoint and offerings will similarly pack in people during the "season".
Rebecca, our server, started us with a glass of Foppiano Lot 96's mix of 7 California red wines, ($7 if not on the special) for the Beef, and to go with the fish, the Benzinger Sauvignon Blanc. Both are very good house wines.
Rebecca and Chef Blum
For our appetizers, we passed on the Caesar Salad, and shared the remaining two choices- the Low Country style Crispy Fried Oysters, and the Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad. We flipped on the crisp, batter coated tender Fried Oysters, as tender and lusciously juicy as one could desire, served on the half shell. The shells sat on a plate of very coarse sea salt, with black and red pepper berries. A tasty and simply elegant presentation.
The appetizers vary; earlier the Caramelized Diver Scallop Appetizer was available, with a seared scallop on a tomato-caper relish, topped with a lusciously light chili-coconut foam, with micro cilantro on top. When you try the Bay House, the seasonal appetizers may vary.
We made "all gone" with the Beet Salad's mache, Tomato Tartar, Olive Oil and nice Balsamic Vinegar dressing; it just didn't have the Oyster's "wow" factor.
Rebecca paced the meal well. We passed over the Roast Chicken, which can be a wonderful preparation. We chose the Sautéed Flounder. It's first dipped on cornmeal light batter, sautéed, then topped with a Summer Corn Emulsion, all on a bed of wild mushrooms. The tender fish was served hot, with a delicious aroma. Place the Flounder, Corn Emulsion, and 'shrooms together on your fork, and see if the whole combination is better than the parts-we felt so.
The Filet Mignon was a good 6 oz portion, cooked just as we ordered, with a rich Grain Mustard Jus, and served on a Sweet Potato Mash. This also was a delight to the eye and palate. Both the Filet, and the Flounder were satisfying portions. Rebecca said that nearly all customers this evening ordered the Flounder or the Filet. specials Other entrées on the regular menu include: Lacquered Beef Short Ribs ($23), “Sugar and Spiced” Pork Tenderloin with a Blistered Corn Soufflé (21), Roast Swordfish ($27), Oak Grilled Wild King Salmon (30), Oak Roasted NY Strip (36), or the Spring Lamb and Lobster (35).
Soon, the sun had set. No longer was the harsh light reflected off the river, and the outdoor lighting accentuated the mangrove's calming beauty.
Two special desserts were offered; a Warm Valhrona Chocolate "Souffle", and a trio of sorbets. Chocoholics, we delighted in the rich, almost thick pudding-like center of the warm Chocolate "Souffle", with a topping ribbon of crème anglaise and powdered sugar, with fresh whipped cream and fresh berries on the side.
The Sorbet Trio featured Mango, Key Lime, and Raspberry Sorbets. All were well prepared, offering subtle tastes of each fruit, without the excess sugar found in other restaurants' sorbets. The Canon PowerShot SD850 camera goofed often on the focus, so there's less pics to share.
We proclaim this a Naples "Steal of a Deal" for two persons for a total of $53 with tax, with great food, the Stuart Shelton duo, and river view, at no extra charge.
The Bay House is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner; lunch from 11 a.m. til 3 p.m. each day, and a plated brunch menu for "Sundays on the River". Dinner is served from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. Sunday -Thursday, and till 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Shelton Duo plays Friday 6-9 pm, and Sunday Brunch from 11-3 pm.
Bay House Restaurant -799 Walkerbilt Road in North Naples, just off of US 41/Tamiami Trail, North of Immokalee Road. (239) 591-3837.