Missouri isn’t a coastal community, but there’s no need to be crabby: Despite being landlocked, 417-land is embracing luscious, luxurious seafood, a booming trend for the restaurant world in 2017. Let’s dive in.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.
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With local eateries flying in the freshest fish to be found and Springfield suppliers trekking to the coast to bring back the best just-caught seafood, the world is your oyster—or whatever other fishy fare fits your fancy.
Sea to Plate Timeline • Raised in 417-Land • 8 Seafood Cakes • Oyster Options • Small Bites • Seafood Shopping • Fried Fish • Host the Perfect Seafood Boil
Pan-Seared Red Snapper
With the sea referenced in its name, amazingly fresh seafood is unsurprisingly the star at Ocean Zen (4117 S. National Ave., Springfield, 417-889-9596). The fish here is never frozen and flown in multiple times a week. That includes the red snapper, which is flown in from the Gulf of Mexico. The snapper is pan-seared until perfectly cooked and served laying atop a bed of sauteed vegetables and pineapple-crab fried rice. For an acidic, tropical punch, a mango salsa and sweet chili vinaigrette round out the dish.
Ocean Zen lives up to its name by serving fresh-from-the-sea finds like red snapper, which is pan-seared and served atop tropical-flavored sides.
Boone & Crockett Salmon
This top-selling entree at Hemingway’s Blue Water Café (1935 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-891-5100) features a fillet of bacon-wrapped Norwegian salmon, which is seared and topped with toasted almond maple butter and crunchy crushed almonds. The fatty, thick-cut bacon helps the mouthwatering fish retain moisture and adds salty, savory goodness, a nice complement to the sweet maple butter. Another secret is that the salmon, which is brought in twice a week, is only frozen once.
Whole Bone-In Trout
Available fresh and in abundance right on-site, trout is unsurprisingly the foundation of many of the dishes served in the restaurant at Rockbridge Rainbow Trout & Game Ranch (4297 County Road 142, Rockbridge, 417-679-3619). One dish to try is the whole bone-in trout, which is available in numerous preparations, including baked, pan fried, stuffed and salt-broiled, during which the fish is covered in a thick layer of Kosher salt and cooked in the oven, which locks in moisture. Cooking the whole fish, bones included, makes every bite even more flavorful.
Trout dishes abound at Rockbridge Rainbow Trout & Game Ranch, but the standouts are the stuffed and the salt-broiled trout entrees.
Ravioli con Aragosta Capesante e Gameroni
This mouthwatering seafood ravioli at Bruno’s Italian Restaurant (416 South St., Springfield, 417-866-0007) prominently features a variety of different types of seafood, but its flavors are delicate and elegant. The luscious filling includes chopped lobster, scallop and shrimp, which is tucked inside layers of pasta that’s made fresh each day. The divine sauce—a flavorful combo of lobster stock, garlic, paprika, brandy, tomato sauce, parsley and cream—alone is worth the price of admission.
Butter Poached Seafood Pot Pie
Sous Chef Stephanie A. Holmes’ seafood pot pie recipe at Osage Restaurant at Top of the Rock (at Top of the Rock, 190 Top of the Rock Road, Ridgedale, 417-335-2777) is comforting, refined and oh so good. Juicy shrimp and fresh scallops flown in twice a week from the East Coast are quickly seared. The pan is then deglazed with some white wine and cream, after which the shellfish is returned to the pan to poach. The shellfish and sauce are spooned on top of mashed potatoes, and a light, crispy piece of puffed pastry is placed on top.
Fresh Ahi Tuna
Beef is a namesake of Flame Steakhouse (314 W. Walnut St., Springfield, 417-862-4444), but refined seafood from the raw bar and in plates like the popular ahi tuna entree are also a major draw. For the latter, the highest-grade ahi tuna is flown in twice a week from Hawaii (where it’s selected by hand for quality and for the perfect deep-purple color). The beautiful fish is flavored with a salt and pepper crust and served with sides like a tangy wasabi slaw, as well as a choice of items like mashed potatoes with candied bacon and jalapeño cheddar.
A seafood-lover’s delight, the Frutti di Mare from Avanzare Italian Dining includes a little of all the sea’s best shellfish.
One day, a staff member at Joplin Eagle Drive-In (4224 Hearnes Blvd., Joplin, 417-623-2228) ordered the restaurant’s salmon salad and decided to try it with some barbecue sauce. That led to a discovery: the sweetness of the sauce went beautifully with the fish. Now, blueberry barbecue sauce always comes with the popular entree featuring wild-caught salmon. For the dish, a thin-cut piece of salmon is dusted with blackening seasoning, grilled on the flattop (it’s covered for part of the cooking to lock in moisture) and presented on a bed of greens.
A far-and-away favorite for many of the regulars at Metropolitan Farmer (2144 E. Republic Road, Suite B101, Springfield, 417-720-1665), Chef Wes Johnson’s signature trout dish—a fixture on the restaurant’s regularly rotating menu—features a seared skin-on filet fresh from Rockbridge Rainbow Trout & Game Ranch. The trout is served with a potato, pea and mushroom hash and topped with mixed greens tossed in a subtly sweet burnt honey vinaigrette that’s dynamite with the fish.
Tropical fruits like pineapple and passion fruit balance out the Pan-Seared Salmon Fillet from Level 2 Steakhouse.
The version of this classic seafood stew at Nonna’s Italian Cafe (306 South Ave., Springfield, 417-831-1222) stays true to its San Francisco origins in every way but one: It eschews the hunk of sourdough bread that’s typically served on the side for linguine, a delightful addition that goes beautifully with the rich tomato broth bursting with garlicky goodness. At lunchtime, the dish is filled with shrimp, crab meat, fresh mussels and clams; at dinner, big, beautiful scallops are added also.
Grilled Yellowfin Tuna
Smooth, buttery yellowfin tuna—be sure to ask for the steaks to be cooked to either rare or medium-rare to preserve that luscious texture—is beautifully balanced by the tangy, citrusy lemon-and-caper sauce it’s paired with at Nicola’s Ristorante (3631 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-886-3700). The zingy sauce and rich grilled fish shine alongside the simple sides they’re paired with, which include fresh seasonal vegetables and basmati rice.
Don’t be a selfish shellfish. The Touch Tower from Touch Restaurant & Oyster Bar is made for sharing.
In this luxurious dish, one of the most popular seafood items at The Argentina Steakhouse (1410 E. Republic Road, Springfield, 417-886-8010), striped bass is lightly pan seared and topped with some luscious blue crab meat and Parmesan, all of which is finished in the oven. It comes with a creamy aioli spiked with a touch of wasabi, adding a subtle spice to the dish. Other components include aromatic saffron rice and a simple side of sauteed mixed vegetables.
Frutti di Mare
As with every dish at Avanzare Italian Dining (1908 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-567-3463), you are in good hands with the Frutti di Mare, a classic Italian dish overflowing with a variety of shellfish. The version at Avanzare features shrimp, plump scallops, calamari and black mussels, served with spaghetti. Be sure to ask for some extra bread so you can soak up every delicious drop of the fresh marinara sauce flavored with a little red pepper and splash of white wine.
Pan-Seared Salmon Filet
Salmon is scrumptious, but sometimes its preparation at restaurants tends to be a little, well, uninspired. So, we jump for joy when restaurants like Level 2 Steakhouse (200 E. Main St., Branson, 417-243-3433) jazz up the seafood staple with creative accoutrements and punchy flavors. Here, the salmon is filleted by hand, pan seared and served with inventive components such as charred fresh pineapple and a passion fruit vinaigrette balancing sweet and acidic notes. (Another worthy choice from the menu is the “Fresh Catch” entree utilizing whatever fresh fish is in season that day.)
There’s no need to be salty about seafood—or maybe there is. The Gerard at Metropolitan Grill is served atop a Himalayan salt block for an extra punch of flavor.
When Touch Restaurant & Oyster Bar (1620 E. Republic Road, Springfield, 417-823-8383) revamped its menu not too long ago to offer more oysters and seafood, we jumped for joy. And amid all that excitement, it’s hard to choose what to order. If you can’t decide on one dish, get a nice sampling of seafood instead. Gather a group of friends and share the jaw-dropping Touch Tower, which is piled high with jumbo shrimp, a dozen oysters, half a pound of Alaskan king crab legs and ceviche. The lofty platter serves about two people for dinner, and roughly six to eight as an appetizer.
Inventively composed and elegantly presented, the Gerard dish at Metropolitan Grill (2931 E. Battlefield Road, Springfield, 417-889-4951) features ahi tuna flavored with a house blackening seasoning before it’s quickly seared, cut on the bias and laid atop a Himalayan salt block. It also comes with a bloody mary reduction sauce, as well as a creative slaw incorporating grilled lime, creamy avocado and seared scallops, all of which is topped with a zingy wasabi caviar. Diners can choose either a 5- or 8-ounce portion of tuna for the entree.
You might not think of seafood and country farms together, but trust us, scallops don’t get any fresher than the scallops trio at Harvest Restaurant.
Misoyaki Black Cod
Melt-in-your-mouth Black cod—known by some as butterfish for its buttery, creamy texture—is the star of the richly flavored Misoyaki Black Cod at Haruno Sushi Bar (3044 S. Fremont Ave., Springfield, 417-887-0077). Using traditional Japanese preparation and components, the fish is marinated overnight in punchy ingredients like sake, miso and mirin. Once orders start flowing in, the fish is pan seared just long enough to get a little caramelization on the outside before it’s plated alongside steamed rice and vegetables like bok choy.
Trio of Scallops
Having lived in California’s Monterey Bay region and worked in top-notch establishments there and elsewhere, Harvest Restaurant (8011 E. State Highway AD, Rogersville, 417-830-3656) chef-owner Craig von Foerster knows a thing or two about sourcing and preparing incredible seafood. Don’t miss his signature scallop trio made with three rotating preparations. For example, one scallop might come with a champagne and local caviar butter, another with a truffle vinaigrette and another with a Green Thicket Farm quail egg, dill and Dijon mustard sauce. Von Foerster uses either fresh diver-caught or day-boat scallops from Maine, which are chemical free and untreated.
The pan-seared Chilean sea bass from Crabby’s in Joplin comes with potatoes, asparagus and mushrooms that make this dish worth the drive.
Shrimp & Grits
Matt Lawson, sous chef of Devil’s Pool Restaurant at Big Cedar (190 Top of the Rock Road, Ridgedale, 417-335-2777), came up with the eatery’s take on classic shrimp and grits. It starts with house-made, cayenne-spiced brown gravy, which the team starts making early in the day. Then, juicy, bite-sized shrimp are quickly sauteed, and the pan is deglazed with some white wine. Next comes the gravy, followed by the shrimp, both of which are spooned over buttery, creamy grits, and the Southern favorite is ready to be devoured.
Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass
Put over the top by Crabby’s Seafood Bar & Grill (815 W. Seventh St., Joplin, 417-206-3474, crabbysjoplin.com) chef-owner Damien Tiregol’s skillful preparation, the pan-seared Chilean sea bass dish is a longtime customer favorite at this upscale Joplin restaurant known for high-quality seafood. The scrumptious fish is complemented nicely by a butter sauce made with mirin, a Japanese sweet rice wine lending a touch of welcome acidity. Garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed sesame asparagus and meaty wild mushrooms round out the dish.