Fin Bistro, Marco Island, Florida

Fin Bistro is one of the, if not the, most highly regarded restaurants in Marco Island. Now Nancy and I know why.

It’s just across the street from the Marriott Crystal Shores, where we stay in Marco, and on a couple of previous trips we’ve tried in vain to get a reservation. You need to reserve well in advance during the high season. This year, we were in Marco just before the high season, and we were able to get a table on a (relatively) slow weeknight.

Fin Bistro has a nice, welcoming interior, but we chose one of the outside tables, which now extend in front of an adjacent store front. The outside tables are nicely screened by plants from much of the ambient light from the street and businesses.

Nancy and I ordered some wine to help us study the menu. I splurged on a Cakebread cabernet. The wine arrived and, along with it, warm bread with a roasted red pepper coulis. So far, A+.  

Nancy passed on an appetizer, but I decided to start with their sautéed calamari appetizer. I’m big on cephalopods.

It was superb. The calamari were adorned, as you can see, with tomatoes and pine nuts. You may not be able to see the garlic, chilies, and basil, but you sure could taste them. Great. The calamari came with a big hunk of toasted and flavored bruschetta that tasted good, and proved perfect for soaking up the delicious broth — so delicious I’d have picked up the bowl and finished it off if no one had been around.

Nancy was attracted to two things on the menu: the sautéed almond crusted hog snapper (Nancy dearly loves an amandine) and the dorado. Some years ago, I joined Nancy in the Dominican Republic after one of Nancy’s many Operation Smile missions. We stayed at the Casa Grande (very nice, great restaurant) in Playa Bonita, a lovely area dominated by that-morning seafood and French chefs. For one dinner, we had dorado prepared by the former chef to President Mitterand at the Hotel Atlantis. We went back for lunch the next day and both exactly ordered the same meal — it was that good. Actually, it was better. So they had Nancy at dorado. How to reconcile? She asked for a substitution, dorado for hogfish. Our waiter wisely (I think, but what do I know) suggested flounder instead of dorado, but Nancy was adamant.

The dorado came with some asparagus cooked the way all asparagus wishes it were cooked, and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Nancy uncharacteristically declined to offer to share her dorado, a clear sign that it was exceptionally good, but I managed a bite of the potatoes. Creamy, buttery, with that nutty roasted garlic flavor … they reminded me of the mashed potatoes you get in Paris. They were preternaturally smooth and rich, while still maintaining that earthy potato flavor. Wow.

I ordered the seared black grouper over potato gnocchi with lump crab, artichoke, and prosciutto — and some arugula. And, yes, that’s hollandaise.

Whoa! Great grouper. Great gnocchi. Great combination with the crab, artichoke, and prosciutto. What a well-conceived and well-executed dish! And the peppery flavor of the arugula gave a nice, bright finishing note. Sensational. 

It would have been a great meal under any circumstances, but the meal really was brightened by our waiter. He was the soul of outstanding service. Here he is, Fabrizio.

One of the world’s great joys is watching an expert in action. Fabrizio was thoroughly engaging, knowledgeable, and perfectly attentive without ever hovering. His professionalism and bright personality made it a truly exceptional meal. When you make your reservation at Fin Bistro, definitely ask for one of Fabrizio’s tables.  

And do go to Fin Bistro. Do. You’ll pay more than I usually like to pay, especially if you start ordering Cakebread, but not that much. And you deserve it, if only for getting through 2020. I deserved it, and if I did, you certainly do. You’ll have a wonderful meal, a special meal, one the memory of which you will savor for months, years.

***

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