Tino can mean small or an abbreviation of someone’s name (e.g., Agostino). In Fort Myers, it is also the name of a restaurant, Tino’s Southwest Kitchen (TSK).
The restaurant has been open since January of 2019. On chatting with one of the owners, he told me he had been at this (cooking) for over 30 years. If one is still employed in the restaurant business for that long, it is generally a very good sign. I asked why Tino’s? The owner told me that for consistency, they decided to keep the name of the former occupant of this space. I have never eaten at TSK’s predecessor, Tino’s Mexican Cuisine, but it’s a good bet they are two very different places.
The owner I chatted with is from Corpus Christie, Texas. The menu items are either directly from family recipes in Texas or interpretations of them. We tried to sample a number of things off their Menu. The first was the ceviche made from shrimp and scallops marinated in citrus, pico, yellow bell pepper, scallions, avocado and Serrano chilies. The ceviche was good, though not the best I have had.
To me, the standout here were the chips, made in house and sprinkled with fajita seasoning, garlic and onion powder. I could not get enough of these; my dining companion ended up swatting my hand repeatedly as I reached for more.
Our final sampling of the starters were the quesadillas. These were made from in house-made chorizo, queso blanco, carmelized onions, mushrooms and roasted corn. The topping was avocado crema. These tortillas were not made in house, but it didn’t matter. They were fantastic and should be on the shortlist of menu items for anyone that dines here. Most highly recommended.
The snapper tacos were next. I am a fool for fish tacos. A real plus at TSK is not only that these tacos (fish) are served on corn tortillas as they should be, but that the corn tortillas are made in house.
The snapper in the tacos were blackened and served with tomato, lettuce and Sante Fe slaw, made from typical slaw ingredients but also green apple and avocado crema. More avocado crema finished the dish as a taco topping. Two sides come with this, though the restaurant gives you a choice of four.
For this, we decided on more slaw, rice and pico de gallo (a little bit extra). I love how so much attention to detail is paid to these side items. It really elevates the cuisine at TSK. The rice is basmati but is seasoned with turmeric for color, and cumin, chili powder, paprika and onion/garlic powder. It was excellent. The pico is very different than what I am used to and very good. It’s very tomato flavored, perhaps by the addition of a New Mexico chili sauce. My only complaint was that the fish portions were much too big to be in a tortilla, making it a bit hard to eat. In the end, it really didn’t matter, another fine dish from TSK.
We also ordered another entree, the chicken and poblano enchiladas. This was another excellent dish. Chicken and chicken broth were slow-cooked in an Alto Shaam oven until it literally falls apart. These ovens, though expensive, have very sophisticated technology which provides for a constant, low heat leaving foods full of moisture and flavor. It showed in the chicken in this dish. Roasted poblano chiles, jack cheese, in-house-made blue corn tortillas and New Mexico Hatch chili sauce sealed the deal. As with the quesadilla, this dish should be on the shortlist of anyone dining here. We also ordered the other two sides available at TSK, the cumin black beans and the vegetarian refried beans. Both were exceptional.
We finished with their brownie with red wine hatch chili sauce and vanilla ice cream. It was a brownie made from scratch to be sure but was unremarkable. The chili/red wine sauce added little to this dish. Perhaps the tres leches flan next time.
The food on the whole at TSK was very good. Although some items were just ok, there were quite a few standouts with the starters, mains and sides.
Southwest Florida does not have a good grasp of the cuisine of the Southwestern United States, and TSK does a pretty good job of this. Of all the items ordered, I would recommend the quesadillas, snapper tacos and the chicken and poblano enchiladas. These will not disappoint. Many other menu items looked good but will have to wait for a future visit.