by Susan Hamilton & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he sounds of Frank Sinatra crooning "Young at Heart" greeted us as we entered Milford's Fish House on a sultry summer evening. The tune proved to be apropos.
Though Milford's turned 25 this year, it's still young at heart. The chocolate- and sienna-toned waiting area, dining rooms and bar are vintage '40s. Comfy, stuffed couches provide a place to relax in the waiting area, where fish (not the edible kind) swim in a large tank. Dark leather booths take advantage of windows looking out on the street scene, and a seasoned bar anchors the middle of the first dining room. The walls are sprinkled with historic photos, artwork and memorabilia of bygone days in Spokane.
So much for the historic part of Milford's. The food, on the other hand, is definitely fresh and youthful. Chef and owner Jerry Young features Asian flavors in his fish selections, which are flown in fresh daily. As a reflection of that market freshness, the menu is revised daily.
The evening my family and I dined at Milford's, we decided to share an appetizer. Seafood choices include pan-fried yearling oysters (featured on the Food Network's "Best Of" series) ($10), Penn Cove select "raw" oysters on the half-shell ($12), steamed Puget Sound Manila clams ($10), wok-fired Penn Cove mussels ($9) and Asian shallow-fried calamari filets ($8). Since we wanted to order seafood entrees, we decided to take a detour with the chicken satay ($8).
The presentation was dramatic -- with four skewers of grilled chicken swirling above a bed of rice and small dishes of Asian dipping sauces. The meat was tender and grilled just right. Dipping sauces -- sweet and sour, wasabi with soy, sesame vinaigrette and chile paste -- afforded a nice variety of flavors, although I missed the spicy peanut sauce that usually accompanies satay in its native Indonesia.
Entrees run the gamut from lobster tails ($37-$60) and beefsteak ($20-$30) to rack of lamb ($28) and chicken breast ($19). Fish entrees fill the special sheet. My husband decided to try the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fillet ($22), while I opted for the Alaskan halibut cheeks ($22). Roasted Boston scrod-style Alaskan true cod fillet ($20), green tea-rubbed black tiger prawns ($21) and seafood Diane Cajun-style saut & eacute; with salmon, halibut, clams, prawns, thresher shark and more ($20) vied for our attention but will have to wait for another visit.
My daughter knew just what she wanted -- pasta. Would it be Milford's seafood fettuccine with fresh salmon, clams and more ($20) or the prawn, chicken and mushroom fettuccine ($19)? The prawn/chicken combination won out.
Dinners are accompanied by soup or salad. The Manhattan-style clam chowder is tasty, with smoked salmon and a hint of spice. Green salads are fresh and flavored with sesame vinaigrette, smoky onion ranch or sweet Italian with bleu cheese dressings. Accompanied by freshly baked focaccia bread and olive oil, the soup and salad make a nice interlude in the meal.
There was a bit of a wait for our entrees to arrive, even though Milford's wasn't busy that night. But it was worth the wait. My husband's salmon was grilled Vietnamese-style with fresh lemongrass, chile and lime dressing. Though he isn't a fan of spicy food, the dressing was light enough not to overpower the fish while imparting an unexpected yet complimentary flavor. The salmon was done to perfection yet moist. He enjoyed the accompanying green tea jasmine rice and crunchy green beans, although they were a bit bland. The addition of some soy sauce perked them up considerably.
My halibut cheeks were prepared Asian shallow-fry-style and covered in panko flakes. The same four Asian dipping sauces added myriad flavors to the tender fish. My daughter's pasta was a very successful dish. The Alfredo parmesano Sorrento sauce was light enough not to overtake pieces of chicken, prawns and mushrooms while bathing the fettuccine in a savory, herb-infused dressing.
Desserts at Milford's that evening were variations of its luscious, homemade ice cream in flavors of vanilla custard, strawberry and coffee, as well as chocolate torte, burnt cream, key lime pie and chocolate brownie with chocolate mousse ($4-$6). We decided to split an old-fashioned chocolate sundae and weren't disappointed. The three flavors of ice cream blended well with the rich chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
We'll definitely return to Milford's for the historic ambience, fresh fish with exciting preparations, and excellent service, though we'll be sure to allow ample time to enjoy our meals.
Milford's Fish House, 719 N. Monroe St., is open Tues-Sat 5-10 pm, Sun-Mon 4-9 pm. Call 326-7251.