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Dining Review: Fresh Catch Bistro

The eatery brings fine dining to Fort Myers Beach.



Miso teriyaki sea bass

Photo by Vanessa Rogers

 

Not so long ago, the idea of fine dining on Fort Myers Beach seemed improbable. Chicken wings? Yes. Fried grouper sandwich? Sure. But anything on the classier end of the spectrum? Try Sanibel.

This has changed recently, just as the beach itself has been changing. In the last few years, a handful of multimillion-dollar homes have gone up, there’s a yacht marina now, and the restaurants are offering more than the old beach shack standbys. Fresh Catch Bistro, which sits mid-island, next to Junkanoo, has established itself as one of the beach’s upscale must-trys. With a view that looks directly onto the Gulf, the restaurant’s real estate is prime. And the food is equally memorable.

On a recent Friday evening, I arrived with my dinner companion at the tail end of an afternoon rainstorm. The hostess sat us inside, facing a large picture window that framed the beach, although in nicer weather we could have opted for outdoor seating. The appetizer menu is a collection of fine-dining staples—oysters Rockefeller ($11), stuffed Portobello mushrooms ($10) and crab cakes ($13)—plus offerings from a raw bar and steamer. I began with the oyster sashimi ($13), six raw oysters on a bed of ice, served on the half-shell and topped with a mixture of diced tuna, chives and cucumbers, then finished with citrus soy sauce, wasabi aioli and tobiko. The oysters were chilled, plump and fresh, and the citrus sashimi accented their delicate flavor.

My companion’s escargot ($9), unfortunately, was a misstep. The sauce they arrived in was too salty, and more oily than buttery. But the sun had peeked out from beneath the clouds and it looked as if we might have the best seats on the island for an outrageous sunset. So what if the snails were a bit rubbery?

The main courses swiftly follow; Fresh Catch is a restaurant that has its timing down. For me, it was the sea bass Oscar ($42), a seared filet topped with Alaskan king crab and a Key lime hollandaise sauce. The sea bass had a crisp, golden sear and a moist interior, while the sauce was tangy and rich. My companion ordered the grouper caprese ($31), a filet topped with diced tomatoes and basil then covered with fresh mozzarella and a balsamic glaze. Both dishes arrived elegantly garnished with a purple orchid and a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Most of the entrees at Fresh Catch Bistro are in the $30 range, though
the specials can be a bit pricey. The restaurant has a decent wine list that runs heavy on the American side and
a full bar that will serve up one of its signature cocktails. These cocktails, sadly, don’t include rum runners or piña coladas, perhaps in an attempt to distance Fresh Catch from the beach’s seedier side. If you feel like opting out of seafood, the menu includes prime rib and filet mignon. And they even have a grouper sandwich—though grilled, not fried. The ambiance trends more up- scale than laid-back, but the clientele on this particular Friday night was mixed. Most of the men wore pressed pants and collared shirts, and the women were in sundresses or nice slacks. Still, I saw at least one pair of cut-offs and just about everyone wore flip-flops. It’s still Fort Myers Beach, after all.

We finished the meal with dessert: a triple-layer chocolate cake ($7) and a slice of Key lime pie ($6). The cake was good, the sort of decent but forgettable chocolate cake you’ll find at any nice restaurant. But the Key lime pie was superb. Dense, rich, and with the taste of real egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk offset by a graham cracker crust, it was exactly like the Key lime pie my grandmother used to make.

Fresh Catch Bistro has a lot to recommend it—the view, for starters, not to mention the fine service and the carefully crafted menu. Most importantly, the restaurant has managed to deliver dishes that appeal to a sophisticated palate while remaining true to its surroundings. And that is no easy task.

Fresh Catch Bistro

3040 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach; (239) 463-2600, freshcatchbistro.com. Open for dinner every day starting at 4 p.m.; last seating at 8 p.m. Wheelchair accessible. Reservations recommended.

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