Monday, November 16, 2009

V & J Bistro, A Fort Myers Beach Delight

I’m returning to Fort Myers Beach’s V & J Bistro, for a taste of the award winning crème brûlée, and try more of chef and co-owner James Buis’ creations. One visit is not enough! V & J is named for Rachael’s late mother Vera, and James’ late stepfather John-lovers of all things culinary.

It’s easy to miss, shoehorned in the tiny shopping center on the Bay side of Estero Blvd. Find the Wachovia bank at the 2800 block, go behind, and you’re there. Make reservations, as 26 seats can fill up fast. It’s a bright, clean setting with paintings of Sanibel, attractive prints of silverware, and metal artwork on the tan walls. The little restaurant has light tan square floor tile and tables are covered with white table cloths. Simplicity. Dress is casual on Fort Myers Beach. As soon as I’m on the island, overlooking miles of beaches and condos, sunburned visitors, beach shops and mom and pop places, I know I’m on a Florida vacation!

The Lunch menu offers Baby Back Fibs & Fries ($7), Fish n Chips (7), Grouper Sandwich n Fries (8), Grilled John Dog (4), Vera’s Beef Enchilada’s (6), and Chicken Tenders n Fries (6). Beer is $2.50 for Bud, Bud light, Coors etc., and the house wine is an inviting $4/glass-we’ll drink to thes prices!

You can’t beat V & J’s prices for the quality and portion size. We came for dinner, served from 4-9 pm. Have a seat, and fresh, warm bread and butter appears, followed by your beverage. There are eighteen wines, ranging from $4 to $7 by the glass, and $14 to 29 by the bottle-decent, and very easy on the wallet. Vintners are the house Oak Creek, followed by Sutter Home, Ecco Domani, Dominican Oaks and Francis Coppola (cab, merlot and chardonnay). The Coppola Russo, a mix of Cabernet, Syrah and Zin, is very good at $29. Some house wine bottles were offered for a special of $12. Next time!

The Phyllo Wrapped Shrimp (7) features four freshly deep fried lightly phyllo wrapped medium sized shrimp, hot and tender, with a light citrus aioli, combing fresh orange, and lime juices. A good start!I like the Portobello & Goat Cheese Strudel (7), with a generous portion of ‘shrooms and cheese served in a thin roll of strudel dough. The attractively plated, ample portion is sliced in half for finger food or fork. Served hot, it’s very good taste combination and very good value. These creative appetizers are not the usual, um, tourist fare served on Fort Myers Beach!

The Seafood Crêpe (7) is ok, containing minimally spiced salmon, another fish, and shrimp in a limp, yet otherwise nicely made crêpe. It is boring on the plate, and not as tasty as the other appetizers. This dish needs some tweaking. I’m game to try it on a second visit.

I saw other diners’ Shrimp cocktail (7), Bruschetta (6), and Spring Rolls (6). These looked good, with very good prices.

Our friendly efficient server, covering 20 guests, is Rachael Johnston, She’s the restaurant’s co-owner, with partner James Buis. Over the years, he’s been Executive Chef at Fort Lauderdale’s Ocean View and at Johnny’s Cocktails, and more recently Naples’ Handsome Harry’s. He knows how to deliver quality food, at very good prices.

Chef James Buis and Rachael Johnston The Lamb Shank is perfectly tender, a good portion with a rich cherry demi-glace, served with mashed potatoes, squash, carrots and baby bok choy, At $13, this is half the price in many Naples restaurants, and no less of a filling portion. Recommended. The Miso Sea Bass (17) is properly cooked and tender, with a fresh fruit salsa, on a bed of nicely cooked and scented jasmine rice. Another keeper!

My favorite is the Pecan Encrusted Chicken, nicely spiced, and stuffed with bleu cheese and bacon, with a crisp crushed pecan crust, accompanied by squash and carrots. Chicken au jus is in the silver server. Two thumbs up for the Porcini Mushroom Encrusted Veal Tenderloin, with demi-glace and mashed potatoes (15). It comes cooked as ordered, attractively presented. My neighbor had the 8 Oz Filet Mignon, wrapped in bacon for $20, and he said it was as good as at any finer steakhouse.

The Cornish Hen with demi glaze (13) was sold out. Next time, perhaps the sautéed Red Snapper, (15), Macadamia encrusted Grouper (15), or BBQ ribs ((8-half, 14 whole rack)

Many restaurant offer coupons on the internet, and I got their $25 coupon for $10. It took a while to register. This one required at least $35 to be spent, alcohol excluded, with one coupon per table, and no split checks. We qualified, and $15 off is $15 saved (we just spent it on more food!). Rachel is happy with the coupon concept as it is profitable; tonight it brought in 4 tables that otherwise wouldn’t have come. When the quality is this good, people return in season, coupon or no coupon.

I have one “complaint”-they ran out of the signature Orange-Grand Marnier Crème Brûlée. I did have one before, and it is one of the best- light and flavorful. James won a coveted 2009 People’s Overall Choice for this at the 2009 Taste of the Beach -Best Dessert category! The Carrot Cake is delicious, and enough for two or three to share.I didn’t try the Key Lime Pie. All desserts are $3.50, (that’s no typo) a great price for the quality.

V & J Bistro is a welcome addition to Fort Myers Beach, thankfully several steps above the nearby tired tourist food, and their prices are terrific. This Mom and Pop’s upscale cuisine is the “just reward” for savvy, cost-conscious diners who seek out, and appreciate finer quality dining in a casual setting.

2801 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, 463-1428,



foodies said...

this surely looks yummy. Must give it a try whenever we are in town next.

Sherri said...

Yummmmmmmm....Orange-Grand Marnier Crème Brûlée. That alone would be worth the trip!