Food + Dining Main

Dining Review: Fish & Vine in Fort Myers

You’ll get good, fresh seafood at The Fish & Vine in Fort Myers in a boisterous social setting.

BY September 1, 2016

I arrived at The Fish & Vine early on a Friday evening, but the party had started without me. People stood three-deep at the bar, and the tables were filling quickly. Rumors around town said that the new restaurant specialized in fresh seafood. I hadn’t counted on it being a boisterous social spot, too.

The waiter handed my friend and me our menus and ran through the evening’s specials: an appetizer trio of oysters Rockefeller, sautéed scallops and coconut shrimp ($12), and a main course featuring a hogfish fried whole ($32).

The Latin-inspired shrimp and scallop ceviche comes with peppers, cilantro, red onion and fried plantains.

“That’s with the head and tail still on,” the waiter warned us.

I wasn’t dissuaded. I ordered both specials. My companion opted for the mussels in a white wine and garlic sauce ($11) and the ahi tuna with stir-fried vegetables ($25) as her main course.

“I know the menu says rare,” she told our server. “But I want mine extra rare.”

As we waited for the first course to arrive, I observed the space. The Fish & Vine is on the small side—fewer than 20 tables, and the bar dominates a large part of it—and the décor is casual-chic with sleek gray walls and silver accents. The atmosphere manages to be more laid-back than fine dining, even with upscale price points on the menu.

When our appetizers arrived, both were  quite good. The mussels were fresh, and their white wine sauce featured just the right blend of garlic and shallots. The three bites on my plate were also done well. I’m often wary of coconut shrimp because it can mask mediocre seafood, but these shrimp were clearly fresh, and the coconut batter was flavorful without being heavy. The same was true for the oysters and scallops.

By now, the party vibe in the restaurant that had been going when we sat down was in full swing. Music videos played on the TVs behind the bar with Pitbull and Beyoncé, even though just about everyone in the restaurant was past retirement age—and the diners were getting rowdy. The table behind us ordered another round of margaritas, and one of the women started bashing one of the men with her cane. They all laughed in that loud, unbridled way that comes after a few cocktails. I signaled our waiter for more wine.

Our main courses appeared, though by then the food seemed beside the point. My hogfish—with head and tail attached, as promised—was lightly fried and served with a vibrant chimichurri sauce. My companion’s ahi tuna, though flavorful, was not as rare as she’d requested. But her house-made sangria was delicious, so it was impossible to worry about the fish.

The Fish & Vine is not perfect, though it is very good. The seafood dishes are fresh, if not particularly inventive, and our service was a touch slow (that second glass of wine didn’t arrive until I’d finished my main course). But should you want to cut loose, this is an ideal spot.

Rare ahi tuna has an Asian flair with stir-fried vegetables and green tea noodles.