This One’s a Keeper

Mitchell’s Fish Market has what it takes to succeed— even in a location where other seafood restaurants haven’t.

Char-broiled oysters (top) and crab cakes (bottom) are among the delights at Mitchell’s.

Photo By Norma Lopez Molina

The Winter Park Village location for Mitchell’s Fish Market, facing the Regal multiplex, has attracted its share of seafood houses since 2000. The ill-fated Beluga was here, Blackfin before that and Kovar’s Village Grille even before that.

Now, this spawn of Ruth’s Chris Steak House (the fourth of its kind in Florida) has done a renovation of the space that finally makes full use of its quirky dimensions. The indoor bar is separated from dining space by glass walls and offers a passage to the popular outside lounge area. The rest of the room is dark-wooded and comfortable—well, mostly comfortable. There are a few two-seater tables that make for a rather tight fit for a dining couple and their plates.

My waiter handed me a very large piece of paper and boasted that Mitchell’s menus are printed twice a day to reflect the catch of the hour. Schools of Costa Rican mutton snapper, St. Augustine amberjack and Alaskan halibut migrate through the menu, and fresh catches from Peru or Hawaii are offered as soon as they arrive.

On a busy night, the slightest misstep or break in timing in any big restaurant’s kitchen can result in turmoil, and I admire executive chef Jeremy Mattson for maintaining superb control over his seafood. Each meticulously prepared bit, from tiny bay scallop to plank of halibut, is moist and tender, neither overcooked nor underdone.

On the day I visited, the chilly 59-degree waters off Belize (information from the menu) were the source of a firm and perfectly sautéed cobia fillet ($21.95), a wonderful fish sadly not often seen in these parts.

A signature dish, char-broiled oysters ($12.95) are a variant of New Orleans’ famous oysters Rockefeller. Eight half-shelled bivalves, on this occasion Saddle Rocks from Connecticut, are covered in Parmesan cheese and “Cajun” butter. The oysters are artfully broiled, the mild oyster contrasting nicely with the sharp taste of browned and chewy cheese, and served on a pizza-pan-sized tray awash in spicy melted butter. (Dipping is encouraged; I was tempted to ask for a to-go bucket).

My ongoing quest for the perfect crab cake (it’s not intentional, I just can’t resist ordering them) continued with Mitchell’s “Famous Chesapeake Bay” version. Whether appetizer ($12.50) or entrée ($23.95), the crab cakes are Maryland authentic, a mix of jumbo lump from the legs and lump crabmeat from the body, with a hint of mustardy Tabasco seasoning. The accompanying scallion mashed potatoes are worth a second order.

The Shang Hai Sampler ($21.95) arrives with an exceptional piece of Atlantic salmon—via Puerto Montt, Chile, where the water temperature is 81 degrees—steamed with ginger and scallions, and an artful pyramid of sticky rice, unfortunately set in a pool of very sweet and very salty rice wine soy sauce, which wicks up into the base of the pyramid and makes the rice difficult to finish. Ask for the sauce on the side.

I must mention the seven-layer carrot cake ($6.95) because your jaw will drop as you see it go by. Maintain that position; it’s the only way to eat this behemoth portion.

Think of Mitchell’s as a steak house for fish, focused on the perfect preparation of great seafood. And tell a few friends to join you for dessert.

ADDRESS 460 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park
PHONE 407-339-3474
ENTREES $15.50-$34.95

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