Marlin Bar offers tasty respite for Coconut Point shoppers
Holiday shoppers were likely the first to discover and enjoy a new dining option at Coconut Point in Estero. The Marlin Bar is a new, casual concept by the retail fashion and restaurant chain Tommy Bahama that opened at the end of November.
Unlike most of the center’s restaurants, which are located on the outer perimeter, the Marlin Bar sits right on Fashion Drive, the main shopping thoroughfare, wrapping around the existing Tommy Bahama boutique. That makes it a convenient alternative for shoppers who want to take a quick break for a pick-me-up or unwind after a day of store hopping without having to leave the retail hub. Nothing like a blood orange margarita and a couple of jerk-chicken tacos to perk up the spent spirits.
The weather was perfect last week for alfresco dining. Competition for tables can be stiff during peak dining hours, but we were able to get a four-top under an umbrella after waiting five or 10 minutes. Food and drink orders are placed at a walk-up bar and delivered to the tables, but one server bent the rules a bit and was nice enough to take our order at the table.
Handcrafted cocktails outnumber the beer and wine options and even, for that matter, the food choices. True to the Tommy Bahama aesthetic, there are a half-dozen rum concoctions blended with pineapple, coconut and citrus. The martinis and signature cocktails are equally fruity. The classic mojito ($11) was sweetened with sugar cane syrup that balanced out the tartness of lime juice and citrus-infused rum. Equally refreshing was the Cucumber Smash ($12.50), a mixture of Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lime and muddled cucumbers. Pricey? Yes, but consider those top-shelf spirits.
With food prices topping out at $12, it’s easy to try a broad sampling of the brief menu. So-called “snacks” include craft beer cheese and guacamole; salads and rice bowls are topped with proteins that make them substantial enough to serve as entrées; and “handhelds” are a couple of sandwiches and tacos with assorted fillings. Some items, such as a chicken-and-mango salad and ahi tuna tacos, are carryovers from Tommy Bahama Restaurants, but the overall approach is closer to bar basics than fancy food.
The “world famous” coconut shrimp ($9) was an excellent rendition of a dish that’s a culinary cliché in Southwest Florida. The three jumbo shrimp were succulent within their crisp and flaky coconut coating, which adhered nicely rather than crumbling off the shellfish. They were served with a papaya mango chutney that complemented them well — not too sweet, not too spicy — and a small helping of “island slaw,” a citrusy salad with shredded cabbage, red onion and cilantro.
Grain bowls have been gaining popularity in the last year, so offering brown rice topped with seafood and items like pickled vegetables and seeds is a smart choice by the corporate decision-makers. The blackened mahi-mahi bowl ($9) was piled high with rice, baby greens, sweet cabbage slaw, roasted corn, diced tomato, mango salsa and avocado. Drizzled with lime sour cream and sprinkled with fried wontons, it was a cornucopia of contrasting colors, flavors and textures. Although I would have preferred more seasoning on the fish — blackened mahi usually is much spicier — the fillet was perfectly cooked and a satisfying portion for the price.
The Cuban sandwich ($10) was a fine interpretation of the classic toasted roll filled with thinly sliced ham and pork, pickles and Swiss cheese (but I would have liked more cheese). Purists may balk, but the nontraditional additions of trendy chipotle aioli and sriracha mustard do no harm, and it’s good that the menu warns diners of these spicy condiments.
The tacos can be ordered with fish, beef, chicken, pork or roasted vegetables. The pork version ($8) consisted of two flour tortillas stuffed with juicy shredded shoulder meat topped with a smoky roasted pepper salsa, island slaw, pickled red onions, crumbled feta and lime sour cream. They won’t replace my favorite mom-and-pop taqueria’s tacos, but they were loaded with flavor and appropriately upscaled for the location.
I didn’t see any evidence of dessert offerings at Marlin Bar, but ice cream, frozen yogurt and macarons are never far away at Coconut Point. And wouldn’t you really rather have another mojito or margarita anyway? Tommy Bahama knows what it’s doing. ¦