A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.
Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.
For no good reason, other than thinking it’s St. Patrick’s Day and everybody is at Mo’s, the family and I dined at the new McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant which opened their Mayfair location on Monday.
Tucked in the less busy north parking lot near Macy’s, the new M&S is rather unassuming from the outside. Once inside, it feels completely different. Sort of a mix of cathedral-meets-the-Titanic-grand-stairway, with its domed center ceiling outfitted with stained glass and capped off with a nod to the Badger State.
The deal here is seafood, seafood and more seafood, all of it flown in from places far and wide. To me, the menu very much resembled that of Mitchell’s Fish Market, another chain that operates over at Brookfield Square. Both restaurants have menus printed daily and boast how incredibly fresh everything is and that they’ll cook it pretty much the way you want it.
Having now been to both of these restaurants, I’d say that M&S wins in the ambience department, with its multilevel dining room, making every table seem cozy and private. I think their food is better too.
The bar area here is very attractive and it was great to see that the TVs in the bar weren’t hovering over the dining area. (Seems like TVs have invaded every dining room in town lately.) Our waitress made a point of mentioning that they pride themselves on the fresh ingredients in their cocktails. Nothing pre-made. Since we had wine, I’ll have to take her word for it.
The Lump Crab Con Queso with Avacado Dip Appetizer had a light yet creamy texture that was delicious and was served with large tortilla chips. The Calamari had a nice, crispy breading and was served with three different dipping sauces. (Still doesn’t rival our favorite from Bartolotta’s, but I’d give it a close second.)
One tiny complaint was that the sourdough bread, which was good, would have been much better if served warm.
The Bleu Cheese Wedge Salad and the Caesar Salad were better than your average restaurant salads – not drenched in dressing like you find at so many places these days.
My husband had the Catfish which was served over a sweet potato hash with corned beef (no doubt in tribute to St. Pat’s day). He said his was quite good. I had the Parmesan Crusted Tilapia, served with some excellent mashed potatoes. It was delicious, and I’m happy to say they didn’t skimp on capers, one of my favorite things. My daughter, not being a fish fan, had the Pot Roast, served with the mashed potatoes. It was very tender and came with a full-flavored gravy.
Just to give the entire menu a test run, we splurged on dessert. The Crème Brulee, which they claim to be their specialty, was airy and sweet, but unlike the cocktails, tasted somewhat pre-made and not recently “torched” on top. The chocolate cake was outstanding, but way too much for one person.
Another small gripe: The coffee was rather bland when compared with the food. Why do restaurants skimp on coffee quality when it’s often the last taste memory you have before leaving? Too bad, because the food was really, really good.
Overall, the service was terrific – very attentive without being intrusive. Since it was opening night, there were a few small glitches, but nothing that would prevent us from going back.
The prices? Well, it’s seafood, so you can’t expect a bargain. This is what they call a “white tablecloth” restaurant, so it’s definitely not cheap. But I think the quality of the food and service make it worthwhile.
When comparing McCormick & Schmick’s and Mitchell’s, I’d say that we Tosans got the better of the two seafood chains in the area. Lucky us.
Gotta go now. I have some major treadmill work ahead of me after that dinner. That’s OK. It was worth it.