Some restaurants hide behind their extravagant themed décor for lack of more substantial qualities, such as culinary originality or excellence. USS Nemo, an “underwater” restaurant, is not one of them. Don’t let the submarine theme fool you: this is a serious restaurant for people that seriously love fusion cuisine. The chef at Nemo’s prepares delicious East-meets-West meals for both lunch and dinner with prices that won’t leave you broke. And USS Nemo is located –surprise, surprise – in a strip mall, but even this detail shouldn’t fool you: the food quality here is equal, if not superior, to Fifth Avenue South’s restaurants’.
The small and cozy dining room is packed with customers when we walk in even though it’s almost 2 p.m.– a good sign, if you ask me. As we head to our table I can’t help but notice the stylish yet playful décor. The walls are painted deep sea blue, the bar resembles a ship galley and two big submarine props are hanging over the kitchen door. Everything about this restaurant makes you feel like you really are 20,000 leagues under the sea.
Like many other restaurants in the area USS Nemo offers a lunch menu that features lighter options like sandwiches and salads and more affordable prices than at dinner. Wines by the glass are also very reasonably priced: they range from $4.50 to a little over $10. As we browse through the menu, we are tempted by a couple of the appetizers: the rock shrimp tempura with yuzu-creamy sauce ($7.95) and the seafood ceviche ($6.75) both sound delicious, but we decide to skip the appetizers and dive into the incredible selection of entrees.
USS Nemo stays true to both its Far East and Mediterranean influences by offering diverse fixings such as raita, pesto cream cheese, naan bread and tomato aioli on their unusual sandwiches that go well beyond the typical grilled chicken with tartar sauce. I’m tempted to order an interesting sounding sandwich, the grilled salmon BLT ($9.95), but given my love for Indian spices I decide to go for one of USS Nemo’s specialties: the mahi mahi tandoori ($13.50). My lunch companions opt for a tataki tuna salad ($13.95) and a bento box with fish and shrimp tempura and tuna tataki ($12.95).
Our food arrives shortly afterwards and I’m so impressed with its presentation I think I’d take a picture of it even if I didn’t have to. My mahi mahi is blackened with tandoori spices and it sits on a bed of rice with green beans, cherry tomato halves and a dill-cumin sauce. The fish is cooked to perfection, so tender I can cut it with my fork, and the sauce, sweet and pungent at the same time, perfectly compliments the tandoori spices on the mahi mahi.
The bento box also looks amazing in a geometrical kind of way, and my dining companion seems to be more than satisfied with the crispiness of his tempura. The yuzu-soy sauce that comes with the dish is salty and tangy, and it goes well with both the battered seafood and the seared tuna.
The tataki tuna salad is probably the most traditional dish we have ordered, but its presentation makes it look special nevertheless: the seared fish rests on top of mixed Asian greens and an orange and seafood ceviche. My dining companion, a tuna maniac that has ordered it at every restaurant in town, declares this is one of the best tunas she has ever tasted and cleans her plate so fast I don’t get a chance to try it.
As we finish eating we all agree that we feel full but not exploding, a nice sensation when you have an afternoon of work ahead of you. Portions are generous but not ridiculously big, and the food is so delicious it makes USS Nemo an instant favorite in Naples. If you are in the mood for something a little different, served with flair in a chic, even romantic setting, this gem of a restaurant won’t let you down. Be warned though: You will want to go back there again and again to try all the amazing dishes you see on the menu.
Want to go? USS Nemo, 3745 Tamiami Trail North, Naples. 239.261.6366.