July 28, 2014

Appetite

Pure Joy

Oasis” registers as code for “spa” in my brain, so when I heard that we were being sent somewhere that called itself Pure Urban Oasis, the crick in my neck vanished in anticipation of a hot stone massage. Yes, I’m a Pavlovian dog: I relax on command.

“Why are you wearing yoga pants?” Tom asked me in the car. “Aren’t we going to dinner?”

“You’ll see,” I said as I assumed the lotus position in the passenger’s seat.

Pure Urban Oasis was founded by Peter Schmid, the Michelin-trained chef behind Blu Sushi. Schmid seems to understand that nobody needs to eat five pounds of pasta in one sitting. His menu recalls the best food I’ve eaten at destination spas: light, tasty fare that won’t sabotage your efforts to take off those last 20 entrenched pounds.

(Nobody understands entrenched weight like a restaurant reviewer.)

Pure Urban Oasis has a chic, modern ambiance: high ceilings; low, grayscale armchairs; dark lighting; bead curtains; and pinwheels made of wine bottles on the walls. The menu begins with Pure rice toppers ($6.50–$9.50), pairs of bite-sized, seared brown rice cakes topped with everything from barbecued chicken breast to bluefin tuna tartare. Four Pure carpaccios ($12.50 each) get paired with interesting flavors, as in salmon with pink grapefruit and lobster with lemongrass vinaigrette. For the purest of Pure-ists, there are Pure tasting spoons ($11), and then Pure ceviche ($11.50–$12). Pure small plates correspond with normal menu items, as do the Pure soups and salads, sides and main dishes. But then there it is: Pure spa cuisine—three dishes and their protein/carb/fat ratios, all promising to deliver “PURE flavors, guilt-free.” 

“I knew it!” I flapped the sleeves of my organic bamboo poncho. “Somebody here knows about spas.”

“Actually, we have on-site massages during our regular Thursday night ‘Purely for the Ladies’ event,” said our server, Janet Pacheco.

“I’ll never see my wife again,” Tom said as he picked up his fork and surveyed the appetizers Janet placed before us.

We both loved the buttery Mer Soleil Silver unoaked chardonnay from Saint Lucia ($14 glass/$64 bottle), and were equally infatuated with the light, delicious lemongrass seafood pasta ($24) and the lobster ceviche with pineapple ($12). I practically swooned over the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese (four each for $9.75). Thankfully, Janet recommended the lobster cappuccino ($6, $9 extra for lobster meat). I’ve never had such a flavorful, light bisque, and the side of lobster meat was so ample that we barely finished it.

The only false note of our Pure Urban meal came with the tomato mozzarella salad ($8), which was just a wilted iceberg salad with three baby tomatoes and two small balls of mozzarella. Otherwise, from the cappuccino to the vanilla gelato ($6), we were fans.

The next time we come to Mercato, we won’t limit ourselves to Whole Foods and Sur La Table, lovely as they are. Especially not on a Thursday night. And neither should you.

Pure Urban Oasis, Mercato, 9123 Strada Place, Suite 7135, Naples; (239) 514-PURE (7873), www.pureurbanoasis.com. Lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner daily from 4 to 11 p.m. Happy hour appetizer specials from 4 to 6 p.m., drink specials from 4 to 7 p.m. DJ music Wednesday through Saturday. Reservations recommended. Valet and free parking. Credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

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