I occasionally travel for work. When I tell people that I have just returned from attending a meeting in Naples, Florida, I get a chorus of “nice!” The reality is that I have to trust that Naples really is on the water. I can’t be sure because the only water I ever see is in the swimming pool at my hotel. And I only see the pool when I force myself to walk outside and breath in some fresh air. (I probably shouldn’t have told my colleagues that I was going to go stick my head out a window. I’m afraid they got the wrong impression.)
It goes without saying that I volunteer to choose a restaurant for one of our free evenings. My requirements aren’t terribly restrictive. I want something in downtown Naples, entrees that average between $20 to $30, and of course good (if not great) food.
I am surprised to find that my price point is more difficult than expected. Naples in the winter = extra-high prices on restaurant meals. Recommendations from friends, along with my usual process of exhaustive internet research, leads me to Cafe & Bar Lurcat. Online reviews are fairly glowing and there are a variety of entrees below $30. I reserve a table for ten in the more casual downstairs area of the restaurant.
We are immediately impressed. The downstairs may be considered casual, but it feels more upscale than down. The creative cuisine described on the menu has just the right amount of flair. Plus, there is enough to appeal to more conservative palates.
I am intrigued by the promise of bold flavors on several of the starters and salads including Apple, Cheese, and Chive Salad (a house specialty) and Cabbage and Papaya Salad with cashews, mint, and chili. We try both salads, and are delighted when the dishes deliver on their promise.
For my entree, I zero in on Udon Noodles with Spiced Chicken, Cilantro, and Lime. It’s not the most creative dish on the menu, nor the most complex, but I am not in the mood for fancy food. Sometimes I just want a dish with zing.
Mission accomplished. The udon noodles are sassy and satisfying. They aren’t blow-me-out-of-the-water great, but they make me happy. Sometimes that’s all I want from my food. My happiness multiplies when my fellow diners proclaim admiration for their dishes, particularly Fresh Pasta squares with Lobster and Shrimp, Brick Chicken with Yogurt, and the seafood specials.
Our servers tells us that the brussels sprouts have turned her into a believer in the sometimes misunderstood vegetable. They are good, but I just had brussels sprouts at the new Range in Chevy Chase, and those are life-changing brussels sprouts.
It’s a cool night in Naples, which makes ending the meal with warm Cinnamon-Sugar Donuts all the more pleasant. Cafe Lurcat in Naples has served us well, and in doing so preserved my credibility when it comes to selecting restaurants. Whew. My meeting in Naples is just beginning, but in some ways my work here is done.
Cafe & Bar Lurcat, 494 Fifth Avenue S, Naples, Florida