published Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Lakeshore Grille has a tasty angle on fish

Peppercorn-crusted ahi tuna steak is served with peach beurre blanc and grilled vegetables at Lakeshore Grille.
Peppercorn-crusted ahi tuna steak is served with peach beurre blanc and grilled vegetables at Lakeshore Grille.
IF YOU GO

■ Where: Lakeshore Grille at Lakeshore Marina, 5600 Lake Resort Terrace.

■ Phone: 423-710-2057.

■ Website: www.lakeshoregrille.com.

■ Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.- midnight Friday- Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday (kitchen closes one hour before listed closing time).

■ Price range: $12-$26 for entrees.

Growing up, the closest I came to the bounty of the sea — and really the sea itself — was fish sticks. Though I still have a slight aversion to the ocean, I have begun wading into the part of the culinary world that comes from it. I enjoy mussels (namely the garlic butter they come in), and I’m proud to say I’ve gotten a little adventurous with sushi … rolls, that is.

But one thing goes wrong — the taste is too fishy or what I call “waterlogged,” the texture too slimy — and I’m out of there faster than someone who just saw a circling fin. I hoped that wouldn’t be the case when I visited Lakeshore Grille on Chickamauga Lake.

It wasn’t.

I even stayed for dessert.

THE MENU

At least half the menu is centered on seafood. For instance, you can start with hand-formed smoked salmon cakes ($8), mussels in that creamy garlic sauce I like so much ($10) or calamari ($9). Entrees include grilled swordfish topped with fresh tomato salsa, mahi mahi topped with watermelon salsa and salmon served with cucumber relish ($18 each). There are also some more-trusted “seafood meals” like blackened salmon fettuccine Alfredo ($12) and shrimp and grits ($16).

The other half of the menu mainly offers steak: filet mignon, sirloin, New York strip and ribeye ($26, $19, $17 and $22, respectively). There are also chicken Parmesan with house-made marinara ($14), and a delicious-sounding bone-in pork chop with peach and Vidalia onion chutney ($18).

A few burgers help round out the options for those in the mood for something “lighter.”

According to the restaurant’s website, plans are in the works to add catering for boaters this summer. These box lunches of menu favorites will be delivered to the docks of Lakeshore Marina at no extra charge.

THE MEAL

You know what they say: When in Rome …

The fish tacos were not only a good deal but also a good eat. Our server told us that many people order them as their main meal, and I can see why. At $7 for two, they were decently sized and pretty filling. And the tilapia was perfect: delicately crunchy breading (I like mine a little thick, which this was) that gave way to tender fish, mild yet flavorful enough to satisfy my finicky fish cravings. The pickled cabbage added to the satisfying crunch factor, and the fire-roasted jalapeno aioli gave a hint of creaminess and flavor that didn’t detract from the fish.

Next up, ahi tuna steak ($18). The fact that Lakeshore’s combines some of my favorite ingredients — peppercorns and butter — made it hard to pass up. But I wish I’d passed on the peach beurre blanc.

Just in front of the wall-to-wall windows that look out onto Lake Chickamauga was another lake — of beurre blanc. Though the flavor and texture were spot-on, I wish that ingredient had replaced the small spots of whatever creamy wasabi concoction dotted my plate. Besides, that wasabi would have made a better bed for the fish. It packed just enough of the characteristic punch, but was toned down enough for softer palates, and so it didn’t overwhelm the fish and its delicate crust of peppercorns.

The serving size was huge; I’d guess an 8-ounce filet and enough perfectly grilled veggies that I was happy I’d decided to share. The fish tasted fresher than I’ve had elsewhere around town., though it had more of a firm, formerly frozen appearance as opposed to that almost gelatinous look you see at sushi restaurants. But it was seared well, and the color was still there.

All the entrees come with soup or salad. The house was a spring mix and had obviously hand-grated carrots, which I think speaks to quality. The meals also come with fresh-fried potato chips with another creamy sauce — their version of “bread,” our server told us as she surprised us with the plate.

THE SPACE

Lakeshore, located above Lakeshore Marina, was formerly Top of the Dock, so I was morbidly curious to see its new incarnation (as I was on my visit to its former one). The restaurant was clean, open, inviting and welcomingly lacking any fishy smell. The lake-view windows needed no other adornment, and there was none, guaranteeing a view from every seat. Simple, gleaming, dark wooden tables and benches beckoned, augmented by soft lighting from paper light shades that could’ve come from a coed’s apartment or a trendy cocktail bar, which the space reminded me of.

THE SERVICE

Though she at first seemed anxious, our server was super-friendly, accommodating and helpful. She easily explained the dishes and flavors and made suggestions.

I’m not sure if it was because we were some of the only diners that late evening or due to the care the staff obviously harbors for the restaurant, but those adjectives could be used to describe the overall atmosphere. We were made to feel welcome — almost overly so — from the minute we walked in the door to the hearty and heartfelt “goodnight” we received. The manager even stopped by for a friendly, unsolicited chat.

THE VERDICT

All the ingredients are there: quality, care and class, though it seems they’re trying just a bit too hard. Still, it’s worth a visit. Besides, the view is hard to top.

Contact Jennifer Bardoner at jbardoner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6579.

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