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Coldwater Landing
***
Out of a possible five
$$$

Seafood shines at familiar location

I couldn’t help but make the comparison.

It has new ownership and a new name, but Coldwater Landing looks exactly like it did not long ago when it was Chappell’s Seafood & Steaks. And the menu with its emphasis on seafood is pretty close to what the former tenants in this former Joe’s Crab Shack on Coldwater Road offered.

There was no reason to change the looks. The big wooden antique bar that was the centerpiece of the original Chappell’s on Broadway remains. I was shocked Chappell’s let it go, but it adds an extra touch of elegance to what is a marvelous-looking, classically adorned, upscale restaurant.

And Coldwater Landing’s food stacked up well with Chappell’s. The quality of the seafood was impeccable and the offerings were diverse and enjoyable.

A unique offering was the signature buttermilk fried alligator tail appetizer. I have not seen alligator on another menu in the area, and found this version to be pleasant. The nuggets of alligator were chicken-fried – which makes about anything tasty – and the meat was tender with a texture similar to calamari. It was accompanied by an étouffée that was mild in spice with just the right sweetness to accent the salty fried reptile.

The Prince Edward Island mussels appetizer was also worth having again – perfectly steamed and swimming in a delicious broth of white wine, garlic and cream. But the inexperience of my server made it awkward. It arrived in a giant bowl capped with an upside-down bowl – I assume to hold in the steam. Seeing no serving utensil, I asked for one and suggested a large spoon when my server seemed puzzled by my request. She returned with salad tongs, which were useless, and said it was all she could find. She also said most people who order the mussels don’t share them. An appetizer not meant for sharing, really?

I made do as best I could with my regular-sized spoon, but it would have been nice to be able to more easily get that delicious, briny broth out as I dished them onto side plates for my dining companions.

The sauce was missing on my daily special pan-roasted flounder, but the dish was still the highlight of the main courses.

The fillet was beautifully seared to have crisp skin, and its shiitake mushrooms and touch of prosciutto melded well with my side choices of parmesan risotto and wilted spinach. But I saw no evidence of the promised potato-leek puree.

The cedar plank-roasted organic Scottish salmon was of pristine quality, and it, too, was perfectly roasted, but the cedar plank flavor did not come through. I did not miss it, however, as its vegetable ragout – which was similar to ratatouille – and a touch of basil oil added plenty.

Both of the salads that preceded these meals were impeccable.

The Caesar was made with crisp, fresh romaine that was perfectly dressed, and it was covered with large shavings of salty, chewy parmesan and homemade, freshly toasted rye and white croutons.

The dinner salad had the same croutons and parmesan over a blend of iceberg and spring greens, red onion and tomato, and was coated in a surprisingly sweet balsamic vinaigrette.

With the same great atmosphere and food that was perhaps even better than Chappell’s, the only thing Coldwater Landing was missing was the standard of excellence in service that Chappell’s has obtained over the years.

My first impression was a negative one as I was greeted by a hostess dressed far too casually for such a formal restaurant. I was even more shocked when I later discovered the jean-clad woman was actually part of the management team.

The lack of professionalism overall raised eyebrows:

•One server struggled to keep drinks filled. For example, when she served my steak and spotted an empty glass, she asked whether I wanted more to drink. A good server would have just brought me a refill without asking, considering I hadn’t even started my main course. During the meal, she interrupted six times for the same reason.

•My hearty, rich, creamy bowl of clam chowder could not have been better except for the fact I had ordered the butternut squash soup.

•During my first visit, I was told the crème brulée and bread pudding was made in house while the cheesecakes and chocolate pie were brought in. During the second visit, I was told everything was made in house. Regardless, they were all mediocre with the exception of the mango crème brulée, which was above par with a wonderful sweet-tart flavor profile, and the caramel apple bread pudding, which was well below par – dry and crumbly.

• The arrangement of the menu also had an amateurish hiccup with a “lighter fare” section featuring beer-battered fish, fried perch and a Wagyu beef burger topped with cheddar and bacon. Even worse, all of these “healthy” dishes were accompanied by seasoned french fries.

Restaurant: Coldwater Landing

Address: 5820 Coldwater Road

Phone: 483-9841

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday; 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday

Cuisine: Steaks and seafood

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: More of an adult atmosphere

Menu: Alligator tail ($8.50), mussels ($8.95), salmon ($21.95), flounder ($23.95)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. E-mail him at rduvall@jg.net, call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net, and you can hear Ryan from 3 to 4 p.m. every Thursday on 92.3 FM, The Fort.

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