leave your inhibitions at the door
Boom Boom had a conference in Naples, FL and I was hanging out and playing golf. For those unfamiliar with the city, it’s where super rich old people go to have sex escape the winters up north. It’s not what you think of with blue-haired ladies and cardigan-clad men with sensible shoes tooling around in their Ford Crown Victorias. The retirees in Naples dress in designer clothes and tool around in Bentleys and Range Rovers. Although I was bummed to see these powerful cars driven a good 10 mph below the speed limit, I was pleased to find that the Porsche Panamera can fit a walker in its trunk. (I swear I saw that. Just couldn’t get the camera out in time)
I didn’t know what to expect in terms of food. I’ve been to other areas in Florida that are touristy and/or have a lot of retirees and the restaurants were boring and didn’t adequately spice their dishes. I could tell that Naples has its share of these places. However, I was surprised to find some high-end restaurants and, on the other end of the spectrum, gritty, authentic Mexican joints. More on the Mexican food in a later post…
Boom Boom and I celebrated our anniversary here. This is a chain of Hawaiian fusion restaurants that was started in Honolulu by Roy Yamaguchi. Even though it’s a chain, it’s definitely upscale with dishes in the $25-40 range. What helps is that each restaurant has its own chef, so every location is slightly different. We started off with their signature Hawaiian Martinis, which The Sicilian made for us last year during her Aloha Night party – Vodka-infused pineapple, vanilla vodka, Malibu Rum.
What we drank: 2010 Nickel & Nickel Medina Vineyard Chardonnay. As I posted on my Facebook page, I couldn’t write down descriptors because Boom Boom was giving me the stink eye. Apparently there’s a limit to the notes and pictures I can take at an anniversary dinner.
Didn’t eat here. Just love the name. By the way, it’s not a seafood restaurant.
On the second night, Boom Boom had a work dinner that I wasn’t allowed to crash, so I was all by my lonesome. I checked out this place upon the recommendation of The Sicilian. I couldn’t decide on a single appetizer, so opted to order a couple of those in lieu of a full entrée. The two I ordered weren’t quite big enough, but service was little on the slow side and I was antsy to go.
Conceptually, the soft buttery fish counters the spicy noodles but there wasn’t enough of it because the noodles were really spicy. Still, this was very good.
I didn’t understand the pickled carrots, but the rest were out of this world. The foie was perfectly done and melted in my mouth. I wish there was a little more but, hell, I always wish I had a little more foie gras.
What I drank: I was only planning on a glass, but they were running a ½ price special on bottles of wine so I ordered a 2008 Trimbach Gewurztraminer. I was able to take the unfinished bottle with me so it was a no-brainer. I knew this off-dry Alsatian white with its tropical notes would pair nicely with Hamachi. It wasn’t as sweet as a Sauternes, which pairs perfectly with foie but in a pinch worked really well.
Dining solo again. I heard a lot of people talk about this place as it’s a little bit of a Naples legend. Dinner got off to a rocky start as the first bottle of wine I ordered – a 2010 Laboure Roi, an unoaked Chardonnay from Pouilly-Fuisse – was corked. I decided on another French Chard – 2009 Domaine Christophe Cordier, from Macon-Charnay. This one wasn’t corked, but it also wasn’t good. There was an all-around lack of flavor and aroma that made it just slightly tastier than water. Oh well.
Looking around, I saw some really impressive looking salads, steaks and pastas. But I thought since this was a high-end place about 3 blocks from the ocean and had the word “sea” in its name, I should go with seafood. Heightening the expectations was the fact that they have their fish prominently displayed on ice for all to see.
Part of their menu lists what they have and the fish is grilled with fingerling potatoes, asparagus, and tomatoes. Having it simply prepared like this and devoid of sauces and spices would put the fish front and center. It came down to Mediterranean Branzino, one of my favorite fish, and Gulf Black Grouper. I went with the Grouper thinking it would be the freshest and the best.
Wrong. It was charred in some places and tough – definitely overcooked. And it was a little smallish for $38.
What was more disappointing was the service. My waiter was an Italian guy in his 40s who I imagined to be a career waiter. He sucked. Here’s a list of his sins:
– I had to flag down the floor manager when I discovered the wine to be corked.
– Every table has three different types of salt and I noticed that other tables were getting a whole story about where they’re from, how they’re produced, and what the flavor profiles were. When I asked him, he just said, “sea salt, Bolivian Red, and Hawaiian clay.”
– When I was deliberating between the two fish, he was less than helpful. Just saying that “they’re two different fish.”
– And when it came time to leave, I had to flag down the floor manager after 20 minutes in order to get the check.
I swear one of these days I’m going to write a post on bad service.
Will I ever go back to Naples? Since Boom Boom was at a conference, our stay was on someone else’s dime. It was a no-brainer for me to go. But there wasn’t a whole lot there that had me thinking I want go back soon. In the future if someone else were to pay for it I certainly wouldn’t turn it down.
If I do find myself in that area, at least I know there’s some decent food.