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There are times when you have to make a conscious decision to steer away from your normal behavior. Why? Because getting into a rut is so damned easy. It was with this desire to rebel against my boring self that I recently visited the elegant new McCormick & Schmick’s in Roseville.
Buoyed by a giddy feeling of insurgence, I ordered an Old-Fashioned from the bar. This was a wildly uncharacteristic move for me, a wine drinker. But the cocktail menu described the drinks in such alluring detail that I was unable to resist. The masculine flavor of my whiskey cocktail evoked vivid memories of my great-grandfather, with his scratchy white whiskers and bright-red suspenders.
Grandpa (apparently a whiskey man; why else would I associate him with an Old-Fashioned?) would have approved of this beautiful new restaurant. In addition to outstanding cocktails, McCormick & Schmick’s offers the largest selection of fresh fish and seafood in Placer County. It boasts a lovely interior, with wood-paneled walls, colorful sea-centric artwork and private booths equipped with full-length, heavy drapes. Drag those babies across the front of your booth and you’ve suddenly created the most intimate dining experience poss-ible inside such a bustling restaurant.
If you’re in the mood to shake things up, as I was, McCormick & Schmick’s gives you oodles of reasons to avoid your familiar order of fish ’n’ chips or Dover sole with lemon caper sauce. (Although, to its credit, the restaurant makes a wickedly delicious version of sole with Parmesan.) The night I visited, there were 14 kinds of fresh fish available, in addition to a mind-boggling selection of seafoody items.
The fish come with interesting sauces and garnishes—no bland coleslaw or white rice here. The wild sage-rubbed Alaskan halibut was served with a magnificent mélange of sturdy brown heirloom beans, thin strips of sautéed prosciutto and caramelized slices of wild mushroom. The dish was earthy, interesting and terrific. Wild sockeye salmon—another knockout—came with grilled fennel and a homely lump of “forked potatoes” enhanced with a generous addition of extra virgin olive oil. Other selections included macadamia nut-crusted mahi-mahi with mango chutney, and blackened yellowfin tuna, accompanied by sushi rice rolls and pickled ginger.
The extensive menu also includes steamed clams, mussels with spicy Thai curry sauce, and an array of raw oysters; seafood stews; sushi (try the seafood poke: fresh sliced raw fish with soy sauce, lime juice and crispy wontons); and a “Lite Entrée and Sandwich” section offering dishes such as cheeseburgers and blackened chicken linguine (which don’t sound particularly “lite” to me). If you love tuna fish sandwiches, the albacore tuna melt is delicious. Served on tangy sourdough bread and blanketed with melted Jack and cheddar cheeses, it’s robust and sophisticated.
As you might guess, this is a menu that requires thoughtful consideration, so don’t race through and pick the first dish that catches your eye. Order a batch of the irresistible crab and bay shrimp tater tots or the sumptuous seafood and corn chowder while savoring that pisco sour or glass of Pinot Noir and ponder the menu carefully.
You’ll need to do some additional pondering if you’re a dessert eater: The sweets are huge. This means you’ll have to moderate your appetite during dinner if you plan to attack the warm, gooey upside-down apple pie (a curious concept, but it works) or the silky-smooth crème brûlée. Less appealing was the chocolate cake, which was dry and stale-tasting (though the frosting was dense and delicious).
Happy in an old-fashioned sort of way, with tasty memories of sage-rubbed fish and olive oil-soaked mashed potatoes to keep me warm on the drive home, I felt appreciative that McCormick & Schmick’s menu—lively, inventive and enormous—gave me the opportunity to do some bold, out-of-the-rut dining.sm
Order the onion rings: They’re served with housemade curry ketchup
Not a fish lover? Order a 22-ounce bone-in cowboy steak or Korean-style beef short ribs
Month with an R: The pan-fried oysters with fresh lemon juice and tartar sauce are outstanding
Fountains at Roseville, 1194 Roseville Parkway, Roseville; (916) 960-4875; mccormickandschmicks.com l Hours: Lunch daily 11 a.m.–4 p.m.; dinner Sunday–Thursday 4–10 p.m., Friday–Saturday 4–11 p.m. l Prices: $$$