Wednesday, October 7, 2009

KC American Bistro - Welcome to Naples!

KC American Bistro is a gem! Every dish was perfectly made and properly served. Chef Keith Casey took a big risk to open in June. The restaurant is already successful, with a loyal following. Chef Casey, a Culinary Institute of America trained chef, has cooked for the past 24 years with top chefs that include Larry Forgione, Roy Yamaguchi, and Gerry Klaskala, to forge his own style-American Regional Cuisine. KC American Bistro has become the spot for quite a few foodies. Chef Casey changes the menu often, bringing in the best of America’a freshest bounty from five broad regions. The proof is in Chef Casey’s superb corn chowder, and in everything we tasted. We uncharacteristically cleaned our plates on every item. Twenty people dined on this slow weekday night, a very good sign in the off season. The restaurant is in the Pavillion, east of Bha Bha and Publix, with ample parking. It’s cozy and casually elegant. The long yellow-orange wall displaying a mural of Americana, denoting the showcased five broad USA regions. Tables are elegantly set with linen napkins and fresh flowers. Music ranges from light jazz to Latino, and the volume stays low for conversation.

The October menu features nine appetizers, and over seven main courses.
The Seared Apples and Arugula Salad, with dried cranberries, and candied walnuts ($7.50) has the lightest black fig vinaigrette dressing applied at the last moment, so every taste and texture nuance, be it soft or crisp, clearly stands out. Three diners raved over this!

I flipped over the Corn Chowder (6.50), a generous bowl of wonderfully creamy fresh sweet corn goodness, with a subtle chili warmth, topped with a generous portion of freshly cooked blue crab and flecks of green onion. I’ve tasted many corn chowders; this is one of the best. Highly recommended!

I love the succulent smoothness of the Roasted Medjool Dates (8), filled with creamy mild Humbolt Fog blue cheese, then wrapped with of dry-cured ham. It’s drizzled with a balsamic syrup reduction, and paired with arugula and julienned jicama . The whole is synergistically better than its parts. Recommended.

Others enjoyed the Gulf Shrimp Fritters, with fresh mango chutney, and a West Indies curry sauce (9). The Hearts of Romaine lettuce (6.5) is popular, with vine ripened tomatoes, crisp country bacon, and an herb buttermilk dressing (6.5).
Next time, we’ll sample the Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho (7) and the Blue Crab Cake “burger” with Creamy Mustard Slaw (12).

During this time, we had our helpful bilingual uniformed server. A friendly, lanky server in “street clothes” served freshly baked bread, refreshed water or wine glasses, and helped as needed- then he’d return to the kitchen. Yep, that’s low key Chef Casey's cameo appearance; his finger on the pulse of his diner’s needs and reactions.

The wine selection is quite favorably priced and of good quality-we sampled them. There’s about 15 white, rosés, and champagnes, with nearly all available by the glass or bottle. Sample a glass of Protocolo Rosé or Blanco, each $6, three Chardonnay’s for $10.50 to 15, a Pinot Grigio Riff (7.5), Pinot Gris, Elk Cove (12), a Miner Family Vineyard Viognier for $14, or Schloss Saarstein Riesling for $7.50.
There’s fifteen reds, including the Spanish Protocolo Tinto (6), Argentinian Crios de Susana Balbo Balbec from Argentina (11), Saintsbury “Garnet” Pinot Noir (15), Australian Woop Woop Shiraz for 7.5, and Amarone Della Valpolicella by the bottle. Best part, you can truly sample a sip of wine before ordering. KC’s has a refreshingly customer-friendly atmosphere.

I am very happy with the Smoked Pepper & Molasses Lacquered Duck (22), cooked exactly medium rare as I requested. A very good portion for $22, it comes with an heirloom bean picadillo, perfectly fried sweet plantains (plantanos maduros), and a light, crisp julienned jicama salad (jicama has a pear’s crisp, crunchy texture). This would sell for over $30 on 5th Ave South, and would not have the delicate nuances as served here.

The Apple Glazed Cedar Plank Salmon (19) is cooked perfectly, and a large portion for the price. The succulent portion of apple-sweet onion glazed salmon has a slight crisp crust, and comes with spaghetti squash, creamy herb-roasted fingerling potatoes. It is topped with fried leeks, and ringed with a green creamed leek fondue. Highly recommended.

The Blackened Gulf Red Snapper (23) is wonderfully priced, tender and slightly crisped fish atop a cauliflower puree, topped with a delicate shrimp etouffée with fresh vegetables in a light New Orleans roux, with fresh fava bean and sweet corn succotash. The combination goes well together. Other restaurants would do well to taste, and learn from these simply elegant presentations, made by one chef, one meal at a time.

Tonight, most people ordered the Seared Diver Scallops, a quartet of large diver scallops (24), with roasted mushroom gnocchi, and a Maine lobster & sweet corn chowder sauce. A must have!

The Rosemary Scented Lamb Chops (27), with a zinfandel jus, goat cheese laced mashed potatoes, roated fenel and asparagus, is served as requested, and the spicing is spot on.

The Grilled Angus New York Strip Steak (28) is an amazingly priced large portion, served with a horseradish potato au gratin, garlic spinach, and a wild mushroom veal reduction. A steak lover's delight. These dishes encompass America’s bounty, representing the Southwest with Smoked Pepper Duck; the Heartland -Lamb Chops and Strip Steak; Southeast's Red Snapper; the Pacific's Apple Glazed Salmon, and Northeast's Seared Diver Scallops.
The Orange Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée (6) is one of the best. Perfectly lightly cooked, the orange is accented with a touch of Grand Marnier. It is served in its white ramekin, with crisp caramelized top and a sweet, quartered strawberry.
The Seasonal Fruit Gratin's (7) fresh berries, slightly tart green apple, light sabayon and a sprig of mint is a pefect ending to a great meal. Boston Cream Pie (6) is the real thing, with a luscious vanilla cream filling and beautiful icing, on a rich raspberry reduction.
KC American Bistro is one of my top dining choices in Naples. Some wish I kept this secret gem hidden longer. While Naples Daily News usually has cosmopolitan Chiara Assi's thoughtful food reviews; rookie reporter Jonathan Foerster sporadically lurches into print. Like a mean-spirited boy, he delights in flogging KC's, and other cuisines he doesn't comprehend. JF states his dream has been "covering stories in a rum haze and enjoying burgers at a dive near the beach." Enough said.
Dne at KC American Bistro. Let your experience and palate decide. I think you’ll be very, very pleased.

885 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, 566-2371 , 5 pm -10 pm, Monday-Saturday, reservations recommended.


Miila said...

This is Miila Derzett, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I had the great experience to try Chef Keith Casey's menu back in Atlanta, 2003. Six years late, I still miss it.
Traveling around USA and tasting great food in great restaurants, I can't wait to be in Florida at the KC's. He is a rare talented Chef. His creations are to me "the poetry of cousine". Cheers to KC, cheers to Naples.

Anonymous said...

They're not in business anymore!!!What about the other awesome restaurants nearby that have been in business for awhile & deservingly so!!!

Ivan Seligman said...

Keith Casey closed for the summer, and will re open Sept 21.
This is not an uncommon thing to do for those not wanting to follow the sheep.
One can close for a few moths, or compete with the discounters and cut food quality to serve 2-for-one food and a a $3 bottle of wine for $20-25 or so.