McCormick & Schmick's
McCormick & Schmick's is a high-end national seafood chain. My first experience with McCormick & Schmick's was in Boston, where you would expect the finest seafood. Our first night there, we had eaten and the famous Legal Seafood, and were pretty disappointed. It was like a slightly fancier Long John Silver's. The next night, we hit M&S. The drinks were generous and most importantly, the oysters fresh and delicious.
The Indiana iteration of M&S is about as good, but somehow something is lost in translation.
The M&S angle is that the menu changes twice daily, and pretty much everything on it is fresh. The menu is topped with their "fresh list" of selections, a substantial enumeration of fish and shellfish from which to choose (the other high end seafood chain in downtown Indy, Oceannaire, does this as well). It may be all marketing, but the place names where the seafood are so evocative that you can practically hear the seagulls overhead: Grand Isle, Louisiana crawfish, Prince Edward Island oysters, Hatteras, North Carolina blue crab, and Sitka Alaska halibut, to name a few.
We started our evening at the bar, which on this Friday night was crowded but not packed. M&S sells its "hand crafted" drinks with fresh squeezed juices, but we stuck to wine. We quickly found seats and ordered drinks and a fried calamari appetizer, which disappeared quickly. The squid was tender and the breading was salty and crunchy. The dish was served with dipping sauces including a chunky sour-sweet chutney and a roasted red pepper aioli. The only downside is that we had just missed the window for their $1.95 happy hour bar menu specials. (It looks like M&S is working hard to cultivate a very active post-work happy hour crowd, which bodes well for the budget conscious and hookup seekers.)
The only significant glitch occurred while waiting to be seated. We had put our names in with the hostess when we came in (wait time: half an hour. No problem). An hour later, after our friends had arrived to join us, we still hadn't been called. When we trooped up to the stand to get an ETA, there was a moment of discombobulated paper shuffling, and we were seated immediately. To their credit, the realized the error and comped us our appetizer.
If you like seafood -- no, love it -- you're not going to go wrong with this menu. Oyster aficianados in particular have a lot of options. If you don't know where to start, then go for the large sampler, with 12 very fresh oysters on ice (two each of six kinds). This approach is a bit of oyster roulette, as some were tastier than others, but still a great way to experience the slightly different flavors and textures.
I couldn't make up my mind at dinner either, which wasn't a problem -- I ordered the broiled seafood platter, which includes salmon, crab cakes, shrimp, scallops, and stuffed oysters. Overall everything on the platter was good, though the quality was slightly variable. The salmon was flavorless and no doubt farm raised (granted, it's about as far away from fresh salmon season as you can get), but did have a wonderful butter lemon sauce. The scallops had a good flavor but were a little tough. The stuffed oysters were a homerun, with delicious herbed topping, and the crab cakes were mostly crab with just enough filling to add a rich, buttery flavor. The platter came with some wonderful crunchy, buttery brussels sprouts.
Dave ordered the seared ahi tuna (Dave always gets the tuna), which he marked as excellent. Our friend Vickie got the scallops in curry sauce, which was great. The scallops were tender and plentiful, and the sauce was a very spicy, very rich coconut curry blend that would rival any Thai restaurant's.
The M&S space in Boston is cozy and pub-like. The one in Indy is quite different, with soaring ceilings, large spaces, and skyscraper-lobby acoustics. I didn't like it nearly as well, but that's more a personal dining space issue.
Although everything about the meal was good - the wine, the food, the service, and the atmosphere -- there was no one aspect that was outstanding, and there was no "wow" factor that elevated M&S to "must return soon" status. That said, the I'm glad to have another quality seafood restaurant in our state far from the sea. I think it will make a name for itself as a high-end post-work hangout because of their excellent happy hour offerings. If I were 25 years old and worked downtown, I would be all over this place.
110 North Illinois St.
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
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