MH Fish House in Lake Forest
Last Friday night, we had dinner at MH Fish House in Lake Forest, which opened a month ago. It was excellent! And it was also not your typical seafood restaurant; it's more like a creative finer-dining restaurant that happens to specialize in seafood.
MH Fish House is from the folks who also own Markethouse. Markethouse is on the ground floor and their menu leans towards American comfort foods; MH Fish House is the more upscale, seafood-focused restaurant on the second floor. When you walk in the outer door from the sidewalk, you'll see stairs on the left, and also an elevator whose door is whimsically painted to resemble a regular door with a doorknob. The space for MH Fish House was formerly the home of Bank Lane Bistro, where I had never been. It's a lovely space, partitioned into several small rooms. One has full-length glass so it looks like a balcony, but it's fully enclosed and amply heated for winter dining. Another outer room has more traditional windows (with mullions) looking off towards the town square from which the restaurant is kitty-corner. There are also a few tables in the center room facing the open kitchen; these are seated last and were empty during our dinner (while the other two rooms were both full). Noise levels are subdued.
The menu was the same as the one on their website; I think there were also one or two specials, but not many. One oddity is that as displayed on their website, the menu shows soups and salads in the "Raw" section; on the printed menu, they appear in separate unlabeled boxes. What I like about the menu is that it offers a lot of flexibility; you can compose a dinner from the "small plates" section, or you can order traditional entrees (most in the mid to upper twenties) and order small plates as appetizers, the approach which the four of us took. (Incidentally, wines are reasonably priced as well.)
We were each first served a complimentary amuse bouche of a fried oyster over tomato jam. It was outstanding (and I'm not normally a fan of oysters). We then shared appetizers, including crab cakes and also grilled calamari stuffed with chicken sausage, and both were quite good. They provided bread service, and this was the only part of the meal that was just okay rather than very good or better; it consisted of a very ordinary dinner roll, accompanied by butter sprinkled with sea salt and a sweet orange-ginger jam. Soups we ordered included a pretty good New England clam chowder and an exceptional lobster bisque, which contained small chunks of lobster and a thin disk of tarragon custard. Two of us had the "retro" Dover sole which had just arrived that day via air from the Netherlands and was fileted tableside (the one pricy dish on the menu, at $45), while the others had the pan roasted sea scallops and the grilled swordfish. All were superb.
We were then served an excellent (albeit small) complimentary mignardise of a slice of financier cake. It was delicious. Did I mention that it was tiny? :)
We ordered three of the four desserts, and they were quite good and quite creative as well. The best was an apple dessert featuring a terrific mild apple panna cotta, a small scoop of apple sorbet, and bits of poached apple. The lemon panna cotta was good but a bit on the strong/tart side. The chocolate dessert was a strip of chocolate cake alongside a strip of chocolate cremeaux, with cocoa nibs and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Service was very good throughout the meal.
This was an excellent dinner, and we look forward to returning again soon.
MH Fish House
670 Bank Lane*
Lake Forest, IL 60045
*Note - Bank Lane is a narrow one-lane one-way (northbound) side street that comprises one end of the long "town square" across the street (west) from the Metra train station in downtown Lake Forest. Just find your way to the town square and park in the vicinity. The entrance is on the Bank Lane side of the building.