760 N. Collier Blvd.
760 N. Collier Blvd., Marco
I finally went to see “Julie & Julia” with my friend Julia. It was a wonderfully funny and poignant movie with lots of decadent French cooking. And the butter — pounds of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if stores have a noticed a slight increase in sales of real butter.
Fast forward to 5:30 p.m. Friday night and a dinner date with my daughter, Samantha, at Guy Harvey’s Island Grill.
If you know anything about fishing, art or marine conservation, you’ve heard of Guy Harvey and the restaurant is one big art gallery. It starts with the metal tables and chairs, with cutouts of fish and that famous signature, painted a brilliant shade of blue. If it wasn’t so darn hot outside, we would have sat on the patio to enjoy the view of the marina and Smokehouse Bay. We opted for dinning in the cool dining room. There is a hostess station at the front door but no one was there to greet us so we wandered inside. Immediately a waiter noticed us and said someone would seat us in a moment. Even though there was no one eating dinner the two bars were packed and noisy. One bar, behind the large saltwater fish tank, is open airy with large windows overlooking the marina. The second bar, up a few steps, overlooks the dining room and is more intimate.
We were seated at a table next to the large windows. I was a little worried about the sun blinding us when it would drop below the roof line. Fortunately, it was a cloudy evening and the sun never was a problem.
Our waiter, Michael, took our drink order and Samantha and I looked through the menu. The first page was a welcome and how the restaurant does not serve any exploited or threatened species — good to know that they practice what Harvey preaches. By the way, the menu also states that percentage of all proceeds goes to help Guy Harvey’s Ocean Foundation.
When ordering, we always look through the whole menu, pairing appetizers and entrees. So knowing Samantha likes shrimp and is not too fond of fish, we decided on a half pound “u peel ’em” steamed shrimp with drawn butter and cocktail sauce. We had a coupon for a free appetizer and Samantha asked if we could try the island style fish dip. I agreed and was a little surprised — I think it was the capers in the description that enticed her. Of course, we also had to try the tomato basil seafood chowder, ordered with two spoons.
The fish dip arrived first, a larger-than-expected mound nestled in a leaf lettuce cup with crisp sesame flatbread surrounding it in a styrofoam bowl. I would have preferred china or even melamine, but there’s just something wrong with serving food in styrofoam and little plastic cups unless you’re eating at a picnic table. The dip was excellent, though. Small, meaty chunks of smoked fish mixed with chopped capers. The taste of the smoked fish wasn’t overpowered by too much mayo.
Samantha gingerly spread the dip on a cracker and took a nibble, asked if this was how it was supposed to taste. I nodded yes. Samantha can be picky sometimes so I am happy when she tries new food and really likes it. The dip was supposed to be served with celery sticks, we never got any and it really wasn’t missed.
The steamed shrimp came next. We only ordered the half pound, but it was a hefty portion. The shrimp were dusted with Cajun spice and served with melted butter and cocktail sauce. I cleaned all the shrimp for Samantha and I — only missing one or two pieces of shell that, of course, Samantha bit into. She forgave me. We both dipped the still-warm shrimp into real butter, and after watching “Julie & Julia” I didn’t even feel guilty about it. I must confess, we didn’t even try the cocktail sauce. The shrimp were perfectly cooked — not chewy or rubbery — and peeled quite easily.
When I think of chowder, I think of chunks of fish, shrimp, potatoes and maybe some celery in a not too-thick broth. Harvey’s tomato basil chowder was bite-sized shrimp and fish swimming in an almost-smooth tomato soup with flecks of basil. It took me a few spoonfuls to realize there was no potato or celery, only shrimp and fish. Sometimes you expect one thing and are pleasantly surprised when it’s not.
We didn’t finish the soup or the dip and Michael wrapped them up for us when bringing us drink refills.
Samantha was set on ordering a dinner salad. She had a hard time deciding between the Jamaican me crazy chicken salad and the Key West BBQ chicken salad. Key West won the toss up.
I wanted fish. The Snapper Mediterranean — someone had ordered it at the table next to us — look really good. But I decided on the island style mahi mahi, char-grilled with a banana beurre blanc (more butter!)
Michael took our dinner order and disappeared into the kitchen. He came a few minutes later asking if I wanted to try the special instead —stuffed mahi mahi with crab, shrimp and peppers served with a orange butter sauce. What can I say? I changed my mind. Normally I don’t do that. I stick with what I order, no looking back. I think it was the orange butter sauce that did it.
The lull between appetizers and entrees was spent looking around at all the incredible artwork and the focal point of the entire restaurant: A wall of water, falling into a pool with a very large tarpon mount leaping up. It’s quite a sight.
Michael brought our entrees. Sammy’s salad was huge. Lots of greens with grilled corn, black beans, pan-fried onions, cucumbers and chopped tomatoes. A mound of fried chicken pieces was drizzled with a sweet-smoky barbecue sauce. The dressing was served on the side in a little plastic cup.
The mahi mahi on my plate was a very generous portion with the seafood stuffing on top and the orange butter sauce served on the side in a little plastic cup. Two mounds of smashed potatoes filled the other half of the plate. Dinners are served with steamed vegetables and island rice. I had requested potatoes instead of rice. I’m not sure what happened to the steamed veggies.
Sammy couldn’t finish her salad. I even had a few bites corn and black beans wrapped up in baby field greens dressed in the barbecue chipotle ranch dressing — very tasty.
The stuffing on the mahi mahi was loaded with shrimp and the slight sweetness of the orange butter sauce added another layer of flavor. Yum. I did not finish my entree, wanting to leave room for dessert. I left half of the fish and potatoes and Michael wrapped that up with more of the delicious sauce on the side when bringing the dessert menu.
Samantha and I decided on the banana split ice cream pie. I had asked Michael if they made any of the desserts in house. He truthfully said no, but added that the Key lime pie was not frozen and customers love it.
We’ll take a slice of that too, I replied.
That frozen concoction was delish. A banana split made into a pie? Who thinks of these things? Samantha and I manage to eat the whole thing, including every drop of chocolate, caramel and raspberry sauce. We ended up taking the key lime pie home to my son, Noah. By the way, he gave it a thumbs up the next day.
As an added dining treat, Jeff Hilt was playing in the bar the night we were there. We heard our favorite Jimmy Buffet and Eagles tunes, not too loudly, during our dinner. He’s there from 6 to 10 p.m. every Friday.
Samantha and I left Guy Harvey’s, walking through the gift shop, out into the Esplanade courtyard just as the sun was starting to set. Memorable dining and a beautiful view is a good combination.
IF YOU GO
Guy Harvey’s Island Grill at The Esplanade
760 N. Collier Blvd., Suite 109
Open daily for lunch and dinner.