At the marble-topped seating that fronts the raw bar and kitchen at The Claw Bar on Ninth Street South, my dining companion and I debated the right word to describe this new Naples establishment.
“Opulent?” I said as I sipped the French 75 ($12), a champagne and gin craft cocktail.
“No, no,” my companion shot back, shaking his head and spearing a piece of crab claw meat. “Opulent makes me think of textiles and chandeliers. This place is more…” He searched for the right word.
“Chic?” I offered. “Decadent? Luxe?”
He nodded and reached for one of the chilled oysters. “Yes, all of those.”
With its black painted walls, leather and brass-studded furniture, and gold accents, The Claw Bar has a distinctly well-heeled ambience. Add that to a seafood-focused menu plus a wide selection of wine and inventive cocktails, and it makes for a remarkable evening out.
We’d begun with a sampling from the raw bar ($26)—crab legs, Beausoleil oysters from New Brunswick, seafood salad and steamed shrimp—plus an order of flash-fried calamari ($15) served with chili-garlic sauce, wasabi roe, cilantro and peanuts. Calamari appears frequently on menus in Southwest Florida in a range of styles and qualities. This particular version was superb, with thick strips of squid lightly battered and fried and well-complemented by a sweet pepper drizzle.
For our main courses, I had the petite filet with sea scallops and lump crab ($34) served with fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus and a citrus beurre blanc, while my companion enjoyed the chipotle roasted lobster tail ($42). My dish made for a perfectly executed feast, from the rare steak to the plump seared scallops to the succulent flakes of crab meat. As for my companion’s lobster tail, the mild kick of the chipotle seasoning accented the fresh lobster without overwhelming it, and it paired well with the sweet corn, bacon and potato hash and the sautéed baby spinach that accompanied it. Our waitress had assured us that it was one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, and we understood why.
At the end of our meal we shared the millionaire’s shortbread ($14), which consisted of a shortbread cookie topped with caramel mousse and enclosed by chocolate ganache then flecked with—what else?—14-karat gold leaf.
“Maybe ‘opulent’ was the right word after all,” my companion conceded.
The Claw Bar is exceptional in both food and ambience in large part due to the presence of its thoughtful and perceptive chef, Andy Hunter. Hunter presided over the kitchen of The Claw Bar’s sister restaurant, The Bay House, and now he brings his attentiveness to this restaurant as well. Throughout the meal, we were gifted with little treats—cups of creamy corn soup, mousse-filled crepes with dessert, Key lime sugar cookies with the check. We glanced around and saw that other tables received the treats, too; we weren’t singled out for special attention. It’s thoughtful touches like these that make The Claw Bar not simply another elegant Naples restaurant with a fine menu, but the kind of place that creates a memorable dining experience.
221 Ninth St. N., Naples, 231-3912, theclawbar.com. Open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wheelchair-accessible. Reservations recommended.