Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ballyorney Irish Pub in Fort Myers with Shannon Yates

Executive Chef Shannon Yates now at the helm of a Fort Myers Irish pub and restaurant? Check it out. He’s a natural, he's Irish, and it’s a win-win for diners and party goers alike.
 Ballyorney Irish Pub opened  May 2011 in  the  “castle” that Jim Dwyer created in 2003 as  Dwyers Irish Pub & Restaurant, a few blocks South of Bell Tower Shops on US 41.  This month (July) Ballyorney launched its new menu, with Chef Shannon’s Bacchus cosmopolitan culinary creations.
 The multistory building/castle, named after an Irish town south of Dublin, houses separate dining and welcoming pub areas on the main floor. Upstairs is the party area with music for a lively younger crowd that starts to comes in after 9 pm.  
  The dining room décor features a broad stone chimney and fireplace and walls bedecked with  authentic Irish bric-a-brac –horse collars, farm implements, an anchor, and old telephones. The lighting is comfortably low and sufficient to read the menu. There's room at the bar, too!
  I went with a lovely redheaded Irish lass. She smiled and her blue eyes brightly sparkled as she appreciated the antiques, then relaxed in the rich Irish pub ambiance.
    Servers proudly sport black shirts atop tartan kilts-only thing missing was a bagpiper on our visit!
 Before Shannon’s arrival, the menu’s traditional Irish dishes alone didn’t attract many folks. Adding Shannon’s global selections brings in a more cosmopolitan crowd; many  are Shannon’s customers from his prior spots- Lush, Bacchus, Cru and Mad Takeout. Yes, suckling pig and shrimp tacos, seafood paella, mussels with chorizo and truffle whipped potatoes are not typical pub grub. Then again, similar assorted fare and especially Indian cuisine have become favorites at Irish and British gastropubs.
Start with a tall, cold Guinness Draft (Draught) for $5, a great price for the classic dark  Irish beer with a rich long lasting head. We admired the compact wine list, and happily chose a glass of 2010 Urban Uco Malbec ($9). The  Honora Merlot ($7) is another delicious wine that paired well with our ensuing choices. There’s Irish, British, Belgian and American beers, ales and ciders to sample. Go for a “half and half”, black & blue, or black and tan-popular combinations in Irish and British pubs.
   The $12 tuna sashimi and tartar (sp), or tuna “two ways,” is a savory perfect opener for tuna lovers.

This tall dish features over $15 of sesame seed sprinkled  tender tuna sashimi slabs piled high over succulent tuna tartare. The delicate tuna’s flavors are enhanced with a light ponzu sauce and diced green onion.

The grilled crispy sliced baguette is a welcome contrast (and spoon) for the tartare. Recommended.
 Roasted beet, radish and quinoa salad ($9) is elevated to a “must have”, when Shannon serves tender sweet red beets and crisp sliced radishes  over quinoa, sprinkled with a sharp blue cheese. The slightly sweet quinoa nicely contrasts  with the arugula’s slightly bitter bite. The warm beets’ lush mouth feel rounds out a brilliantly creative culinary delight. Recommended!

We took a break to savor a cup of sweet curry soup with shrimp ($5 cup, $7 bowl). This is a creamy rich explosion of taste; thick as a chowder or bisque, with a good portion of shrimp. A bit of cayenne heat makes this one that Shannon should sell as a take out treat. Highly recommended.
  The contrasting cup of red pepper and fennel soup ($5) is rich and tasty, however the curry soup has captured our hearts and taste buds.
Skirt steak with yucca and green sauce ($9) starts with a high quality sliced steak perched on  French fry sized fingers of South American boiled yucca, topped with onions, a splash of olive oil and a fresh chimichurri sauce that’d fit right in  any Argentinean steak house. 
 Get it rare and enjoy a Latin inspired creative integration of tastes and textures. Recommended.

How can one visit an Irish pub and not try the Shepherd’s pie? Shannon’s version ($15) marries Old World traditional lamb and beef chunks, sliced white onion, broth  and roasted turnip with vitamin- rich kale, topping it with piped mashed potatoes. 
 The crunch of the kale is a clever counterpoint to the nicely spiced meat. Our order (above) came split into two bowls-easier for sharing.

   Save room for dessert! While the former restaurant kept a large slice of Guiness-infused chocolate cake for regulars, and also a bread pudding, Chef Shannon has livened up the dessert offerings with cayenne crème brûlée’s sweet heat topped with a crisply melted brown sugar crust. 
   “Ah, there’s no heat” I thought. Seconds later, it asserted its presence, warming the back of the throat with a welcome heat. ($5.50)  Recommended.
 The coffee ($1.95) is well worth a cup.

   Musical Bonus! Visit on a Tuesday evening at 6:30 pm for authentic traditional Irish music sessions, as acoustic musicians from near and far gather for a nip of Irish whiskey in an informal setting, and play songs that have livened up the Emerald Isle for generations. Join in, participating musicians get 50% off their tab!
    Shannon Yates has invigorated Ballyorney’s offerings with his delicious menu additions. Whether you select Irish classics, or  Shannon’s selections, you’ll be enjoying some of the best cuisine that Fort Myers has to offer-all in a friendly relaxing setting. Plan for a relaxing dinner and enjoy the music, traditional acoustic Irish or contemporary music for a younger crowd upstairs.
Hours:  Mon - Fri 4pm - close,  Sat - Sun 11:30am - close Tues Thursdays music
13851 S. Tamiami Tr, Fort Myers, (239) 628-1444

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