Their flagship restaurant, 1500 South, opened two years ago with much buzz by celebrity chef Art Smith. Chef Smith has been in some very high profile cooking ventures. In addition, he has published cookbooks, has been involved in many children’s charity concerns and received numerous culinary accolades at the highest levels.
I visited here shortly after they initially opened and Documented my meal here.
Fast forward two years and a friend invited me along for a sampling of their new Menu.
I was unaware of the change in ownership until I arrived that day. Apparently, Chef Smith has not been involved in the restaurant’s operations for a number of months and it has been taken over by Naples Bay Resort. Chef William Conroy is the new Chef de Cuisine. He is CIA (The Culinary Institute of America) trained and has had some interesting gigs in a Colorado 5 star resort in addition to the Aspen Food and Wine Festival.
The Patina of 1500 had not changed since I had been there last, and it is still a beautiful dining space. I love their bar space and open air kitchen.
Now for the food. In the interests of transparency and full disclosure, our food was given to us gratis for evaluative purposes.
The first item brought to the table was the southern panzanella salad. This was the chef’s take on the classic Italian bread and tomato salad. It was brilliant, and featured in house made burrata, some of the best I have had. Grits croutons, smoked avocado puree, heirloom tomatoes, tomato aspic, pickled onions, balsamic glaze and arugula microgreens finished the dish. Highly recommended.
We then moved onto the grouper cake that was served with a preserved lemon (aioli) mayonnaise and arugula with orange segments and preserved lemon. Fish cakes ordered out are usually short in the fish and long in the cake. This fish cake was not. The cake was very dense, a consequence of using ground saltines instead of bread crumbs, the latter a more traditional Maryland way. Why not, we’re in Florida after all. The fish cake was good, though a bit salty for my tastes. I thought the bitter flavors of the preserved lemon clashed with the sweetness of the oranges in the arugula. This dish was ok, and a bit of a let down.
We then tried the oven roasted snapper. This was good. I must say, this chef knows how to cook fish. The fish was served with coconut rice, shredded coconut added to it during cooking. A sauce of coconut milk, coconut rum, lime zest, pineapple, cilantro oil and micro cilantro sealed the deal along with the rock shrimp used as a foil for this dish. My only complaint with this is that the acidity of the pineapple really conflicts with the rest of this dish and would better left out. Just my two cents.
We sampled one last entree, the braised short rib, cooked sous vide for many hours and served atop grits with demi glace. The meat was perfectly cooked and seasoned but the rest of the dish was lacking. Although very well cooked and having a really good starchy “mouth feel” the grits were flavor-wise unremarkable even when buttressed by the addition of the demi. This dish, though so-so, could be brought to greatness with some very minor modifications.
We were then served our dessert, a white, milk and dark chocolate mousse. My dining companion spotted this immediately as something not made in house which was confirmed by the chef. No matter, it was ok and should have appeal to most.
The food served at 1500 was good, but reminded me of fare I have been served in the clubhouses of many country clubs, locally. This is food that generally is good, but non controversial in terms of presentation and taste. I had seen glimpses of Chef Conroy’s talents in the dishes served to us, and I hope at some point he will more fully express his culinary acumen.
It’s a wrap for another post on Forks.
1500 5th Avenue South
Naples, FL 34102
Open 8-10:30 AM Monday-Friday for breakfast and 5-10PM daily for dinner, Open 8-11AM for breakfast Saturday and Sunday; Kid’s meals; All major credit cards accepted.