After the trade tasting for the festival on Friday, Kevin & I met up with Mark from Uncorked for dinner. Jens, from the Cincinnati Wine Warehouse, joined us for a drink. We headed through the rain over to McCormick & Schmick’s, which recently opened at the Fountain Square Westin. I am not a seafood fan, although the few times I’ve enjoyed seafood have been at upscale restaurants such as Chicago’s Catch 35 and Boston’s Legal Seafood.
McCormick & Schmick’s (M&S) takes reservations via OpenTable.com, which is a fantastic online reservation system. Several Cincinnati restaurants, including Pho Paris and The Napa Grille, are listed. We’ve also made reservations for restaurants in Chicago using OpenTable.com. Believe me, it saves you time on phone calls and the process is simple.
The first thing I noticed upon arrival at M&S is that it’s rather green & mahogany. It’s dark. I didn’t get a chance to look at the bar on my way through (although I’ve previously noted they have a $1.95 food menu at the bar for happy hour). We were seated in a curtained booth, which was rather neat. Even though the curtains were not drawn, our area felt really private. I suspect a table in the outer area would provide more of the restaurant hustle & bustle, so it’s all in what you’re looking for in the dining experience.
When our server came to the table, we were all convinced he was the under waiter, or the bus boy, there to fill our water glasses, as he just looked too young to be our waiter. Except that this young man went on to tell us about the specials and eventually take our orders. He was a sweet guy, and I’m a difficult diner, as I’m extremely picky and I’m allergic to all nut-related items. I usually provide a challenge to most servers (although I swear I’m always nice about it) and it’s usually the servers in the upscale restaurants who really rise to the occasion.
M&S prints their menus twice a day, based on fish availability. We ordered a spinach dip and tuna stack as appetizers. I enjoyed the spinach
dip a lot, although I wouldn’t say it was any better than the spinach
dip at Nicholson’s or other local restaurants. The guys seemed to enjoy
the tuna stack. For entrees, Mark ordered the black grouper, Kevin ordered the rainbow
trout, and I went with the barbeque mahi mahi. However, I asked for my
mahi mahi blackened. As odd as that sounds, I enjoy fish more when it’s
blackened and I have less reminder it was a fish to begin with. The
waiter found my request odd as well, but he wrote it down and my fish
arrived as requested. Truthfully, I thought the barbeque sauce and blackened fish brought out a nice spiciness in our Vero cabernet. I tried Mark’s grouper and Kevin’s rainbow trout. While I can’t say I was blown away, I wasn’t upset or making faces either. Again, I’m not exactly a seafood connoisseur.
My favorite part of every meal is dessert, and I fully admit to judging restaurants based on their servers and their dessert. After all, I usually like so few entrees that it’s not fair for a picky eater to judge on entrees alone. But dessert! How I love my dessert! Unfortunately, my nut allergy usually presents a bit of a challenge for the servers in any restaurant. You’d be surprised how many servers have no idea which desserts contain nuts and which do not. At M&S, I gave our waiter fair warning. By the time he arrived with a dessert list, he already knew what I could and could not have and even double-checked after I ordered. We chose a flourless chocolate torte and a bread pudding. Both desserts met my high dessert standards, and the bread pudding in particular was excellent.
Will we eat there again? Maybe. The place is so dark and, well, austere. You don’t get an aura of fun from the place – it seems so serious. However, they did accommodate my picky tastes and ridiculous allergies without batting an eye. I always appreciate the extra effort that goes into accommodating my allergies. (The best place I’ve ever eaten for allergy accommodation? Aureole in Las Vegas bent over backwards for me.) The prices are expensive, but the fish is fresh and they have an extensive wine list of over 100 bottles and 20 by the glass.
We’re acquiring all these new restaurants in Cincinnati, but how many of them really focus in on Cincinnati? I wonder if I walked into M&S in another city if I would notice a difference. When they open the location in Dayton, it will probably look exactly the same, with exactly the same menus. I think dining at M&S, like any restaurant, is made better by the
company with whom you dine. In our case, I so enjoyed talking to our
group that the restaurant decor and knowledge that it is a "chain"
restaurant didn’t bother me. Food & wine is always made better by
Rating: as I wish it had a little more Cincinnati personalization, something to make the restaurant belong here
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