Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fresh Catch Bistro Lounge and Raw Bar-Tops in Seafood on Fort Myers Beach.

Fresh Catch Bistro Lounge and Raw Bar has well earned its spot as the best restaurant on Fort Myers Beach, and one of the best in SW Florida.  This spirited newcomer has quickly replaced nearby  Island tourist magnets like Hooters, Bayfront Bistro, Doc Ford’s, and South Beach as the  “Favorite Spot” for tourists and savvy locals alike.

   Why the rave rating?  Very simply, the combination of  of truly fresh seafood, great service, and a beautiful setting overlooking the sand, surf, waves and sunsets of the Gulf of Mexico is unequaled. None of the other places come close on any of those categories. Pricing is $20-29 for generous portions of seafood-that’s well in the ballpark for the area for pricing. You get a very good value.  I’d happily pay $25-32 for the quality if need be in this Florida seaside setting!

Come here for amazingly fresh seafood, wonderfully prepared. I catch and cook my own grouper and snapper from the Gulf, and it’s superior to any “fresh caught” seafood in grocery stores. Grocery store fish has been kept on ice for 5-12 days old, truth be told.  Fresh Catch’s seafood has that  same day-caught delicate taste-it’s the real thing. There are items like clams, salmon and oysters that are not local, and their taste is no less fresh, fresh fresh. We didn't try the Kobe burger, filet mignon or prime rib.

Make reservations during the season as it’s packed. I recommend a table on the open deck, to take in the breeze and savor the 2nd story view over the beach. Off season, humidity and heat are your guides. On my visit, two men unloaded what looked like large fans on the beach.

They then attached rectangular sails, and  minutes later were soon airborne, swooping over the Gulf to the delight of children, adults and playful water-loving dogs.

You can sit on the open outdoor deck, or inside at the bar, raw bar (below), or in the main dining room.

All seats can turn to overlook the Gulf. A small elevator enables  those with wheelchair or crutches. We walked up the rustic wooden stairs, and because it was already “off season”at 7 pm,  chose a round table next to the window. Locals knew this spot as “Anthony’s” former location.
 It’s perched atop Mama Angies, and next to Junkanoo.  The wall of windows can frame a  majestic sunset's vivid colors  or thunderstorm's lightning dashing across the waves. The main dining room has a vaulted wood ceiling, an insufficient  smattering of sound absorbing tiles rendered even less effective by blue or white paint, and a sailfish mounted over the raw bar. The noise level can get high during the season. Visit earlier or later, if that’s an issue.

My party of five experienced seafood lovers started on the complimentary fresh sliced warm bread with vibrant tasting pesto in olive oil. Nice! Some shared the  Conundrum 2010 white wine presented in an ice bucket, a delicious blend on the sweet side  for $37, that retails for $17-22. This price is less than a 3x markup. It's  a very good customer-friendly wine pricing. Our server unnobtrusively ensured our glasses never ran dry. Wine pricing and friendly service are greatly appreciated.

The $11 dozen clams on the half shell served on ice, with sides of rich red seafood sauce and white grated horseradish are as fresh as any we’ve had. They are bold tasting with colorful (fresh!) flesh and bathed in their natural oceanic “liquor”. Slight drawback- they were not previously separated from the shell. That would have been “perfection” to one who slurps clam and liquor together in one exhilarating mouthful! There’s a host of great specials on clams, oysters, and crabcakes only for those in the bar at happy hour. The salad is fresh and tasty, with crisp greens.

Point Judith calamari  ($12) are lightly dusted with batter and fried, mixed with mild cherry peppers, onions, peppers and linguica (Portuguese pork sausage). The marinara sauce is thick and delicious. It’s  a meal for one! They are not greasy. Recommended.
The lobster mac ‘n cheese is also recommended, topped with seasoned berad crumbs.

The grouper sandwich is served open, on a bun (below), with lettuce, tomato, and a side of Cajun remoulade and apple fennel slaw. Well worth $14.
There’s nine regular chef’s seafood features, and a few other specials offered nightly.

My $21 generous portion of wild caught salmon stuffed with cranberry Stilton cheese is baked to perfection, jauntily set atop a jasmine rice hillock, drizzled with a richly crafted citrus beurre blanc.
The wild salmon's full taste is better than salmon that served at other restaurants- flavorful and oh so succulent. I like the contrast of the sharper cheese with the unctuous  salmon. Highly recommended.

Grouper caprese is a beautiful presentation.

 This $28 Florida grouper is truly grouper (other restaurants have served all sorts of dissimilar fish as "grouper" to tourists in years past), decked with sweet basil, sliced tomato and succulently melted mozzarella, then artfully drizzled with balsamic glaze, olive oil and served over a properly cooked risotto. Highly recommended.

 A treat is the Key lime Caribbean jerk spiced mahi-mahi ($20), pan-seared with an almost blackened top, accompanied by jasmine rice and grilled pineapple salsa.
 It’s quite flavorful, not too spicy, and a decent sized portion.

Sesame crusted Yellowfin tuna is “sushi grade” (whatever that overused  nebulous alleged  "grade" is) and nicely seared.
 A mildly hot, sweet Thai chili sauce, teriyaki glaze and mild wasabi aioli nicely offset the tender pink tuna. Crisp green snow peas add color and texture. Recommended.

Save room for a big dessert. Servers bring by a tray with the evening’s selection.

We loved the big slice of Key lime pie, and the crème brûlée, with a nice crisp sugar crust.

The flaming Bananas Foster created tableside is an eye catcher!

A former Bayfront Bistro regular at another table, stood up and announced to the whole restaurant, “This beats Bayfront Bistro, hands down!”  Locals at other tables happily applauded. By popular vote in the restaurant and on various internet sites, this is the clearly the best spot on Fort Myers Beach. It’s earned its spot as one of my top spots in Lee and Collier counties.

3040 Estero Beach Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, 463-2600


restaurant training manual said...

Some lovely pictures are there along with the pictures of some really tasty delicacies.

Anonymous said...

Fresh Catch Bistro is everything Bayfront Bistro could have been, but isn't. Severs are nicer, too.
I agree with you.