Cafe Reviewed: Wednedday, June 13, 2002

The Caribbean vibe is cool, but the food at Finz is only decent at best.


Finz Tropical Grill & Bar

5005 Colleyville Blvd, Colleyville. 817-498-2229. Mon-Thu 11am-11pm. Fri-Sat 11am-2am. Sun 11am-9pm. AE, D, DC, MC, V.

he best thing you can say about Finz is, “Love the décor.” It’s tiki-chic, comfortable, and clean. The worst thing you can say about Finz is that the food is average. A few dishes stand out, but nothing will blow you away.

The tropical décor put me in a toes-in-the-sand mood; umbrella drinks seemed a natural choice. Big mistake. My companion’s Midori sour looked like something Homer Simpson would bring home from the power plant. It burned Day-Glo green and was sweetness incarnate, not tempered by any sour mix. My strawberry daiquiri made my face curl up into a ball — the sugar! (The bartenders usually augment the standard frozen strawberry daiquiri with coconut rum.) I think these were drinks created by people who don’t drink.

Of the three starters we tried, only one was a total mis-start. The Surf’s Up ceviche was loaded with onions, jalapeños, and tomatoes, all surrounded by lime juice and chunks of avocado — but it was missing a key ingredient: fish. The bigger-than-eight-ounce serving held only four small tastes of white fish and three nuggets of baby shrimp. It was a delightful salsa, not ceviche. The coconut shrimp gave us our first real taste of seafood at Finz. Five two-bite shrimp were breaded, deep-fried, and served with an orange marmalade. At lunch a few days later, a friend and I tried the Dread Locks, also known as cheese fingers. These looked like blond Tiparillo cigars and came with ranch dressing and marinara. They were standard and inoffensive.

Crawfish are a seasonal specialty at Finz. The batch we tried at dinner were overwhelmingly doused with Zatarain’s crawfish boil. Either they were from the bottom of the barrel, or the chef didn’t know that these bad boys are supposed to soak up the seasoned water, not be packed with seasoning. We had to wipe our fingers a lot. Frankly it’s a lot of work to twist, pull, and squeeze two pounds of crawfish, but the tender tail meat we found at the end of these mud bugs made the effort worthwhile. I substituted grilled green beans for corn on the cob for one of my sides, and was delighted with the result. The beans were crisp, not hard or underdone.

The biggest surprise at dinner on a recent Saturday night was the excellent Jamaican jerked sea bass. The jerk rub had hints of chili pepper, thyme, garlic, and just enough salt to bring out the flavor of the fish. The filet was the size of two decks of cards and about a half-inch thick. We ordered it on steamed rice with coleslaw.

For lunch, we ordered from the chalkboard menu of specials, each priced at $4.99. The Twisted Turkey sandwich, smoked turkey lunch meat with avocado and bacon on a soft hoagie roll, wasn’t “twisted” but it was a fine sandwich. The oyster po’ boy, ordered by my companion (a New Orleans native also known as Chow, Baby), was boring. The oysters were soft, mushy, and virtually impossible to differentiate from the bread in terms of color or consistency.

Lunching with Chow, Baby always involves dessert. Of the three desserts I sampled (one at dinner, two at lunch) the Xango Cheesecake got the highest score for innovation and taste. A pastry tortilla with a soft banana, sugar, and ricotta cheese filling was deep-fried. The burrito-shaped confection was rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with a drizzle of caramel. The filling was light and fluffy, a perfect balance of fruit and cheese. And the bread pudding returned Finz to solid, reliable ground.

If there were a TGIFriday’s on American Samoa, it would look like Finz: interesting localized décor, standard culinary fare. Corrugated steel demi-walls topped by a thatched roof define the bar and smoking area. Tall tables with bar stools are placed on the outside of the hut, while seats in the smoking section are standard table height. The light fixtures are steel buckets and hip faux torches. The walls are finished in yellow and teal. The ceiling is matte black, and the exposed beams holding up the place are blood-red. The walls are decorated with Pier 1-style African masks.

Owner Peter Pursley used to be a regular at Ruby’s Seafood Grill. When it came on the market in January, he and a group of buddies bought it, changed the name, and remodeled the interior. Reached by phone on a recent Thursday afternoon, Pursley sounded ready to chuck the whole thing and limbo off into the sunset. “I bought it on a whim,” he said, “because I liked to come here and thought I could do a better job running it.” He admitted that he’s made strides but that the restaurant has not yet reached its potential.

A new restaurant manager will take over in coming weeks. Pursley said that he doesn’t have the desire, skill, or ability to run a restaurant. “Although we’re doing better than breaking even, Finz is not about making money,” he said. “It’s about transforming the restaurant into an escape from your eight-hour-a-day job. It’s about an escape to the Caribbean.”

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