Dining at Naples’ Village on Venetian Bay conjures certain expectations: flavorful food, mesmerizing waterfront views and—if the weather gods permit—a brilliant sunset. With the Village’s plethora of waterfront bistros, you’ll find all three. But those expectations will be greatly exceeded by the innovative cuisine, artful presentations, understated décor and impeccable service at M Waterfront Grille.
Co-owners Chris and Peter Sereno decided to redesign and reopen this northwest corner landmark restaurant (known as Maxwell’s on the Bay for 20 years) as M Waterfront Grille in 2008. New Executive Chef Adam Nardis, with his epicurean ingenuity, has elevated this fine-dining experience to rival that of Naples’ most respected culinary downtown destinations.
With the soothing sounds of a saxophone playing softly in the background, we took in the sunset over Venetian Bay and started our Friday evening with signature cocktails (both $12). My “M” Classic Cosmo (vodka, Cointreau Noir, cranberry juice, fresh lime) was perfectly prepared, and my husband’s inventive pineapple-blueberry mojito (Bacardi rum, pineapple juice, splash of club soda, mint, fresh blueberries) was a refreshing twist on what has become an overdone cocktail. Hot, fresh artisan bread was served with homemade butter (we wished it were sweet rather than salted) and mild olive tapenade.
We chose two very different and both outrageously delicious appetizers to kick things off. The sum of Not Your Traditional Escargot (delicate escargot, wild mushrooms and spinach in a thick, decadent boursin, white wine and butter fondue, sopped up with buttery, toasted baguette; $13.95) was even more incredible than its wonderful parts. The heirloom beets with fried goat cheese (beet tartare topped with crème fraîche and frisée, surrounded by toasted pistachios on fried goat cheese mounds; $15.45) were a delightful mélange of savory flavors and textures. The plating on both was perfection.
For our entrees, I ordered the salmon special (Newfoundland salmon on a bed of creamy grits in a cream tomato sauce, with tiny Brussels sprouts and cubes of bacon; $34.95). The salmon was softer in texture and milder in flavor—as promised by our server, Ivana—than M’s Scottish Salmon, which I’ve enjoyed before.
Since you don’t see it much on local menus, my husband decided to try the herb-panko-crusted walleye (two large mild, flaky fillets over a sweet, creamy caramelized-onion and fennel risotto in a tomato-caper butter sauce; $31.95). We deemed it totally delicious. (And when eaten as cold leftovers the next day, still excellent.) A glass of crisp Darcie Kent sauvignon blanc ($10) balanced out his entree.
We decided to finish our meal with chocolate in both drink and dessert. We shared the creamy, not-too-sweet double espresso martini (Van Gogh double espresso vodka, Kahlua, Bailey’s, garnished with chocolate shavings; $11) and the bittersweet chocolate pot de crème (smooth coffee-mascarpone mousse surrounded by sour cherries and candied cocoa nibs; $9.50)—both scrumptious. We have a bad habit of always finishing our desserts—but their undeniable richness enabled us to leave a bit of each.
If you’re looking for an original, beautifully plated, carefully crafted menu in a waterfront setting, you will be delighted with M Waterfront Grille. And there are a variety of seating options in which to relish it: in the main dining room, in the lounge, or dining alfresco on the terrace or pet-friendly verandah. Just so many ways to cover the waterfront.
M Waterfront Grille
4300 Gulf Shore Blvd. N., Naples; (239) 263-4421, mwaterfrontgrille.com
Open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Monday through Saturday); dinner 5-9:30 p.m. (Sunday through Saturday); Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; lounge menu 3-10 p.m.; live music in the lounge (Wednesday, Friday and Sunday brunch).
Wheelchair accessible. Reservations recommended. Seasonal valet parking.