Marco Island’s award-winning chef/owner Peter and Penny Marek presented loyal customers with a sassy but elegant watering hole that opened on Friday just in time for holiday dining and celebrations.
The adjacent Collier House, voted Top Fine Dining Restaurant seventh year running, was closed Friday through today (Sunday) to avoid conflict and confusion during the weekend opening. The Marek’s new family-run venture, dubbed The Bar and Bistro, boasts a full bar with casual indoor and outdoor terrace dining paired with a lighthearted menu created by a serious chef who is persnickety about the preparation of food.
The Bar and Bistro’s four-page menu appears to be totally different from Chef Marek’s continental cuisine with seafood specialties, but a second look finds the same fine and fresh gourmet ingredients composed and presented in a different way. For instance Marek’s Collier House appetizer soup and salad section offers a confit of shredded duckling enveloped in filo then baked and served on a bed of mixed greens with arugula and cherry tomatoes. Alternately, The Bar and Bistro menu takes a casual (and lower priced) approach with oriental duck egg rolls, crispy homemade egg rolls filled with shredded duck with a plum hoisin dipping sauce.
Actually, the new menu has items tending toward trendy rather than classic cuisine, in fact you’d be hard put to find classic except in Pete’s classic Caesar salad and there’s a nod to international bistro fare with classico flatbread combined with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, Jack cheese. Interestingly, that is one of the three different menu items (Spiced chicken wings and barbecue chicken flatbread also) that come in two sizes and are priced accordingly.
Speaking of prices, they all appear to be reasonably priced from appetizers such as $5.50 for six spiced chicken wings with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing to a beef carpaccio on field greens, mustard mayo and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano at $12.95.
The aforementioned Pete’s sounds yummy with add-ons like shrimp and chicken up to local fresh grouper at $16.95, but the plain one is packed with hearts of romaine, garlic anchovy dressing, croutons, crispy bacon and Parmesan shavings for $6.50. Even entrees like juicy Pete’s barbecue chopped steak burger, stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese served with golden fries and the bistro beer battered fish and chips, served in the London Times with tartar sauce, are both $11.50 each.
Other finny finds are listed in Fresh from the Ocean, including predictably prepared (blackened, baked or sautéed) fresh fish of your choice (salmon, grouper or fish of the day) paired with unpredictable sides such as stacked potatoes and island rice along with out-of-the-ordinary white wine chive cream sauce or sweet chili jam to name but a few. Equally extraordinary are the crab stuffed jumbo shrimp wrapped in Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon with garlic butter sauce with stir-fried vegetables.
That’s not all, there are oodles more. A vegetarian Mediterranean bake with layered aubergine eggplant, peppers, olives and tomatoes baked with garlic and evoo topped with herb bread crumbs listed under pasta that will make you want to rip off your apron and head over there right now.
There are also several savory sandwiches served until 4 p.m. in the $10.50 to $14 price range and eight desserts priced $6 to $6.50 and worth every dime. You’ll have to go there for yourself to find out what they are, ’cause it’s not nice to make people cry when they’re trying to read the paper.
If you go
The Bar and Bistro at Marek’s Collier House Restaurant
1121 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island
Hours: Open for lunch at 11 a.m. and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.