BY MARSHA FOTTLER


Fins is fine, for locals and visitors alike.

Fins is precisely the kind of restaurant you take Northern visitors when they ask why you moved here. Lead them up to the chic covered deck and relax in a club chair, feel the breeze and order a drink. Watch as your guests take in the beach, aquamarine water, swaying palm trees, colorful umbrellas staked in the sand and the thatched roofs of various tiki beach bars below at Sharky’s, which is the older part (nearly three decades) of this complex at the locally famous Venice pier.

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Then move inside to Fins’ dining rooms, where the quality of the dishes lives up to the ambiance. The menu is expansive, weighted to seafood with Asian influences. It’s a fine place to compose a custom meal of sushi, small plates, platters for sharing, sandwiches and salads or enjoy traditional entrées with a couple sides. Yes, you can get a burger ($14), four varieties, and one of them is bison. There’s a jolly beverage list, too, including sake, craft and traditional cocktails, mocktails, wines, designer beers (Green’s Triple Blonde is gluten free) and more familiar brew brands such as Fat Tire Amber.

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There are about two dozen sushi selections (average $10) and I can vouch for yume ($11.50), which is yellowtail tuna and salmon tartare; the Wagyu beef roll, where the beef is Asian marinated and lightly seared; and Castaway, which is eel. The Gulf grouper is a winner, and so is the special spicy tekka, which features spicy tuna wrapped in fresh tuna

Coming in at $16 is the spicy Fin combo, a roll big enough to share that features spicy tuna and salmon, tempura soft shell crab, spring mix, scallions

and tobiko. It’s deliciously crunchy, with big flavors.

Of the small plates, the lobster potato nachos ($15) are the attention grabber, designed for someone who scoffs at calories and cholesterol. Maine lobster chunks, melted smoked Gouda, crispy prosciutto and waffle-cut Yukon Gold chips are layered into an appealingly messy mound. Just as a joke, the chef adds arugula. Who is he kidding?  This dish is gooey but likable.

The pork belly crostini is a bit dry, but the grilled watermelon salad ($9) is colorful and refreshing, and the tuna tataki ($16) is a winner.

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My favorite dish on a recent evening was octopus salad with pear slices and greens. The stars were two plump, slightly smoky-tasting tentacles (prepared over Portuguese cork) that were textural and rich. And the presentation was so pretty, with a purple orchid for garnish, making it the perfect exotic seafood tropical choice.

Filet mignon, jerk chicken or Chilean sea bass ($35) are special entrées and come with such welcome sides as cheddar grits, pecan wild rice, forbidden black rice or broccolini. Entrées average $28.

But for me, the small plates, salads and sushi are more adventuresome and fun. There are seven crowd-pleasing desserts for $8 and $9, none particularly innovative (bread pudding, Key lime crème brulée, hot fudge sundae, chocolate mousse), but after I kept deciding to have just one more sushi roll, I did not make it to the sweet finish line. Maybe next time.

Fins’ decor is contemporary nautical chic with portholes cut into the chairs, an aquarium at the host station, and stylish decor elements such as sea glass that moves like waves. There’s a long, attractive, polished wood bar with beam ceiling, upholstered booths and tables both inside and on the deck.

Venice is getting more sophisticated by the day, and Fins has swum into port at just the right moment. |||


Fins at Sharky’s

on the Pier

1600 S. Harbor Drive, Venice, at the Venice Pier

Phone: (941) 786-3068

Hours: Lunch noon-2:30 p.m., dinner 4-10 p.m. daily. Reservations encouraged.

Full bar

Cards: All major

Handicapped accessible: with elevator

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