A restaurant’s name should give a diner a glimpse at its focus. Like Pizza Hut — you know that restaurant serves pizza. At Fin Bistro on Marco Island, you best believe fish is on the menu — nearly, the entire menu. And it’s fresh, local fare caught right in the Gulf of Mexico.
Fin Bistro opened in October, and its menu was created by chef/owner Brian O’Brien. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., O’Brien has a “good sense of what pairs well together,” he said in a telephone interview. He grew up in the Midwest and operated a similar concept restaurant in St. Louis (But the fish was frozen, not fresh, said O’Brien.)
His wife, Kathy, manages Fin’s dining room, and the couple’s four children, Elly, 12, Brian, 11, Finley, 5, and Luke, 4, also live on the island.
“We vacationed in Naples for several years before discovering Marco Island, and we just fell in love with it,” he recalled of first visiting Marco. O’Brien always told Kathy that if the situation was right, he would open another restaurant, and three years after moving to Marco, Fin Bistro was opened.
It was a busy Saturday night near the end of season when my husband and I dined at Fin. We made a reservation, which was a necessity in season; it might not be the case this summer, but it never hurts. The small restaurant was bustling with activity. Tables are slightly too close together, and private conversations would be near impossible without potential eavesdroppers listening in — not on purpose, but because there was no avoiding it.
We sat at a two-top table, and our server, Dean, brought us bread with herb-infused olive oil for dipping. After seeing the extensive menu, we started with an appetizer.
I ordered pan-roasted Gulf prawns ($13). There were three huge prawns set atop a baguette slice with saffron-petite vegetable relish, bruschetta, aioli and shellfish butter drizzled over it. This was a unique dish with a pretty presentation. But the shellfish butter tasted strongly of lobster, a flavor that doesn’t really agree with my palate.
Where: 317 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
Summer hours: 5:30 p.m. to close Tuesday-Saturday
Prices: $9-$15 starters; $22-$35 entrees; $8.50 desserts
Information: 239-970-6064 or finbistro.com
My husband selected the calamari ($12), but this wasn’t standard-fare calamari. Instead of fried, the squid was sautéed with olives, tomatoes, chilies, garlic, basil and bruschetta. It, too, had a strong flavor at its core.
Follow O’Brien’s advice and order his signature appetizer, yellowtail avocado crudo ($9). Composed of Meyer lemon vinaigrette, English peas, radish and micro herbs, the yellowtail has the same texture as avocado, explained O’Brien, which makes the pairing so successful.
Under greens and pasta, the chef continues to show off his culinary prowess, and his signature creation, the roasted beet, palm hearts salad ($9) is a “play on the tropical,” said O’Brien. It has creamy Gorgonzola, spiced walnuts, aged balsamic, fine herbs and baby spinach. But if traditional is more your speed, try the Caesar salad ($9), which is made of Romaine hearts, garlic croutons and creamy Reggiano anchovy dressing. It was super tasty with very light dressing and a hint of anchovy flavor shining through.
The piece de resistance were the entrees. And like at Pizza Hut, you must order the restaurant’s namesake, which for Fin Bistro is anything that has a fin and swims. I chose the Florida Keys dorado ($23). What is dorado? I had to ask, too. It’s mahi mahi, and was a large filet of meat and served with crushed fingerling goat cheese potatoes. And oh, my! This was an amazing dish: from the flaky fish to its pairing with the mashed fingerlings, it was heaven in every bite. And I must say, I am committed to recreating it, albeit doomed to fail since my culinary skills are rudimentary.
Rama ordered my second-choice entree, the Florida black grouper ($27). It is served with gnocchi, artichoke fricassee, lump crab, prosciutto, Reggiano soubise and herb-infused olive oil. And, once again, it was amazing!
Another chef suggestion is the almond-crusted Atlantic flounder ($23), which O’Brien says is a very mild fish that blends well with the amandine butter sauce.
For dessert, if you have room, try the white chocolate apple croissant bread pudding ($8.50). The warm bread pudding melds with the apple pieces and bourbon caramel sauce, and it melts the vanilla ice cream. Rama selected the berry and brandy cobbler ($8.50), a lemon streusel topped with berries and vanilla ice cream. He said it was, “very berry,” which translates to very good.
Fin Bistro is an unknown gem on Marco, one that you should not miss. Call for summer hours, as they are subject to change.