Yes, even in land-locked Springfield, you can find delicious and fresh seafood options. Granted, these are usually at higher-end restaurants, but chefs are transforming fish, scallops and shrimp into divine creations.
This article focuses on specific seafood standouts, it’s not a commentary on any other restaurant that serves seafood. A couple of crab shack/seafood boil restaurants have opened in the past year and those were not sampled for this article.
Sea bass at Char Steakhouse & Oyster Bar
When Mike Jalili opened Bijan’s in 1997, he had an instant hit. Not just the restaurant, but a dish that would become loved by many Springfieldians: the Chilean sea bass. So naturally when he closed Bijan’s and opened Touch on the Southside, which then become Char Steakhouse & Oyster Bar, Jalili kept this signature seafood dish.
This is no ordinary sea bass. A thick chunk of the juicy white fish is encrusted in pecans and cashews, then broiled until just done so it remains moist and flakey. It is topped with rich caramelized onions and served on a bed of creamy mushroom risotto. It’s fantastic and there are so many textures and flavors going on. Chilean sea bass is prized for its buttery flavor (it’s not actually a bass fish). This dish is birthday or anniversary worthy. Cost: $42.
Jalili says it’s very popular.
Char is one of the few places in town where you can get fresh oysters, just FYI. The lobster bisque here is heavenly, too.
Find it: 1620 E. Republic Road, Springfield; (417) 823-8383; or visit Char Steakhouse & Oyster Bar’s website
Scallops at The Order
If you’re a scallop lover, you must try the scallop appetizer ($18) at The Order. You’ll find it on the small plates part of the menu. The scallops are pan-seared and served over a bed of pureed sunchokes, with a touch of prawn oil and crispy leeks. The scallops are delicate and the leeks add a nice contrast of texture to the tender scallops.
Sunchokes are also known as Jerusalem artichokes, but they don’t taste like artichokes. In raw form, they are slightly nutty and crispy, the texture similar to jicama. Once cooked, it’s creamy like a potato but with more depth of flavor. It still has a hint of nut flavor, like a macadamia. The fare at The Order is very creative and you’ll likely be introduced to some new ingredients.
Find it: Inside Hotel Vandivort, 305 E. Walnut Street, Springfield; (417) 851-5299; or visit The Order’s website
Salmon at Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub’s Cedar Plank Salmon ($27) is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes and it’s easy to see — or taste — why. The salmon filet is cooked on a cedar plank, which infuses it with a smoky, cedar flavor. The fish is then topped with a lovely and indulgent lemon beurre blanc sauce and served with grilled asparagus. The sauce is rich and creamy, but the lemon brightens it.
The meal comes with your choice of a Caesar salad, bleu cheese wedge, honey balsamic wedge or a trip to the salad bar with warm honey wheat bread.
The atmosphere at Jimm’s is charming and cozy, reminiscent of a European cottage. There are a lot of delicious options here and the bacon-wrapped peppadew pepper appetizer is another treat you don’t want to miss.
Find it: 1935 S. Glenstone Avenue, Springfield; (417) 886-5466; or visit Jimm’s Steakhouse and Pub’s website
Mustard glazed salmon at Nicola’s Ristorante
Nicola’s Ristorante has an array of delicious pasta, but if you want something lighter, try the grilled salmon.
The salmon filet is perfectly grilled, drizzled with honey mustard sauce and served over basmati rice with sauteed vegetables. It’s filling but light. The salmon ($31) has a nice smoky flavor and is a wonderful option for any mustard lover.
It’s not often you see mustard and salmon paired together. Nicola Gilardi says this dish was inspired by his time working in New York, which makes sense since New Yorkers love their mustard. Nicola often has excellent seafood specials on the menu, too.
Find it: 3631 E. Sunshine Street, Springfield; (417) 866-3700; or visit Nicola’s Ristorante’s website
Shrimp appetizer at Avanzare Italian Dining
Scampi al Lorenzo ($14) is a must-try appetizer for any shrimp fanatic. The large shrimp are sautéed with garlic and an abundance of crushed red pepper, then served in a pesto sauce — blowing all other scampi out of the water. This is a very spicy dish, but if you don’t like heat, you can ask them to make it without the crushed red pepper.
Chef and owner Tony Garcia and his team do a great job of accommodating food intolerances or allergies. The shrimp are served with a pile of beautifully sautéed vegetables, which are a nice balance to the rich sauce.
Avanzare has a variety of seafood dishes, including seafood pasta and ravioli, and often features a fish special.
Find it: 1908 S. Glenstone Avenue, Springfield; (417) 567-3463; or visit Avanzare Italian Dining’s website
Sea bass at Ocean Zen
When the restaurant is named “Ocean Zen” you expect good seafood, and this venue does not disappoint. From incredibly fresh sushi to a perfectly seared ahi appetizer and seafood pasta, there are plenty of options.
But a standout in this sea of deliciousness is the herb seared oven roasted Chilean sea bass served on top of a bed of creamy spinach mushroom risotto, with a puff pastry filled with cheesy seafood magic, served with a lobster cognac butter sauce ($48.95). Yes, it’s pricey, but also worthy of a special occasion. The risotto is incredible, too.
Ocean Zen features some of the best sauces in town and the lobster cognac butter sauce is exquisite. Even though this is fine dining, you will find people scraping their fingers across their plates to lick up the last bits of sauce.
Find it: 4117 S. National Avenue, Springfield; (417) 889-9596; or visit Ocean Zen’s website
Crystal Shrimp at Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill
If you’re just in the mood for an appetizer, try the Crystal Shrimp at Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill ($8). Large shrimp are battered and lightly fried, then drizzled in a sweet lemon sauce. The sauce contains sweetened condensed milk, but the lemon balances it out and it is delectable. The shrimp are then topped with walnuts, which cut the sweetness and provide a nice contrast of texture. It sounds odd, but it is fabulous.
Haruno was the first sushi restaurant in Springfield and it’s been winning people over ever since.
Another wonderful option is the miso-glazed black cod, available as an appetizer or dinner portion. It is spicy, though, if you don’t like that kick, and the heat is in the marinade so it can’t be changed.
Find it: 3044 S. Fremont Street, Springfield; (417) 887-0077; or visit Haruno Sush Bar & Grill’s website