In town on business. Wanted fish/seafood. Tried two places - Catch 35 and Shaw's. Keep in mind that I'm a "certain age" and was always taught to never order fish or seafood in the midwest...beef comes from the midwest; they don't have good seafood. Well, not that it is sustainable, but shellfish and most fish is shipped all over the place by air cargo now.
The concierge recommended Catch 35 and while there was little info on this board, what I could find was all positive. The online menu seemed good. So off we went. It is very convenient from all points in the Loop and easy to find. It is attractive and comfortable in a corporate sort of way. We were disappointed to see people dressed like slobs walking in. Granted it is summer and people want to be comfortable. I live in DC and I see the exhausted tourists and don't expect them to be fashion plates but I do hope that if they go to nice restaurants they will go back to the hotel and change out of the baggie shorts and t-shirts and put on a clean shirt and slacks. I wouldn't dress like a slob in someone else's city but apparently that's one more standard that is passe.
If you want quiet, ask to be seated in the back of the long, narrow restaurant. There is a live band (very good) in the bar area and then the center area is across from a semi-open kitchen. Service was good/attentive and timing was good but again, in a corporate sort of way. The server described dishes but she didn't seem to actually know food. She was just well-trained. Fortunately, that did not include upselling. We each ordered a glass of red wine. It was overpriced but very good. We then shared a pot of mussels in a lemongrass broth. Excellent! The mussels were small but of extremely good quality and properly cooked. The broth was delicious and the sour dough bread was given to us in ample quantity to soak up the extra broth. I had swordfish topped with three shrimp, served with chimichurri sauce. Hard to imagine fish standing up to chimichurri, but it did. I didn't eat the fingerling potato salad it was served on. It was an odd accompaniment and one that did not enhance the fish at all. The fish itself was delicious, as was the shrimp. Husband had yellowfin tuna with a sichuan glaze. Sichuan should have a kick to it. This was just sweet. It was properly cooked but not very good. The chive pot sticker that came with it was truly awful. A huge, doughy, gloppy, sweet mess. The two large battered onion rings were OK.
The big issue here is not the fish or shellfish. It's too many ingredients. Good seafood doesn't need all those heavy, gooey, fussy sides. The mussels were perfect as is. They didn't need the jalapeno dipping sauce that came with them. The swordfish and shrimp with the chimichurri were also very good and properly cooked. They didn't need that bizarre fingerling potato salad.
We didn't have dessert.
So bottom line is that they have good quality fish, they know how to cook it, but someone needs to re-think the overall composition of the plate. Simple sides would be great. Some nice fresh seasonable vegetables, for instance.
Value was OK - $120 including tax and tip. About what you'd expect for a Loop restaurant.
Shaw's was the night before. I had a hunch that it was not an authentic "old" Chicago place because it was not grungy or shabby looking. However, I didn't know until the next day that it was actually a newish Lettuce Entertain You place. It was that well-designed and executed - it didn't seem phony or kitschy. It had a great vibe. It was packed and everyone seemed happy. Good music, too. Had a great cocktail called a Corso something or other. Not on the online menu. Had red ruby grapefruit juice and orange liquer, among other things. Super-refreshing. Mixed green salad - very fresh, very good. Shared blue crab spring rolls with my companion. Meh. I'm from Maryland and should never have ordered blue crab. It was almost guaranteed to be a disappointment. The crab was mushy and flavorless and really didn't belong in a spring roll to begin with. Then had three yellowfin tuna tacos w/ ginger soy vinaigrette and sriracha. Really terrific - fresh, light, excellent quality fish.
Service was good - efficient, friendly, professional.
Overall, I enjoyed Shaw's much more than Catch-35. They are so different that it really depends on what you are in the mood for but in terms of overall quality and value, as well as menu and preparation, I'd choose Shaw's.
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