I popped in to Mitchell’s Fish Market recently to attend a media preview of some new menu items. Mitchell’s, you may recall, is the seafood yin to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse’s meaty yang. The Lake Mary based Ruth’s Hospitality Group acquired the mini chain from Cameron Mitchell Restaurants in 2008. There are currently 19 MFMs, including the one in Winter Park Village that opened in June of 2010.
When I first reviewed it, in September of that year, I found it rather underwhelming. But based on my recent visit, it appears the restaurant is moving in the right direction.
I was especially pleased to see that Mitchell’s is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for its chain of custody authentication. While that may sound like it has something to do with evidence on an episode of Law & Order, it actually means that the seafood it buys is only from screened and verifiable sources. It also may include third-party inspections that conduct DNA testing, which doesn’t make it sound any less like Law & Order. Cue the music.
But MSC certification doesn’t verify quality, and it doesn’t mean diddly if the product on the plate isn’t well-prepared and flavorful.
One of the appetizers -- or maybe that should be three of the appetizers -- the trio of wild sea scallop & Shrimp ceviche, tuna poke, and lobster salad certainly were. I especially liked the lobster salad and was looking for a buttery slice of bread to put it in for a make-do lobster roll. The ceviche was good and citrusy, and the poke was made with sushi-grade tuna.
The Thai chopped salad, made with shredded Napa cabbage and lettuce with carrots, red peppers, onion and cucumbers, all dressed with a vinaigrette with sesame and peanuts was a refreshing starter course.
For my entree I chose the Island Jerk Grouper, which featured a firm and nicely grilled fillet. However, the jerk seasonings were much too muted and uncharacteristic. (One of my dining companions, Chris Sherman, who many old-timers will remember as my predecessor at the Sentinel, thought the same thing.) The fish was served atop dirty rice that was as equally bland.
I very much liked with shrimp and wild sea scallop pappardelle, which had the broad ribbon noodles tossed with a creamy Cajun sauce with spinach and cremini mushrooms. Very enjoyable.
OK, now cue the shark music from Jaws (ba-bum ba-bum ba-bum) because for dessert we were served sharkfin pie. No, it wasn’t real sharkfin because that would immediately disqualify the restaurant for the MSC certification. The was an ice cream dessert similar to mud pie but in the shape of a shark’s fin. An obscenely large and unnecessarily immense serving of butter fudge ice cream with fudge, peanut butter, an Oreo cookie crust and peanuts. Delicious but enough for a table of six.
Along with some new menu items, Mitchell’s has also done some tweaking with the decor, including a remodeled outdoor dining area that wraps around the corner lot. There are new colors and fabrics and artwork inside and out, and the Winter Park restaurant also has a new chef’s table, although it is neither in the kitchen nor has a view into it. Think of it more as a private table.
Before or after dinner you may want to consider trying the Winter Park Cosmo, a pretty tasty cocktail made with white cranberry juice. A contender for official cocktail of Central Florida?
Service was good and showed training. Music to my ears.
Mitchell’s Fish Market is at 460 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here’s a link to Mitchell’s Fish Market’s website. The phone number is 407-339-3474.