If I’ve heard one person recommend we visit Lucky Pelican Bistro, I’ve heard a dozen. But it wasn’t until local restaurateur Phil Mancini (of Michael’s on East fame) asked if we’d ever been that I knew we were missing out on something. When one restaurant owner recommends another establishment, that tells you something. First, Lucky Pelican must be good, and second, Phil Mancini is confident enough in his own restaurant’s success not to fret over the success of his competition. Class act!
So skip forward a month or two, and we get a call from recent real estate clients, (and now friends,) Bob and Cheryl Eby, who just finished renovating their new home in Lakewood Ranch. “Would you like to come by and see the house?” Cheryl asks. “Maybe go get a bite to eat afterwards?” Absolutely!
Bob and Cheryl are about our age, and recently moved here from Naples, where they felt the sidewalk rolled up at 9:00 every night. Naturally they wanted to go someplace lively and delicious. So, having been to the Lucky Pelican before, they were pleased when we suggested it. Fortunately, we missed the long waiting lines Lucky Pelican has become known for, by arriving after 7:30 on a “school night.” Not a bad idea if you want to get seated quickly. Weekend waits at Lucky Pelican can easily be over an hour during tourist season, with most folks arriving between 6 and 7pm. This night we were seated right away. Lucky us!
Having enjoyed light appetizers at Bob and Cheryl’s house before heading over, we went straight for the main courses. Lucky Pelican’s menu offers a good variety of cold appetizers, like Smoked Trout and Salmon Spread, Stone Crabs (when in season) and a large raw bar shelling out fresh shucked oysters and clams as well as peel and eat shrimp. If you’re looking for a quick bite, there’s a shell and fish bar for smaller orders. (Cash only!)
On the hot side of the appetizer side, there is a lovely Thai Chicken with Lime and Coconut Milk soup that caught my attention, as did the Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Bisque, but I knew if I had soup, I wouldn’t have room for dinner. Mart was feeling the same when he decided against ordering the Mussels Hot Pot made with Belgium beer, bacon, blue cheese, lemon, spinach and shallots. We will be back for the mussels, of this I’m 100% sure.
For those who aren’t into seafood, there are other choices available at Lucky Pelican, like the Rum Fired Jerk Chicken, the grilled tenderloin and the classic American cheeseburger. But for us four? We’re casting in our nets for some fish!
Having been here before, Bob seemed to know what he wanted, being the first to order one of the daily specials, creatively called Grouper in the Weeds. Lucky Pelican often features their fresh catches cooked “in the weeds” on their list of daily specials, typically a white fish like cobia or cod, cooked in creamed spinach, with garlic and capers. Bob’s order came with the Lucky Pelican’s signature bistro potatoes, new potatoes that have been quartered and given a nice, brown crispy finish on the grill. He found them ideal for dipping into the sauce remaining after he polished off the grouper.
While we had waited for the waiter to bring our drinks, Mart noticed the meal being served to the table next to us. “What is that!” he asked, almost getting whiplash with his excitement.
“One of our favorites,” our server explained. “The Bacon Wrapped Swordfish Marsala. A number of our patrons order it ever time they visit.” Mart takes a look around, and confirms a few other patrons happily slicing into the swordfish and decides to go with the majority vote.
Mart’s Bacon Wrapped Swordfish Marsala arrived with the bacon absolutely hugging the swordfish steak, but for this photo, he pulled the bacon to the side so you could see how thick and delectable the swordfish portion was. Swordfish is among the meatiest of fish, and being that it’s not an oily fish, like tuna, mackerel and salmon, cooking it can be tricky. Just the slightest bit overcooked and swordfish can be dry, so wrapping the steak with a ring of bacon pretty much guarantees that Lucky Pelican’s swordfish was as moist and delicious as it can get. The classic marsala cream sauce is ideal with this presentation, made from marsala wine and mushrooms, with butter, olive oil and seasonings. At Lucky Pelican, they up the ante, so to speak, with portabella mushrooms and caramelized onions, taking the classic marsala sauce to a heavenly place.
Being of Norwegian decent, I’ve traveled there on numerous occasions and can’t count the many different ways I’ve been served salmon – whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Saying that, it took only one bite of Lucky Pelican’s Roasted Salmon, with its caramelized honey glaze drenched in a creamy mustard sauce, before I knew I can easily add their salmon preparation to my Top 5 All-Time Favorites. My order included the standard menu sides of onion straws, and fresh veggies. and I substituted the couscous for bistro potatoes, (because Bob said they are ‘the bomb’.) Cheryl ordered hers with cous cous, and said I should have left well enough alone, as she loved the cous cous dipped in the mustard sauce, but I was happy with my choice. The salmon had a light, crunchy crust, the salmon a pink center, and I can’t tell you how much I loved, loved, loved the creamy mustard sauce. Just look at those stone ground mustard seeds! Did I mention that I loved it?
The only complaint I had for the evening at Lucky Pelican was that none of us had the appetite for dessert.
Alas. . . a return visit to Lucky Pelican is in order.