On the Menu: Master Chef Seto, sushi and the hidden treasure of Marco

Fat Pelican Sushi

591 South Collier Boulevard, Marco

“We like our sushi to be authentic — real — as in New York, Chicago, or LA,” a cynical visitor might remark. “There can’t be real sushi or sashimi on a Florida island. Everyone knows it takes a big city to have authentic sushi! How can there be real sushi on Marco Island?”

Almost always, treasure is hard to find. Sometimes real treasures are waiting right before your eyes, but with real treasure, the essence of what is to be found is not always waiting with giant billboards pointing to the obvious. On very rare occasions, treasure can be found in your own backyard.

Master Sushi Chef Kazuo Seto was born in Japan. He grew up with traditional Japanese philosophy of Bushido: the code of the samurai that stresses courage, loyalty, self-discipline and simple living. All of these noble and dynamic factors are the key ingredients and the daily recipe for success at Fat Pelican Sushi.

Chef Kazuo Seto is truly a Marco Island treasure. He delivers harmony, honor and art with every entrée. His attention to detail is beyond incredible. Whenever the smallest or most miniscule facet of Fat Pelican Sushi rises to his attention, it is dealt with according to the admirable traits of a perfectionist pursuing his craft.

With a balmy Gulf breeze whispering through the palms, the culinary adventuress and I arrived with fellow taste testers Roger and Lana for an eagerly anticipated evening with Chef Seto and his entourage.

Upon entering Fat Pelican Sushi, it becomes clear that harmony is at work. The balance of yin and yang are evident everywhere: Light and dark soy sauce containers balance every table; beautiful festive yellow and red banners of Japanese ink art hang on the walls; classic oriental black lacquer tables and chairs and warm hardwood floors A harmonious ambience rises to embrace every honored patron that enters Fat Pelican Sushi.

After a warm welcome from Joe, Don, Luke and Kazuo, our group of Chef Seto fans settled in nicely at a cozy banquette. With icy beer in hand, we started with the traditional Japanese starter of edamame — steamed and salted soybeans still in the pod — for $6.

For anyone not familiar with the tasty and healthful edamame — the essence of soy — is a classic Asian appetizer that should be shared.

At Fat Pelican Sushi, the menu is truly diverse. Even if there are non-sushi fans in attendance, drawn to the treasure of Chef Seto by those who have been smitten, there are wonderful alternatives that will tempt any picky palate.

A beautiful and artfully presented beef tataki, featuring choice filet mignon with delicately sliced cucumber atop shredded cabbage and enhanced with a garlic and ginger dipping sauce, is a true treasure and will challenge any mouth not to salivate at the sight. For only $17, this non-sushi entrée might even tempt sushi and sashimi aficionados.

Our eager troop of fans however, decided to share sushi. With our server Don’s kind attention, we chose the tuna tataki for $15, the Thai snapper ceviche for $14, and the ultimate Chef Seto combination experience of the dragon roll for $14, the surf and turf roll for $19, the California roll for $8, and the Hideaway Beach roll for $18.99.

Roger proclaimed the Thai snapper ceviche as “incredible and a new favorite.”

The fresh snapper is marinated with lime juice and cilantro and is served atop scooped-out iceberg lettuce and enhanced with shaved pineapple, shallots and scallions. For sashimi fans — those who prefer fish without rice — Fat Pelican and Chef Seto’s Thai snapper ceviche is beyond beautiful and the flavors extraordinary.

Lana described the dragon roll as “delicately delicious.”

With tempura shrimp rising out of a seaweed wrapped crab and cream cheese filling, topped with avocado kabyaki sauce and white chocolate, this masterpiece is a true testament to the talent of Fat Pelican’s master Chef Seto.

The tuna tataki is Vicki Lynn’s favorite and every beautiful bite is a truly a treat.

The freshest tuna available is artfully arranged as rose petals, the side of shaved ginger blossoms as a peach-colored bloom, served with the Fat Pelican classic ponzu dipping sauce enhancing every taste with ginger and garlic -— culinary bliss!

The Hideaway roll disappeared almost as fast as the California roll.

At the end of our experience we were impressed beyond delight!

Fat Pelican Sushi entertains with a full bar, a fine selection of Japanese and domestic beers and a premium selection of hot and chilled sake. A sake sampler is available featuring three different types of the famous Japanese rice wine. As any Chef Seto fan or well-traveled sushi aficionados will testify, the chilled sake experience is something to be relished.

Fat Pelican’s fabulous dessert menu includes bananas tempura, Key lime pie and fried cheesecake. The homemade brownie with ice cream topping is also a tempter.

If you are inspired by the Emerald Isle, Irish favorites from neighboring Cathy O’Clarke’s are now available at Fat Pelican Sushi.

For anyone wishing to contribute to the Fat Pelican sculpture showcase, Chef Seto and the entourage will gladly buy the first drink for anyone bringing in a model pelican to add to the display.

How good can a sushi restaurant be if it shares a building with an Irish pub?” is a misguided comment overheard more than once, and the answer is simply: Chef Kazuo Seto, his protégé Luke Phillips and Fat Pelican Sushi are beyond good and are truly a Marco Island treasure!

“Fat Pelican Sushi is open from 4:30 until 10 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday, and open until 11 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Reservations and private parties are available by calling 642-9709.

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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