July 29, 2014

Mar 4, 201409:52 AMAlong the Gulfshore

Gulfshore Life’s editors explore Southwest Florida

First Take: Avenue5 Has Potential, Hasn't Reached It

First Take: Avenue5 Has Potential, Hasn't Reached It

McCabe’s Irish Pub was iconic. The type of haunt local families would bring out-of-towners for a beer and a long chat, and classmates would go for a guaranteed good time. A place for the salty to feel at home among the swanky on the exclusive Fifth Avenue South. I don’t even drink and I’m still disappointed about its closing. So when it came time to check out its successor, the ultra-posh Avenue5, it’s safe to say I went in a little biased. But beneath a completely revamped modern façade, the restaurant still has remnants of accessibility.

The prices are high, yes, but not outrageous. The portion sizes are pleasing, even if bordering on unseemly. There’s a dessert admittedly served on an Oreo crust—seemingly pedestrian, but definitely delicious. There are TVs at the bar and Mumford and Sons playing in the background, and I was shocked to hear they want their lunch business to appeal to sandy feet off the street. And while to a regular Jane like me these came as pleasant surprises, to others they might ring a bit incongruent with the high-end setting.

Like with any new restaurant, there are kinks to be ironed out: The menu, for one, could be pared down to eliminate second preparations of the same protein and a few dishes that revealed themselves as unsuccessful. (And there was some discussion about those questionable metallic placemats with prominent stitching.) But Avenue5 has a lot going for it beyond its prime location: the area’s most extensive wine list (and arguably the most stunningly displayed), a world-class chef (a specialty in lobster is always a plus), two beautiful rooms available for private parties (if you have the money, do it), and the promise of a chef’s table. The lobster mac and cheese was perfection—just as sinful as you expect—and my macadamia- and coconut-crusted Chilean sea bass was cooked and seasoned just right, paired with hearty udon noodles, flavor-packed oyster mushrooms and baby bok choy in a scrumptious sweet soy broth.

If it’s any indicator of its potential (and the excitement surrounding any venture by Phil McCabe), the place was booked solid for Valentine’s Day before it even opened. I think we will continue to see a successful restaurant despite a still-cloudy concept.

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