A Fish Tale, Part II

My son is spoiled rotten when it comes to eating out. He had sushi when he was two, prefers a Kansas City Strip over a filet, and his favorite appetizer is shrimp cocktail. He thinks octopus is OK, but he enjoys calamari much more. His favorite cheese isn’t American or Velveeta. Nope, he prefers Mediterranean herb encrusted goat cheese, thank you very much.

Recently I took my teenage foodie to the new McCormick & Schmick’s on Wacker Drive. I’d visited there a couple of months ago and had a less than stellar experience, so I wanted to revisit in the hopes that they’d gotten some kinks straightened out. Having my son along was also a test to see if the service would suffer due to the inherently lower check that comes with an underage diner.

First things first: they did not know who I was. I didn’t even pull the notepad out so they would have no idea I was reviewing them.

Wow. I have rarely had such perfect service. Besides hitting the standard points, like clearing dirty plates and keeping our water glasses full, our server included all the little touches that make service great. My chair was pulled out for me. He used suggestive selling skillfully. We didn’t feel sold to; rather it seemed he was guiding us. He even offered my son an Arnold Palmer. This drink of half-lemonade and half-iced tea would have required more work on his part. When I asked where to find the ladies room I was escorted instead of just given directions. Upon my return to the table I noticed my napkin had been folded.

The vast improvement in service wasn’t just because we had a different server. A manager came by to check on our experience (and actually stopped and listened), and proceeded to check with every other table. The server for the young couple next to us offered them recommendations for the rest of their evening. Every table was well-maintained.

Our appetizers were, of course, jumbo prawns and calamari. The calamari was lightly breaded and tender and served with three great sauces – cocktail, a spicy remoulade, and a pepper jelly. Prawns are hard to mess up, but sauce can be an issue. Theirs is mild with a pool of horseradish in the center so you can spice it up.

We split the mixed greens salad with gorgonzola and walnuts, and this time they remembered the gorgonzola and walnuts. They also split it for us.

As we were looking over the menu my son said he didn’t like tuna, and I realized, to my surprise, that he’d only had the canned version. I had to get the ahi just so he could see what it was like. Seared rare with a coating of cajun spices and served with a cucumber salad, wasabi, and ginger, it was delicious and now he’s a fan.
He surprised me again by ordering the penne pasta with chicken. Normally this kid wants the most expensive thing on the menu. But, as he put it, he had a “taste for chicken.” I love ahi, but after I tried his I had entree-envy. Grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, penne pasta, and a tomato cream sauce served with garlic bread – Mama Mia!

With dinner I had a glass of the Louis Jadot Beaujolais ($7). It was versatile enough to work with both dishes. My son said the same thing about his Sprite.

For dessert we shared – and I’m being generous here, because he definitely didn’t want to give me any – the ice cream sundae with flourless chocolate cake. It was good, but we both agreed it needed some hot fudge.

We left happy and full. Since I really don’t like giving bad reviews I breathed a sigh of relief, and so did my son. Believe me, it’s no fun to have dinner with me when I’m disappointed! Fortunately this dinner was a lot of fun and he can’t wait to go back.

(Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself. Why can’t I just take him to McDonald’s?)






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