Monday, May 26, 2014

Best View (and renovated too) On Fort Myers Beach

The Lani Kai Island Resort is arguably the most infamous as well as famous party place on Fort Myers Beach. Above the beer bongs and bikini contests is a more peaceful restaurant on the roof with swinging chairs, live music and a great view of the sunset.

Adjacent to the rooftop tiki is the air-conditioned Island View Restaurant, once severely dated now seriously renovated. It smells fresh, looks nautically chic and has the best view of the shoreline, six floors up.

I dined here during its opening week and when I posted photos on Facebook, my foodie friends (along with longtime locals) exploded my inbox and text asking if I was REALLY eating at the Lani Kai and if it was REALLY good. I'm pleased to say it was!

A dirty martini with a sidecar and a new, signature island cocktail
There is a new raw bar with seating but pulling up a chair at the cocktail bar, you'll get a fantastic overview of the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. The wine list has enough selections by the glass and bottle to satisfy most guests, the signature cocktail list is creative and I particularly enjoyed the old school way martinis are served, with a side car.
White pizza with perfectly roasted garlic and spinach 
Chicago chef Jason Smith-Agate opened the restaurant at the beginning of May with a redesigned menu to match the new space. He knows just how to work the new wood fired oven for flatbreads, appetizers and entrees; I'm told it's the only such oven on Fort Myers Beach.

Wood fired ocotpus 
The wood fired octopus has quite a spicy kick; a nice change to the standard calamari found on most beach menus. One of my favorites appetizers was the bacon wrapped shrimp over guacamole with a tequila lime butter. The flavors and textures made great friends.
Bacon wrapped shrimp over guacamole 
It is safe to say at this point of the meal, the chef had my attention. I had set my expectations low, not figuring this popular party spot would be able to pull off a quality dining experience. We tried the fish special of the evening as well as a prime rib that literally melted in my mouth. I wanted to drink the au jus it was so savory.

The trick now is to get food lovers to look past the party and the Hawaiian facade of the hotel and give the Island View a go. Owners know this and made accommodations, such as free valet service by the express elevator. The poolside lift takes you straight to the restaurant so you can avoid the board short and bikini crowd.

Be adventurous and give the Island View a try. The happy hour is from 4-7 with $5 cocktails and wood fired flatbreads. If you want more incentive and live in Southwest Florida, look for a copy of Living Local at Publx. The May issue has a BOGO offer for dinner and there is a good chance you'll find a similar one in the June publication. CHEERS!

No comments:

Post a Comment