Disclaimer: Copper River Fish and Chop has had been open under this name for about a week at the time of our visit. While some may forgive service and food issues at this point of a restaurant’s opening, I do not. That said, this restaurant is simply a revamp of Molly Cool’s with a change only in menu and pricing putting it in the same class as high-end downtown dining. This change did not alter a majority of the staff or ownership. You can feel free to take this review with as much salt as you deem necessary.
On Saturday night we tried the third restaurant to occupy the $5 million dollar copper building at the corner of Cedar and Dodd in Lakeville in the last 6+ years, Copper River Fish & Chop House. With reviews posted all over the Internet about how below average and incredibly overpriced the food was I just had to risk it and try it for myself. I made reservations early in the week for Saturday at 5 PM so The Wife, The Rooster, and Josh headed over there to try it out and celebrate Josh’s birthday a bit early.
The restaurant is a hybrid of the beautiful ambiance that Copper Bleu put on display back in December of 2005 and the Long John Silver’s-esque decor Molly Cool’s decided was appropriate back in 2009. While certainly not what I would like to see in the space, it wasn’t unpleasant by any means and thankfully the red plastic, pizza parlor, Coke glasses and baskets were gone and replaced with silverware and cloth napkins. Some of the fancier and modern decor adorning the bar area which made Copper Bleu the South Metro standout it was were back according to The Wife and gave us high hopes for the place’s future success.
We were seated near the windows overlooking the patio with its stacked chairs and roaring fire for those who enjoy a cigarette while drinking at the bar. Honestly, I found the stacks of chairs a bit tacky for a restaurant which is attempting to purport to be of downtown quality while being located 20+ miles away. The staff delivered grilled and thin, but still soft, pita wedges with what seemed to be a play on homemade guacamole without the tomatoes and/or lime infused hummus. I would have preferred bread myself and based on the fact that I was really the only person at the table eating it, I’m guessing everyone else would have as well.
The menu which has not yet been posted online was a uncomfortably large single sheet of paper with food on the front and I believe were alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, liquor) and possibly desserts on the reverse. There were entirely too many options to be placed on one page and I had a difficult time making a choice because my eyes were lead all over the place. The waitress highlighted a few items which I only partially paid attention to because she kept referring to them as what she had to offer us tonight and that is a huge pet peeve of mine. I asked where the seafood was sourced from and while she did not know she did send the chef out to tell me that they source from Coastal based on his experience at Oceanaire. We apparently became so very good friends during this less than one minute interaction that he felt the need to give me a pat on the back as he left our table. Thanks for the informative visit but please keep your hands to yourself, thanks.
Based on the Coastal sourcing I placed an order for six (6) oysters, one of each option offered. At $2.50 each ($15 total) these were not inexpensive but I hoped they would be executed perfectly for the price. There were three each from the East and West coasts (Pickering Pass, Jorstad Creek, Little Scookm, Well Fleet, Salutation Cove, and Kussshi). The Wife ordered the “Angry Lobster” ($28.95), Josh ordered the Surf and Turf ($38.95) and I went with the 10oz filet ($32.95) with a side of Lobster Shells and Cheese ($9.95) figuring that The Rooster would eat some of it with me.
The oysters came out on a platter and were tagged with a computer receipt, in order, letting me know which each one was. There was a little ketchup with what appeared to be horseradish on top but neither provided any of the bite I prefer so I avoided it aside from tastes with my fork. Copper River also provided a mignonette ice option which wasn’t as pleasant as it should have been and really reminded me of slamming my face into the ice in a school parking lot when I was a kid and tasting a rich conglomeration of blood, rock salt, and snow on my swelling lip. Each of the oysters were floating in too much water to help them fill out their shells and after draining them and adding a few sprinkles of Tabasco they went down the hatch. My sole complaint aside from the general dislike of the mignonette was that 50% of the oysters had little bits of shell in with them. I don’t particularly care for shards of mother of pearl ending up in my mouth and gums as I eat $7.50 worth of oysters.
Contrary to the complaints of other reviews online, our meals were out quickly and aside from The Wife’s Angry Lobster were anemic in their display. Josh’s Surf and Turf had a fairly petite lobster tail and an even more petite steak accompanying it. The lobster meat was a little overcooked on the one bite I had of his and the butter did little to help it go down. He ordered his steak medium-rare and while he said he was fine with it, it was definitely cooked medium instead. He seemed to enjoy his meal and said that he was fine with the size of the steak as he was quite full from the lobster.
The Wife’s angry lobster, described as “Roasted, Sweet Corn-King Crab with Mashed Potatoes and Creole Crayfish Cream,” was a disaster on a plate. Two halves of a lobster tail char-grilled and dry, The Wife had to do much more work to get the meat out of the tail than Josh did on his. The mashed potatoes were loaded with garlic and had turned an oddly sickening brownish color. My two bites of the meat and the potatoes left me wondering why anyone would “roast” a tail in this way and kill everything that’s great about lobster. The Creole Crayfish Cream was more cream than creole or crayfish. In fact, tasting it without knowing it’s official name left me thinking it was a pretty thick and sloppy sauce without much taste. I’m not really sure what it was supposed to do for the dish but it certainly wouldn’t have been something I would have put on top of a $29 lobster tail–even one as dry as it was. This is a definite pass at $29.
The $9.95 Lobster Shells and Cheese, something our server raved was a favorite of her’s, was disappointing at best. Expecting discernible lobster meat and some tasty cheeses, this pile of overcooked shells, tasteless cheese sauce, mushrooms and spinach with what appeared to be the leftovers from lobster meat not fit for plated consumption was not even good enough for The Rooster. With The Rooster normally clamoring for more mac and cheese at any restaurant, including BW3, the fact that he refused to touch this should be a testament to how awful this stuff was. I tried to salvage it by adding some of the Creole Crayfish Cream on top but two wrongs don’t make a right I guess. They later asked what they could do to fix it. While I told them use cheese that had some flavor and offer a visible pile of lobster, the real suggestion should have been: stop serving it and contact everyone who was duped into eating it already and give them their $10 back.
My 10oz filet, which I ordered solely because 6oz filets are just silly to put on a menu especially when the description underneath is completely and utterly demeaning to women (something about your wife wanting to order that one), was of course ordered “blue”. For those of you who aren’t familiar with cooking a steak “blue”, it means that the meat is seared and is basically uncooked throughout (think “super rare”) and after a short clarification conversation with the sever whether I meant with bleu cheese or cooked blue, we settled on cooking, not cheese. Unfortunately somewhere between our conversation at the table and the kitchen the ticket was done up as medium-rare and with bleu cheese. My much larger than 10oz steak arrived with a side of strangely reformed bleu cheese in a cup on the side and would have excited me greatly had I ordered it mid-rare. Unfortunately by the time the server arrived back at our table to check on us 15 minutes later I had decided to give up and just eat the disappointing $33 piece of meat. After explaining the situation to the server, who didn’t apologize, the assistant manager came out as I was 3/4 of the way done with the steak and also offered little apology and instead seemed to insinuate that because we’re in Minnesota I should be more understanding that kitchens just aren’t accustomed to cooking a steak in that way. He did offer to recook the steak at that point but I saw no reason to wait for another, especially after it took so long for him to get around. While I appreciate them sending him out to chat, I don’t think it was an adequate response to the situation and certainly not timely. Based on my recent experiences at Technique, a cooking school with a kitchen full of aspiring chefs let alone one who throws around the Ocenaire name like it’s something that should impress people in 2012, who were able to cook a fairly small piece of steak perfectly blue and Cafe Lurcat who appropriately rectified the situation, I’m going to say that Copper River missed the boat on handling this one properly in each and every single way.
Before our bill arrived our friendly assistant manager offered us, free of charge, some desserts apparently hoping that would suffice for his, the kitchen staff’s and the server’s poor customer service earlier. We declined and soon after the bill for $95.45 arrived at our table. I refused to pay more than $100 for that meal and as such I tipped the server, who I blame for the mislabeled ticket on my steak, her complete lack of taste regarding the Lobster Shells and Cheese, and the fact that she didn’t come by right away to see if my steak was cooked properly like they did at Lurcat, $4.00 pushing us to a $99.45 tab for two. Please note: this was for one appetizer, one side, and two entrees. No dessert, no alcohol, and three poorly executed dishes.
Overall, even though Copper River Fish and Chop has only been open for a week or so, it’s not a new restaurant; instead a newly revamped decor and menu for Molly Cool’s. Unfortunately this change was nothing more than lipstick on a pig and while I really wanted it to work out and offer residents South of the River a closer option to restaurants charging similar prices in Minneapolis and St. Paul, this is little more than a poorly executed and overpriced farce.
Have you eaten at Copper River Fish & Chop in Lakeville? If so what did you think? Had you ever eaten at Molly Cool’s or Copper Bleu prior? How do you think Copper River compares? Do you think that it’s appropriate for Copper River Fish and Chop to charge downtown prices and not deliver downtown service and food levels? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Copper River Fish & Chop House
17516 Dodd Blvd
Lakeville, MN 55044
Monday to Thursday: 4:00 PM – 12:00 AM
Friday: 4:00 PM – 1:00 AM
Saturday: 11:00 AM – 1:00 AM
Sunday: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
See all the pictures from Copper River in Lakeville on Flickr here.