Saturday, December 13, 2008

Naples McCormick & Schmick Restaurant Review

What a welcome addition to Naples! McCormick & Schmick's seafood is “more than delicious” as one lady exclaimed, and to me, pretty much over the top on quality, quantity, presentation and price. The setting is warm and inviting. There’s plenty of friendly staff-what more can you ask for? How about having your own table, to try the never ending bountiful menu, which changes not once, but twice daily, as fresh seafood comes in. Top that!

Patio Dining in Naples
Our friends raved about McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants (McC&S) for months before the Naples branch opened in the Mercato, east of The Capital Grille. I grew up fishing in Florida, cooking seafood within hours of catching it, truly appreciating Florida’s seafood bounty. Now, over fishing, and pollution has greatly decreased catches. McCormick and Schmick’s has changed that. With their ever changing menus, there’s no shortage of fine Florida seafood, and even more variety flown fresh from around the USA.

Festive Salmon Tonight's Florida fresh bounty included Key West Mahi Mahi, Gulf Red Snapper, Islamorada Swordfish, Key West Pompano, local Stone Crab claws, and Apalachicola select oysters. And that’s not to mention six different “superstar” oysters, savored as fine molluscan wines!

The setting is like a fine steakhouse, with a welcoming bar on the right, and one goes forward, to the dining room’s warm wooden walls, and comfortable chairs. It’s nicely divided, with tall ceilings and sound absorbing carpet. I like the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright style overhead stained glass lights. The light level is warmly welcoming, subdued-not bright or dim. There’s so many friendly staff that they seem overstaffed-this is a wonderful thing for you, as the diner.

We started with drinks- a Mojito ($7) freshly made, with rum, properly crushed mint, fresh lime juice, sugar and a touch of soda.
It’s large, not shy with the rum, and equaled or beat what we’ve had in Latin America. The Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, 05 (6$) for a good 5 oz glass is a great start. The Fontana Candida Pinot Grigio ’06, Italy ($7) for 5 oz., is a very good wine, crisp and slightly fruity, going with seafood selections. Yes, Mc&S has 21 day aged steaks such as Filet Mignon ($29), and a Pan Bronzed Ribeye Steak with Kentucky Bourbon-Mushroom sauce (26), however, we were in a pure seafood mood, and were never let down.

The Seared Rare Yellowfin tuna (12) is a good portion of tender lightly seared tuna, with a touch of pepper for a kick, tastefully presented. There's more creations, unique to McC&S, that we highly recommend.

The Grouper, Snapper and Bay Shrimp Ceviche with Avocado and fresh lime juice, served in a martini glass with a tortilla chip, is a large portion, and as “steal” for the price (8).

The oyster sampler is great, much like sampling a wine flight- our 6 (13) included, on the half shell, P.E. I. Malpeques, Blue Points from Westport, Conn, Virginia’s Rappahannocks, Pine Island’s best, Washington’s Pickering Points, and Canada’s Royal Miyagi oyster. There are few other restaurant’s oyster selections that are as varied, high quality and succulent as this assortment, and only McC&S's variety can change the menu twice every day!

The Fried Rhode Island Calamari (12) is a big entrée sized portion, a good mix of tender tubes and crisp tentacles, served with a tasty trio of sauces-freshly prepared traditional cocktail sauce, an orange marmalade-horseradish sauce (my favorite), and cherry aioli sauce.

We about fell off our chairs as we tasted the Seafood Paella (23), a bold, well spiced treat with succulently tender jumbo shrimp, mussels, clams, peppers, onions, and fresh tomatoes that have distinct taste (unlike Publix-type supermarket produce)- all perfectly spiced and cooked with sliced, Cuban sausage (that tastes like a well selected Spanish chorizo). It is bouillabaisse-like, as the generous amount of seafood and reduced broth predominates, with the rice is mainly in the center. “Absolutely delicious”, one woman said of hers. I agree! A colorful, wonderful preparation, and one of the best paellas we’ve had in a long time. There’s a wide variety of paella styles; this has more seafood and less rice than many varieties, a good thing!

The Swordfish “Casino” (23) is a heavenly signature McC&S specialty. It's stuffed with roasted red pepper, Dungeness crabmeat, bacon, and dusted with paprika. Served over spaetzle (a German noodle), with beurre blanc sauce- it's a wonderful combination. One picky diner said “It would make a fish lover out of someone who didn’t like fish”. Swordfish in other restaurants is often overcooked. Mc&S’s swordfish is so very tender, and the "Casino" style is a “must try”.

A salmon lover, I selected the Atlantic Salmon, pen raised from the Bay of Fundy (25). It is the equal of some Alaskan wild salmon. Like Prime grade beef, a great salmon has significant marbling, which when cooked, truly melts in your mouth, "like buttah", as Barbara Streisand might say. This quality salmon is rarely served at this price point. A pocket in the salmon is stuffed with crab, bay shrimp, and Brie cheese, and topped with a lemon butter sauce. The asparagus has the right amount of crispness and color; the zucchini garnish a crunchy delight. “Out of this world” was pronounced! This combination of superb, properly cooked salmon and delicious stuffing is wonderfully “over the top” for me. One man said “They have outstanding food-I’m just fascinated.” This is King Neptune's ambrosia-I'm hooked.

Executive Chef Domhnall Molloy makes the rounds, making sure that all were happy with his creations. Based on our, and other’s impressions, McCormick & Schmick’s could be the top seafood spot in Collier and Lee counties. The daily variety is second to none outside of shopping at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and the price point is quite reasonable.
.
The Gulf Red Snapper from Key West (29) is deliciously grilled, and served with a Jamaican rum-butter sauce, and a Caribbean assortment of black bean salsa, sweet banana and sweet potato mash, and bright green sautéed spinach. Check out the towering crisp fried plantain! Absolutely delicious, and a great combination-thank you Chef Molloy.

The prices cover all bases. Starting with a Parmesan Crusted Chicken for $11, there's eight entrees between $11 and $16. Their fish specialties are good sized portions, and range from $19 for Mountain Trout to $25 for my favorite Atlantic Salmon, with featured wild seafood from $20-40 for one pound of King Crab Legs. These prices are less than 5th Ave's Trulucks, and other spots, who do not have a fraction of the fresh seafood that MCc&S offers.
We visited with international photographer Ron McGinty and wife Diane, and Kathy and Frank Pezzuti, who also enjoyed their meal.
We wish we could have ordered more, but took a breather after this feast, before sharing two desserts. The McC&S signature Chocolate Bag” (11) is a made on premises bittersweet chocolate bag container, about 7 inches tall, with a white chocolate mousse inside, piped fresh whipped cream and mint in front, and beautiful sweet strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and other seasonal fresh fruit. There’s a strawberry sauce on the side.
Try one, you’ll be happy!

The mango crème brûlée is another delight, just enough mango is mixed in the custard, and diced mango is added on top, a great variation to try. Desserts rang from $6 to 8.50 and may change every night. Tonight there are three sorbets-mango, key lime and raspberry, a four berry cobbler, key lime pie with blueberry sauce, upside down peach pie, molten chocolate filled cake and an apple-walnut upside down pie with cinnamon ice cream. Seeing is believin! Some desserts are below.We went right by the bar as we walked in, and next visit will stop and sample its unbelievable $1.95 food items. “You got to check out the bar's food”, we were told, by a well-heeled couple at the bar. This is not the tired “bar food” that you turn up your nose at! The choices includes an 8 ounce hamburger (Yes, a ½ pound burger for under $2!), fish tacos, three cheese quesadillas, buffalo chicken wings, oyster shooters, and steamed mussels in white wine broth. “Bar food” was never this good! And the drinks” They are all “made from scratch. There’s no pitchers sitting around, or blenders to be found. My kind of drinks! Drink prices range from ~$5-9. This is the best quality “Happy Hour” around!
.
Doug Schmick made the rounds. He’s bright, low key, and passionate about delivering top quality seafood, making many customers and staff happy in the process. While 38 year old McCormick & Schmick is a publicly held company (as of 2 years ago) with 82 fine restaurants and over 8,000 employees, Mr. Schmick has turned down offers to sell to big corporations, and sell hundreds of Mc&S franchises, much like Starbucks spawn, perched on every streetcorner. He will not let the Mc&S quality, or 38 years tradition of straightforward great food and service, be compromised. His hands on, in-person attention guarantees this quality.
.
Executive Chef Domhnall Molloy, McCormick & Schmick Founder Doug Schmick, General Manager Barry Hathaway
No Mc&S in your neighborhood? Not a problem, Have the seafood shipped to your home! With all the infrastructure in place for rapidly shipping seafood, you too can have crab legs, lobster tails, chowder and all sorts of seafood from all over the USA and Canada shipped “on ice” to your home; shop at http://shop.mccormickandschmicks.com/
With The Capital Grille an oyster's toss away, and Fleming's Restaurant a block away, this area is a powerful magnet for finer dining. Serving primarily seafood, McC&S really is not in direct competition with its fine Steak house neighbors. All three restaurant's parking lots were full on a Friday night. Naples customers vote with their attendance for three of their top choices for dining. My other favorite seafood spots-Naples' family friendly Bonefish Grille, and significantly higher priced Trulucks, are miles away.

9114 Strada Place, Suite 12110, Naples (In The Mercato, South of Whole Foods on US 41, and East of Capital Grille) 591-2299

2 comments:

JLH said...

Love your blog and enjoy reading it. I would like to point out a couple of things though! :)
It is actually Mercato with a "T" not a "D". Also it is just south of Whole Foods Market, not, The Fresh Market!
Thanks!

Ivan de Naples AKA Ivan Seligman said...

JLH,

Thank you for your alert eye!

Do let me know of very good spots to review.

Ivan

Foodie Blogroll