LIFESTYLE-BRANDED DINING

by DOUGLAS KING photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

BBQ GOES POP The mango BBQ chicken lollipop appetizer comes encrusted with macadamia nuts with a jerk remoulade.

There are certain restaurants you visit to enjoy an exemplary meal. There are others that transport you to exotic destinations as they tantalize your taste buds with foreign flavors. Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar is just such a restaurant and experience.

Possibly best known as an island lifestyle brand, Tommy Bahama is also a fun and lively dining experience. The original location in the group of restaurants located across the country is nestled in downtown Naples, in the historic district, fondly called Old Naples.

TACO CUATRO The blackened fish tacos are served with tomato relish, chipotle aioli, island slaw and lime sour cream.

Offering patio and bar seating and a dining room, Tommy Bahama Naples seats 200 in a comfortable and tasteful tropical-themed environment. This is no tacky tiki bar. This restaurant has an aesthetically pleasing interior with a laid-back island vibe.

Anyone who has spent time in the tropics knows that the mai tai is the go-to cocktail, and Tommy Bahama has crafted one that puts the others to shame. Mixed with Flor de Caña 4-year-old rum, orgeat, orange curaçao, lemon, lime and pineapple juice with a dark rum float, one sip of this cocktail and the mood is set for an island adventure.

SIGNATURE FISH DISH Served with a shrimp broth, the cilantro- and gingercrusted mahi-mahi is plated on top of a crispy furikake rice cake, which is covered in sautéed squash and carrots, and drizzled with chile oil.

It is a moral imperative that you order the coconut-crusted crab cakes when you visit. The generously portioned lump blue crab cakes are served with a Thai chili sauce. After an order, or three, of Tommy Bahama’s famous coconut shrimp plated with a papaya-mango chutney, it is time to consider your entrée.

Every Tommy Bahama menu has brand-wide offerings, but individual restaurants also serve locally popular dishes. The featured “Fresh Sheet” menu changes daily for lunch and dinner and is created by executive chef Todd Vento, who has been with the company for 15 years. There is a gluten-sensitive and vegetarian portion of the menu as well.

GET TO THE PUNCH There is no cocktail that says tropics better than a mai tai, and Tommy Bahama serves one of the finest.

Florida fish lovers should not hesitate to explore incredible offerings such as the Kona Longboard fish and chips with the fresh catch of the day, macadamia-crusted snapper, seared ahi tuna, and shrimp and grits. For meat lovers, there are plenty of options, including grilled baby back pork ribs, the smokehouse bacon burger, Cuban sandwich, and filet mignon plated with a house specialty: cauliflower-potato mash.

To truly experience the Tommy Bahama lifestyle, order the cilantro- and ginger-crusted mahi-mahi, a thick, flaky white fish. The way it is prepared—with a crispy furikake rice cake, sautéed squash and carrots, and chile oil—is amazing. The ultimate kicker, which places this dish in superstar status, is the addition of a shrimp broth, providing a splash of salt flavoring. This entrée is well balanced with complementary flavors, making it a signature dish.

GO MANGO The macadamia-crusted goat cheese appetizer sits on a bed of mango salsa and sweet soy and is accompanied by flatbread.

Another equally popular entrée is the blackened fish tacos, served with tomato relish, chipotle aioli, island slaw and lime sour cream. Often, when ordering fish tacos, what you receive is a tortilla filled with cabbage and a sliver of fish. That is not the case here. A thick filet of mahi-mahi resides on top of the island slaw, and the sauces are so flavorful that changing any ingredient threatens to ruin the mastery of the meal. A special note must be made about the tortilla itself. This taco is made with a corn and flour mix, providing a surprising crunch, further enhancing the delicious dish.

The dessert menu could be considered a second entrée menu; the selections are amazing and the serving sizes so large. Half orders are available upon request.

The best presentation award goes to the pineapple crème brûlée. A cored pineapple is caramelized and served as the edible bowl for the Tahitian vanilla bean custard. To say this dish was created as an Instagram-able moment might not be farfetched, except that it has been on the menu longer than Instagram has existed.

TROPICAL BRÛLÉE The desserts are impeccable, including the pineapple crème brûlée, which comes in a hollowed-out, caramelized pineapple.

The piña colada cake is a signature dessert, which features vanilla cake, Myers’s dark rum, diced pineapple, white chocolate mousse and toasted coconut. For chocolate lovers, you can get your fix with either the peanut butter pie, made with a pretzel crust covered in a thick chocolate ganache, or the malted chocolate pie, made with a chocolate cookie crust, mocha mousse and an English toffee crumble. Finally, what would a tropical-themed restaurant be without key lime pie?

A visit to Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar is a vacation for the mind and palate. While dining in Florida you can have your sun-kissed beaches and swaying palms while your taste buds enjoy the sensation of island flavors.

Douglas King is the editor-in-chief of Dallas Style & Design. He can be reached at king_doug@att.net.