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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
We've given this particular branch of the chain In Detroit two tries. But please read the very last paragraph for one more note on this chain.
Review Number One:
This is a seafood chain with several locations scattered about the United States. It came highly recommended from a trusted friend and she said it was vital to make a reservation.
Our reservation was for 6:45pm on a Friday night and the place was hoppin.' We got there around 6:35pm and decided to park our own car in lieu of valet service. Upon checking in we were told that we would probably be seated around 6:45pm, which was fair since that was the time of our reservation.
Sure enough our restaurant pager went off at 6:45pm and we were promptly seated. This is a big restaurant with a huge bar area and several different rooms. On the way to our table we passed by a fresh seafood counter and it all looked good although we just gave it a passing glance.
Prior to going to the restaurant I checked out their internet website and it mentioned that among the fresh fish offered was cod from Georges Bank (Atlantic). My antenna immediately went up. I love fresh Atlantic cod and much prefer it over Alaskan cod because the east coast fish has a much richer flavor. When the menus came (printed daily to list what fresh fish came in that day) I was disappointed to see that cod was not on the menu. What was on the menu was haddock, swordfish, salmon, halibut, Chilean sea bass and a couple more that I'm forgetting.
Out waitress took our drink orders and of the three diners that night only I chose to start with an appetizer. I picked a cup of lobster bisque and it was good. Not great but good. And I found a small lobster shell in it which is always a good indication that real and potentially fresh lobster meat was included.
The service was noticeably slow. We were in no rush but it was about an hour from the time we arrived until our main courses finally arrived on the table.
Our guest that night ordered the yellow fin tuna and he stressed in no uncertain terms that he wanted it very rare with a cold center. Not warm or room temperature but cold. In fact he started his pitch to the waitress by quoting the warning on the menu about the dangers of eating raw or semi-uncooked seafood. His quote to the waitress: "I would like to increase my chances of getting a food borne illness by ordering the yellow fin tuna extremely rare." She chuckled and said the chef would be glad to get that order since that's the way he likes his tuna, too. My wife ordered halibut, simply grilled, and I ordered mahi mahi done the same way.
When the food eventually arrived at the table there was an instant problem with our friend's tuna. Instead of getting a nice, thick tuna steak, they brought a piece to the table about the size and thickness of a pancake. Obviously there's no way that piece like that could have been rare inside so our friend asked for another piece of fish. My wife and I went ahead and started on our meals while they were still hot.
My wife's halibut was excellent. Perfectly cooked. We both ordered extra vegetables instead of a potato since we are trying to drop a few pounds on a low carb diet. My mahi mahi was also excellent. The only negative was the portion size. I'd say my mahi was probably a five ounce serving if that. My wife's was about the same. For prices approaching 20 bucks a pop that's not a lot of food.
Just as my wife and I were nearing the end of our meal, our friend's tuna came and this time it was a thick steak and cooked very rare, just as he had requested.
As we left the restaurant we lingered near the fish counter for just a second to get a closer look at the fish and the haddock filets looked even smaller than the portions we had gotten.
Review Number Two:
On this visit we took most members of our family including our kids and their kids. We had a reservation for ten.
We were promptly seated and told that a server would be around with menus shortly. We patiently waited for 25 minutes until I got up and flagged down a server. Finally the menus came. Ten or fifteen minutes later, our server took our drink orders. Then another ten minutes passed before he took our appetizer and main meal orders.
We got various appetizers for the table including artichoke dip and calamari. It was pretty good.
I got the fried seafood platter and just about everything on it was good. My wife ordered the same thing only they brought her fried shrimp instead of a seafood platter. She had to wait fifteen minutes until the new food arrived. My son ordered a New York strip cooked medium. It came to the table extremely well done. He had to send it back. He probably waited 20 minutes before a new steak arrived and this one was cooked medium, as he had requested. My son-in-law ordered mahi mahi and raved about it. Again, however, the portion was quite small -- probably 3 to 4 ounces.
I have friends who absolutely rave about this restaurant. However based upon our two visits, that's it. There are much better options in the Detroit area including McCormick & Schmick's.
For information on the Livonia branch and other locations, they have a website here.
One Final Word -- An Entirely Different Experience in Jacksonville, Florida
I had the occasion to dine at the new Mitchell's in the St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville months after our experiences in Michigan and it was as different as night and day. The Jacksonville branch was excellent.
This was a business luncheon and there were six of us. Most of the party ordered fresh fish. I got "recon" reports about excellent pieces of salmon, Mahi Mahi, and Chilean sea bass. Two other diners chose seafood salads. One raved and the other smirked because the waiter forgot to bring her salad! It took so long for her salad to come that she just asked them to package it up and she would eat it later. My dish was extremely good. I ordered cobia. When we lived in the Tampa Bay Area we had a boat and used to catch these beauties which, to the uninitiated, closely resemble a shark while swimming in the water. Anyway I know my cobia and this was the real deal. Fresh and cooked perfectly. I ordered it "Shanghai Style" on a bed of sweet, sticky rice with a little spinach scattered around the plate. The portion size was really good -- probably 6 or 7 ounces. Based on this one experience (it won't be the last, either!), I can highly recommend the Mitchell's in Jacksonville.