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May 13, 2021

WHERE THE FRESHEST FISH IS FOUND

Seafood lovers, be on the alert! McCormick & Schmick’s (212-459-1222) recently opened in Manhattan and you won’t be disappointed. The restaurant located on the corner of 52nd and Sixth Avenue (aka Avenue of the Americas), replaced a former steakhouse and deserves more than a round of applause.

I don’t usually describe the décor and service of a restaurant, because it really comes down to the quality of the food. McCormick & Schmick’s merits a high rating on all three.

All of that wonderful bright wood and handcrafted stained glass chandeliers just adds to the “snugs”, private rooms, that are atypical of McCormick & Schmick’s. There are two rooms on the main level, one that has dining for 4 and the other for 6. The rest of the area has both booths and tables. Each snug is decorated with artwork and has a heavy curtain for both privacy and sound. A large portion of the former bar is now a seafood bar highlighting the oysters of the day.

Downstairs are tables near a gas fireplace and 4 more “snugs”. The former steakhouse cigar bar has been transformed into a banquet room. Outdoor dining is also available.

The menu varies every day with different lunch and dinner choices. Variations are due to the “Fresh List”, of which there were 34 items the evening that I had dinner. Entries include the seafood’s former home.

I have to confess that I did go overboard (no pun intended) on the meal, but that’s what kitty bags are for. The test was to invite my old college buddy and former attempted comedy partner, Susan Liben, who’s not a seafood lover.

I enjoy oysters on the half shell and ordered the Small Sampler: Washington, Hama Hama (small with mineral and lettuce finish); New Brunswick, Northumberland (small, plump and mild); Caribou Island, Tatamagouche (crisp with a lettuce finish); P.E.I. Canada, Malpeque (small, crispy and briny); Nova Scotia, Salt Aires (small, and crisp); P.E.I Canada, Caraquet (large, briny and juicy).

The next appetizer was the Deep Fried Calamari with a trio of dipping sauces. Even the calamari is placed on the “fresh list” with a point of origin from Point Judith, Rhode Island. My apologies to whoever brags about their calamari. Nothing can top this one, that you barely had to chew. I didn’t even bother to try the Bloody Mary sauce as the other two were sooooo delicious.

We then split a salad of arugula with raspberry vinaigrette, pine nuts and a very creamy , but not strong goat cheese. Another appetizer, lobster cocktail was split and served that way. It was a one pound boiled lobster (this one from Boothbay Harbor in Maine) “de-shelled” and then put back to avoid the cracking and bibbing, sitting atop lettuce with cocktail sauce.

Susan, the picky one, opted for an entrée of Yellowtail Sole from Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. The sole was crusted with parmesan cheese and served in a lemon and caper sauce. Real mashed potatoes and asparagus accompanied the delish dish. I selected the Jumbo Sea Scallops from Cape May, New Jersey. It was served with a Sweet Pea and mushroom Risotto and lobster sauce. Susan was smart and asked for the kitty bag. I left nothing on the plate.

Although desserts spelled backwards is “stressed”, neither of us were in that state of mind, due to the privacy, tantalizing meal and impeccable service. But alas, the dessert tray came over. Sue went for the chocolate soufflé and I the apple pie. I am not a pie eater, by no means, but the crunchy nut crust and cinnamon ice cream are what drove me to choose it over chocolate. When asked if I wanted coffee, I said, “No thank you. I’m on a diet”.

There are a few other pieces of data worth noting. You won’t find a freezer for fish and drinks are made with fresh squeezed juices. No prepared mixes and no blenders. I recommend the Lemon Drop.

I give McCormick & Schmick’s a Gold Plate, my highest rating.


An interview with Executive Chef Stephen Calise

  1. Other then shellfish, what fish are considered fresh water fish and salt water fish?
    There are many species of fish that can be harvested in saltwater and are caught in oceans or some can be farm raised. Some of these species are cod, halibut, swordfish, hake, pollock, red and black grouper, snappers, striped bass, black bass, and tuna. As far as Fresh water fish these are species that are harvested in lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds, such as trout, salmon, sturgeon, catfish, and char.
     
  2. What's the difference in taste/texture?
    Typically fresh water fish is sweeter and flakier.
     
  3. Is there an advantage health wise?
    Some people say that there are advantages and disadvantages in both. I feel WILD harvested fish (not farmed raised) is better for us. These fish are not enhanced or altered in any way. Most saltwater fish is WILD not farmed. Wild fish, to me, has more flavor and retains more of the omega 3 fat which helps fight cholesterol.
     
  4. When buying fish, what should you look for when it's whole?
    The best way to determine how fresh whole fish is, is by smell. There should be no hint of a "fishy" smell. The eyes should be bright and glassy and the gills should be bright red.
     
  5. What should you look for when it's already filleted?
    Again no "fishy" smell. The flesh should be firm not mushy and should be bright in color.
     
  6. If you buy frozen fish that has been thawed can you refreeze it?
    I don't suggest it. When you defrost fish you lose water content and flavor. If you refreeze it and defrost it again you lose more flavor.
     
  7. If not, then if you're at a supermarket or such that sells crab, for instance, should you ask to obtain it from the box that's in the freezer, if you don't expect to use it within the next two days?
    I don't suggest buying anything frozen. Buy what you are going to cook or consume relatively soon. No longer than three or four days. You never really know how long the fish has been in the market.
     
  8. What are some less common fish served at the restaurant (I think there was Black Cod and the cheeks of something). Describe what they are.
    In the seafood business we live by the seasons of fish. Some fish have longer seasons than others. Presently we just started soft shell crab season. We look forward to King Crab and Stone Crab season. The cheeks are from halibut. We are also in West coast halibut season.
     
  9. When preparing fish (other than shellfish) is there an herb one can use to bring out the flavor other than dill?
    I feel there are no limitations on what is to your personal preference. My suggestion is try many different herbs and spices until you find something you like. Also different species of fish have different tastes and qualities.
     
  10. If a piece of fish is a "steak", should you cook it like that? In other words, if we were eating a good steak, we wouldn't drown it in seasonings, so would you consider a "good fish" one to just broil and use only lemon, lime and butter (or olive oil if pan fried).
    When you say "steak" you are referring to the cut of the fish. Most larger fish can have a steak cut. If this is the case "YES" you can cook it like a piece of steak. Grill, broil, Barbeque. Just remember some fish are more delicate than others. I prefer not to "drowned" it in anything.

September 02, 2004 - Queens Times

 


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