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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dinner at Ginza in Fort Myers


Ginza restaurant, Fort Myers

is a restaurant specializing in Japanese cuisine; mainly sushi and "hibachi". Instead of hibachi which employs charcoal, the restaurant really uses teppanyaki techniques, which involve cooking on a flat iron surface, but why be picky? The restaurant is named for the Ginza district in Tokyo which is a major shopping and entertainment area. It is located near the Edison Mall in Fort Myers nearly at the junction of Cleveland and Colonial Avenues.

The restaurant has a rather extensive a la carte Menu but that was not why my dining companion and I were there. We had heard very good things about the all you can eat Menu both in terms of price and quality so we decided to take a look.

The dining area is very commodious, seating 180 diners either at the beverage and sushi bar in addition to the restaurant proper; the latter dining area being composed of both booths and tables.

Now back to the food. We chatted with the manager, Andi, before our order was taken. Being very friendly and helpful, he told us restaurant prides itself on serving fresh and affordable food. He also explained the ordering process to us and what to expect. As far as the all you can eat menu goes, salads, appetizers, sushi (nigiri, maki and temaki rolls), sashimi and teppanyaki dishes are served. Everything except the sushi is served in a smaller portion to allow for a greater latitude of sampling. This is not a buffet, but you are allowed to order as much as you want which your server will bring to you. I asked Andy if we could order 15 rolls at one time. He said yes, but it was up to the management's judgment if the customers were taking advantage of the order process. Diners are allowed to bring leftovers home with them but may have a surcharge added to their bill in this case again based on the management's discretion.

It took a while to survey this rather extensive menu. There were 8 different kind of salads, 8 different appetizers, 16 different kinds of nigiri or sashimi, 20 different maki or temaki rolls and 21 different "specialty" or mostly inside out maki rolls. 

My dining companion and I started out with seaweed, squid and spicy kani salad. The seaweed salad was good, what you would expect at any Japanese restaurant. The squid salad was also good, made as usual with squid, dried mushroom, bamboo shoots, sesame seeds, vinegar, ginger, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine and a few other ingredients. The kani salad followed suit with flavor and was made with shredded krab stick, spicy mayo, cucumber and panko bread crumbs.

We then tried a couple of the hibachi items, steak and shrimp. These were served in a soy-based sauce and came with a side of ginger and yum yum sauce, the latter being a mayonnaise based sauce with cayenne, paprika, garlic and sugar. The portions were small and the flavors ok. At this point I really wanted to move onto the sushi offerings.

We started with a couple of the specialty rolls; the double spicy and the double crunchy rolls. The double spicy roll was served with spicy krab and tuna inside, with spicy mayo and fried noodles on top. The double crunchy had sweet potato tempura and cream cheese inside, with shredded krab stick, spicy mayo, eel sauce and fried noodles on top. A couple of sashimi items were also sampled, octopus (tako) and yellowtail (hamachi). All of these were pretty good, again the rolls being full sized.

A naruto roll was next, along with a couple of temaki, or hand rolls. The naruto roll, though loosely rolled, was very good. This roll came with tuna, avocado and masago (smelt roe) on the inside, wrapped in cucumber instead of rice and seasoned with ponzu sauce. Ponzu sauce is basically a soy sauce with a citrus note. Our tamaki were Mexican and eel rolls. The Mexican roll had fried shrimp, cucumber and spicy mayonnaise. The eel roll was what you would expect, with eel, cucumber and eel sauce,  which typically is a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake. Both were good and again, full sized.

My dining companion really has a sweet tooth, and ordered the fried cheese cake and green tea ice cream.

Typically fried cheese cake is frozen cheese cake brushed with egg wash, wrapped in spring roll wrappers and deep fried. It was served here with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. Tasty and extremely decadent. The green tea ice cream was more of a soft ice cream and lacked in flavor. The fried cheese cake more than made up for that.

I finished with the bubba gump specialty roll. Tempura shrimp, avocado and krab stick was inside this roll and was topped with ginger shrimp, scallions and jalapeno mayo. It was also very good and for me, a nice ending to this literally endless Asian repast.

The food at Ginza was good to very good. The salads and appetizers were what you would expect from a Japanese restaurant, as well our limited samplings from their hibachi offerings. The maki and temaki were remarkable in that they were full sized and all around good. The service was excellent considering all the trips the servers had to make in and out of the kitchen and the volume of food that had to be prepared by the kitchen staff.

This is not "haute sushi" nonetheless Ginza is a tremendous value with dinner being $7.95 to $10.95 for children depending on age and $21.95 for those 12 and above. There is also a more limited all you can eat lunch special priced at $5.95 to $8.95 for children and $13.95 for adults. What little the fare at Ginza lacks in quality is more than made up in quantity.

It's a wrap (literally) for another post on Forks.

4429 Cleveland Ave.
Fort Myers, FL 33901

Open for lunch 11-3 PM and dinner from 3-10 PM Sunday through Thursday and 3-11 PM Friday and Saturday; All major credit cards accepted; Kid's meals available. 

Interior dining area, Ginza restaurant

Interior dining area, Ginza restaurant

Bar area, Ginza restaurant

Sushi bar, Ginza restaurant

Hibachi steak

Hibachi shrimp

Seaweed salad

Squid salad

Spicy kani salad

Double spicy and double crunch roll; Octopus and yellowtail sashimi

Naruto roll

Mexican and eel roll

Bubba gump roll

Fried cheese cake

Friday, May 26, 2017

Happy Hour at Latitude 26

Latitude 26 restaurant, Naples, FL

Latitude 26 is a restaurant in the Hyatt House in Naples, FL. As the astute reader may surmise, Latitude 26 is one set of coordinates of the geographic coordinate system encompassing Naples, FL. The Hyatt House is an extended stay branding of part of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation. The restaurant and hotel have been open since March of 2016.
I always love a good happy hour, so my dining companion (DC) and I decided to take a peek. 

Latitude 26 is a bit confusing as when you walk into the restaurant, you think you're in the hotel bar, but you are not. None the less, the bar/restaurant is quite commodious with plenty of seating both at "high tops" and at the bar. You can also sit outside adjacent to, but far enough away from the guests and chaise lounges poolside.

DC and I ordered a few things off their happy hour menu which runs from 4-7 PM. Prices for food during that time range from $5-12.00. 

They also feature a range of discounted beverages, such as beer, wine and a few house liquors. I enjoy a good glass of wine, and decided to take advantage of the house Canvas Wines served here. Canvas California Wines are wines that were developed especially for Hyatt Hotels by Michael Mondavi Wineries. I opted for the Chardonnay. I found this wine not of my taste, quite undrinkable and for the cognoscenti, way too much malolactic fermentation. As such, I sent it back. It was water from here on out.

At this point I felt sorry for the server, as he had to accommodate probably the 15-20 people present when DC and I were there. It took quite a bit to get his attention and get our order taken.

The first thing we tried were the fish tacos. Mahi Mahi was served on a flour tortilla, cilantro lime slaw, pico de gallo, a blend of Cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese and a chipotle aioli (mayonnaise sauce). A proper fish taco is served on a corn tortilla, anything else should be suspect. Although not bad, unfortunately, this dish was the highlight of the meal. It was somewhat down hill from here.

The Gochujang chicken bites were next. Gochujang is sort of the spicy miso of Korean cooking. This dish came with breaded chicken bites presumably coated in gochujang, Thai aioli, pickled onion, cilantro, lime and sesame seeds. The dish looked appealing, however one taste of the chicken bites proved otherwise. I do not know if you have ever had chicken nuggets in a grocery or convenience store that had been under a heat lamp for much, much too long but the texture of the dish was reminiscent of that.

We then finished with the margherita pizza. The "pizza" came with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto and a balsamic drizzle. The crust of the "pizza" was well hydrated, almost like bread. I could not help but think this was frozen crust that was microwaved. I hoped not and although ok, this dish really did work for me as all I could think of was microwaved frozen pizza dough. A disappointment.

I love a good happy hour. Unfortunately, happy hour at Latitude 26 just did not do it for me. Although not the server's fault, I found the service lacking. Unfortunately, the food also had much to be desired. Would I go back? Perhaps but there are so many other better happy hours in town to choose from.

That's that for another post on Forks.

Latitude 26
Hyatt House Naples
1345 5th Ave. S.
Naples, FL 34102

All major credit cards accepted; Onsite and valet parking gratis with validation. Happy hour daily from 4-7 PM.

Outside dining, Latitude 26
Fish tacos, Latitude 26
Gochujang chicken bites, Latitude 26
Margherita pizza, Latitude 26

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Naples Originals Spring Discounted Gift Certificate Sale

Naples Originals is a consortium of almost 40 locally owned restaurants. The main purpose of Naples Originals is marketing member restaurants. To this end, they promote fostering an appreciation of local restaurants as well as other businesses. At the end of the day, locally owned restaurants and businesses enhance their environments by providing a diverse and unique experience for patrons.

Quarterly, Naples Originals restaurants and catering services donate Gift Certificates to be sold at a 30% discount from face value to the public. This is done to market member restaurants and to provide monies for charitable concerns. The face value of these certificates is generally $50.00, $25.00 and $15.00.

The next sale will be Thursday, May 11, 2017. Be sure to get to their Website early (6 A.M. or so) as this offer sells out very quickly.

Cheers and have a very pleasant dining experience at Naples Originals restaurants.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Dinner at Spice Club Indian Grill

Spice Club Indian Grill (SC) is a restaurant in San Carlos Park, FL serving traditional Indian cuisine. I had seen a lot of complimentary comments online about SC and decided to go and take a look. The owner, Shahinoor, had an Indian Restaurant in the UK for 5 years and decided to take up shop in Southwest Florida after moving here.
The restaurant is a bit hard to find as it's located in a somewhat nondescript shopping plaza in San Carlos Park.
The interior of the restaurant is quite accommodating with a mixture of hi tops, booths and tables to dine at.
We tried a a couple of things from the appetizer menu, vegetable somosas and haleem.
The somosas were really good. Somosas have a shell made from flour that is deep fried and come with a filling made up of curried potatoes, peas, onions and other vegetables.
We also tried the haleem, known as the "stew of stews". The ingredients include lamb, pounded wheat, milk, lentils, ginger and garlic paste, turmeric and other spices such as cumin seeds, caraway seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, saffron, jaggery (modified cane sugar), allspice and sometimes pistachio, cashew, fig and almond.
The flavors were extremely complex and very, very good. The owner also sent out an order of papadum which is a very thin disc of fried lentils with a texture similar to potato chips. This was a perfect vehicle to sample the onion, tamarind and mango chutneys that were served to us.
We then moved onto a few of the entree items. Chicken Chettinad was the first thing sampled, and was absolutely delicious. The dish had a very large pepper note due to the large pieces of cracked peppercorn in it and was spicy but not intolerably hot. The Chettinad has roasted dry red chilies, kalpasi (a dried moss), coconut, poppy seeds,coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, ground nuts and onions which are ground into a paste with garlic and sesame oil. The chicken is then marinated with yogurt, turmeric powder and ground paste. Highly recommended.
We also sampled the lamb Achari, or lamb cooked with pickling spices. One preparation of this dish calls for mustard oil, fenugreek, mustard, cumin, fennel and onion seeds, red chilies, onion and garlic paste, tomato puree and tumeric. This was also a very good entree, especially if you like the mango pickles and such of Indian cuisine.
The owner most kindly sent out a vegetarian dish of malai kofta. This is a dish with vegetable dumplings (kofta) in a curry sauce. The dumplings are typically made from cottage cheese, potatoes, chili powder, corn flour, garam masala (a spice mix) and either almond flour or evaporated milk. The curry can be prepared from onion, tomato, cashew paste, chilies, tumeric, ginger and fenugreek. All of these dishes were wonderful accompaniments to the basmati rice and literally small dog-sized portion of naan, an oven baked flat bread made from scratch in house.
The prices at SC are very reasonable with appetizers prices at 6-8 dollars, and vegetarian (also vegan), chicken, beef, lamb and seafood entrees prices at 10, 11, 12, 13 and 15 dollars, respectively.
The food at SC is incredible, reasonably priced and can accommodate all types of diets from vegan to everything else. The owner of a local Indian grocery store in Naples had remarked that Woodlands in Fort Lauderdale was one of the best Indian restaurants serving traditional Indian cuisine in South Florida. I have had the pleasure to eat at Woodlands and SC is definitely right up there with them. For those that enjoy this type of cuisine I cannot say enough about SC and hope readers will take the time to stop and smell the "culinary roses" here.

Mural, Spice Club Indian Grill

Spice Club Indian Grill
18001 S. Tamiami Tr.
Fort Myers, FL 33967
Spice Club Indian Grill Website

Lunch from 11-3PM and dinner from 5-10 PM; closed Wednesdays; Credit cards other than American Express preferred; Kid's meals available

Spice Club Indian Grill

Haleem, vegetable somosas, papadum and onion, tamarind and mango chutneys.  
Chicken Chettinad
Lamb Achari

Malai Kofta