I had the great good fortune to eat out three times this week; this is not a usual circumstance in my particular life in this particular economy. The first of these three meals was my “real” birthday dinner, the night after my “real” birthday, at Mitchell’s Fish Market in Eastwood Towne Center.
As a food snob living in Restaurant Wasteland, I find that chain restaurants are a necessary evil. We do have authentic and wonderful places to eat Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Ethopian, Soul Food and Middle Eastern food, but there isn’t an independently owned Italian restaurant within ten miles of my (fairly urban) house, so it’s The Olive Garden or Cucina Bravo for Italian. Local rib joints keep coming and going, so ribs come from Smokey Bones, and as for French food…we don’t even have a chain for that. We also have our share of Chilis, Old Chicagos,
If one wishes to eat seafood in these parts, it’s either Red Lobster or Mitchell’s Fish Market. There is just something about Red Lobster, the gold standard of the culinarily backward, that gives me a mild case of hives. I have actually had pretty good meals there in the past, but the franchise seems to advertise huge quantities of, say, crab, lobster or shrimp, fried or dripping with butter in a way that is neither sophisticated nor even authentically “seafood shack rustic.” It is rare that I would choose to eat, or watch anyone else eat 500 crab legs unless I had, perhaps, been drinking more than I usually do, and found myself starving, in front of Red Lobster, with pockets mysteriously filled with the coin of the realm. It may be a chain, but it’s not a cheap chain.
Sober, hungry and looking for something delicious and thoughtfully prepared, I pick Mitchell’s every time. I picked it for my birthday dinner because, although it is part of a chain, it is a very smart and classy chain, indeed, with a menu that offers great diversity and a kitchen that knows what it’s doing and does it with pride.. I have never had a bad meal at Mitchell’s, and my recent visit was delightful from warm sourdough bread to complimentary key lime birthday pie. We started with an order of Kung Pao Fried Calamari for the table, which was hot, abundant and perfectly prepared. No grease, lovely texture in the calamari, and delicious eaten plain, sans dipping sauce. Our waitress, who was both charming and efficient, returned frequently to try to coax Sam into trying a piece of calamari. No dice, but she got huge points for trying.
After much agonizing, I ordered the Red Lobster-ishly named “Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp,” which let me try three preparations of shrimp (beer-battered, garlic broiled, and barbecued and shrimp-wrapped) along with cheese grits and a melange of green beans and mushrooms. It was plated beautifully: a small rectangular dish of grits topped with the barbecued shrimp, a skewer or shrimp alternating with cloves of garlic resting atop the green beans, and a fluffy pile of fried shrimp in the middle. The beer-battered shrimp were the least interesting, but they were crisp, greaseless and indulgent. The garlic-broiled version was lovely, and the soft, mellow chunks of garlic were a huge bonus. My favorite were the barbecued and bacon-wrapped shrimp; I ended up removing most of the bacon (having already consumed fried calamari and fried shrimp) and found that the shrimp kept a hit of bacon flavor which, combined with barbecue sauce, fresh shrimp and mellow cheese grits, gave me the most perfect bites of the night.
On other occasions I have eaten and enjoyed the clam chowder, the lobster bisque, the Oysters Rockefeller, King Salmon prepared in the Shanghai style (steamed with ginger and scallions), and several imaginative and fresh lunch salads. There is steak for the non-seafood eating crowd (Sam was delighted with his filet mignon, and even more pleased with the “Titanic” iceberg wedge salad) and the desserts are delicious and sized so that a table of four can pass one around and feel completely satisfied.
I long for the seafood restaurants in the Florida panhandle, and I could kick myself for living in Boston for 7 years during my “seafood refusal” stage, but I can get a pretty good fix at Mitchell’s, and for that I am extremely grateful. If you live where there is fresh seafood and great restaurants to cook it for you, you should, of course, go to those places as often as possible. If you don’t, and there is a Mitchell’s around, check it out. I think I can safely promise that you’ll leave as happy as I did.
Mitchell’s Fish Market
2975 Preyde Blvd.
Lansing, Michigan 48912 |