McCormick and Schmick’s
Last week I met up with a old friend from work, who suggested we eat at McCormick and Schmick’s, the upscale seafood restaurant chain with an outpost in Midtown. My friend had just recently started eating seafood again after trying vegetarianism for a while, and was eager to enjoy it as often as possible. M&S does a rather good job with its seafood entrees — I can’t imagine intentionally dining on land animals there — so I agreed and off we went.
The dining room at this location is expansive. Even when there are dozens of customers, as there were this evening, it still feels empty. The bar is situated such that the path to half the dining room requires one to squeeze behind the bar patrons in order to reach those seats, but it’s a minor inconvenience, so long as the food is tasty, right?
Our menus were chock-full of, of course, seafood, mostly fish, with smaller sections for steak and non-meat dishes. The whole back offers a wide range of wines, many by the glass. Perhaps troublingly, since M&S is a chain, calorie counts are listed, so it’s a bit jarring to be interested in a dish, only to notice it’s 1600 calories.
We each started off with a cup of the New England Clam Chowder, with a little fresh pepper on top. This was only okay; it was thin, like a Rhode Island clam chowder, which was fine, but it was far too salty. Lots of clam, though, and what honestly looked like bacon as well, so aside from the saltiness this had a good flavor.
Since M&S is known (renowned?) for its fish dishes, that’s what we decided to order. My friend chose the striped bass, as it was wild-caught. It was served with lentils in a simple preparation, with sauces of pea and bell pepper adorning the plate. The grilling was perfectly fine, maybe just a touch overdone, but still rather flaky and not tough. The sauces were almost mandatory to bring out a little flavor to match the fish’s texture, however, from my one taste. My friend did manage to finish the bass and left much of the lentils, as they were no more than ordinary.
I’d ordered from the Hawaiian Specialties section of the menu — who has that? — choosing the Hebi, or spearfish. No, I’ve never seen spearfish on a menu, much less ordered it, so I figured why not? As might be obvious from the photo, it was garnished with loads of citrus, pink grapefruit, orange, lime, written on the menu as a concasse. I had to look it up, too; concasse means the item in question has been chopped. Fancy! The sauce seemed to have been based in lemon or its zest just to complete the citrus theme, and added a pleasant tanginess. The filet sat atop a fried sweet potato hash brown, itself a marvel of shredded potato goodness, with a crunchy exterior and soft, almost cheesy texture inside.
Unlike the striped bass, the hebi was rather tender and moist, and tasted wonderful. Pairing it with the various citrus supremes made it even better, and I easily polished it off.
When we walked in, the desserts were on display, and… they were enormous. Huge. We chose the “Chocolate Trio”, listed as Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake, Chocolate and Merlot Pot de Crème and a Chocolate Walnut Brownie with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream. Yeah, this didn’t suck. While the pot de crème was pretty ordinary, the huge pile of whipped cream, very lightly sweetened, worked perfectly matching up with the chocolate, though I didn’t notice anything winelike about the dish. The multi-decker cake was the clear winner; a thin fudgy top layer, moist cake between two layers of rich mousse, and not-quite-enough raspberry syrup drizzled on the plate around the base, it showed a lot of care went into creating this. This is not to say the brownie, laden with walnuts, wasn’t good, or that the caramel (unsalted, sorry Yvo) didn’t make the ice cream even better. Really, any one of these desserts would have been wonderful to share on its own, but all three proved to be too much to finish. I do feel I need to mention that the coffee was rather weak and unimpressive, a bit better than diner coffee, but aside from that, I was thoroughly satisfied with dessert.
McCormick and Schmick’s is easy to recommend. Entrees are reasonably priced for what they deliver, and better yet, the dishes are attractive. Service was casually attentive; though our server gave us menus as we sat down, we took forever to stop talking and look at them to make dinner choices. After that (and a recommendation on the striped bass) we were served bread quickly and paced well. Reservations are unnecessary during the week, so it’s optimal for a spur-of-the-moment after-work dinner, and the bar offers what I’m told is a pretty good happy-hour deal daily. If you’re in Midtown, M&S is a solid, safe dinner option for you.