Copper River Fish and Chop House

I'm diametrically opposed to eating at steakhouses. Manny's? Never been. Murray's? Don't you mean Manny's? They're different? Anyway, I don't go out for steak unless I'm taking a meat-driven suicide dare (Sup, Fogo de Chao!) or loitering its idyllic dive bar (See you soon, Cherokee Tavern!).

Yes, I'm sure they make a killer steak ... but I make a killer steak. It's one of the few of my father's teachings that stuck. Why pay $50 for a steak when I can grab one at Jordan Meats for $17 and make my own just as well? I don't tax or tip myself, so the total difference covers a bottle of Four Roses. I don't need to sit in a steakhouse as an exhibition of status; I've got no status to exhibit. There is absolutely zero need for me to enter a steakhouse ... right?

Enter Copper River Fish and Chop House.

Copper River Fish and Chop House on UrbanspoonInside their circular fortress, beneath their spiny ceiling lights, this Lakeville meat retreat is giving your grill good reason to take a day off -- from the cheese-caked swordfish to the king crab-stuffed filet mignon and beyond, they've got the kind of goods you can't just grab your tongs and whip up.

To oppose Ron Swanson, come here and you might not mind eating a steak another man made.

The Basics: You can find the website here. Copper River opened up just over two years ago. There aren't a lot of basics for CR because there just isn't much information about it on the web outside of their own website and that of a defunct blogger. Disclaimer: Ducky knows someone who works here. Said friend waited on us, and his association gave us a 50-percent discount. Don't worry -- this didn't make the meal automatically perfect.

Through a crazy Plexiglas door and into the dining room came Ducky and I. To the right was a noodle-shaped dining room facing large, theater screen-like windows in center. A sunken lower level serves as the "premium seating," with a central ramp taking diners into the rear sectors. Today's show: A white, sunny blaze. There was a remarkable difference in brightness between that lower section and the upper tables. Ducky and I, being Ducky and I, sat in the bar.

Light is all but shunned in the bar. All you get is what little reaches you from those bizarre, test tube-affixed lights -- you look up at them and imagine what it's like for Mario walking under those Thwomp! squares -- and the shimmering of the funky, blue and black tiling on a slanted fixture above the bar. It's part-race car, part-deep end. It's a neat effect. It puts a touch of "river" in the place.

Top: Tempura-fried crab cakes, king crab and mushroom-stuffed filet mignon
Bottom: Pacific swordfish, mega humongous chocolate cake

Ducky ordered a scotch and I got to work on the spinach flatbread and hummus brought out. These salty green flaps were far superior to the "Is this stale or is it not?" flatbread you find at most restos. Crab cakes were ordered as apps, nice and crusty on the outside without being overcooked or soggy on the inside. I inhaled mine, so the details are hazy, but I remember them being texturally sound. The coleslaw doesn't taste as scary as it looks.

Ducky got his king crab-stuffed filet mignon order in before I could. Rather than slap him with a leather glove and call for a duel, I examined the fresh catch menu and settled for the Pacific swordfish with the KICK IT UP! seasoning set. After a short time of watching him guess the age of his scotch, and daydream about spilling my water over his head (car keys, yo), our food arrived.

It certainly looked kicked up on the plate. The char-black outside certainly made it look angry, though the bleu cheese roof had a few holes. This cheese fanatic never likes to see holes in the cheese roof. In fact, if someone could figure out a way to completely submerge a cut of meat into a melted cheese shell, I'll give that person a dollar. Not in quarters, either -- one big ol' Washington for anyone who can figure this out.

My swordfish came with a buttery, salty, crunchy asparagus broccolini that held my attention 'til gone. I kept calling it 'asparagus,' and I'm not even sorry. Everything that's green and pipelike to me is asparagus. Broccolini? Asparagus. Celery? Asparagus. A $50 in my wallet with a bunch of ones hiding behind it? Asparagus. I don't care how much it kinks my credibility.

"Some food writer YOU are," said Ducky's friend.

Hey, I never said I was smart. Anyway, the asparagus was delicious.

I like my mashed potatoes how I like my women: hot and dirty, and that's not exactly how they came at Copper River. The potatoes were lukewarm at best, not so much that I would have brought them back but enough that it might have become an issue had I not been the potato vacuum I am. Just like that, the meat was the last item touched.

It was breakable by fork and nearly melted in my mouth. The seasoning brought a subtle zing, just enough to picture this fish angry, but not so much that I had to wipe my nose off on my napkin. Unseasoned fish bores me, but a kicked-up fish excites me. I would kick this up again 100 out of 100 times.

Our waitress Jedi mind-tricked me into a piece of chocolate cake (you know, because THAT's tough) and a hulk of a cake slice was slid before me. It was drizzled with raspberry coulis, something I had never before encountered -- and boy, does it work. There's a little tartness in raspberries that separates it from your traditional cherry or strawberry topping, and I'll dare say I enjoy it more.

Duck's friend didn't have a tip at stake but stayed on her A-game anyway. The meal -- one appetizer, two scotches, two entrees, and one dessert -- would have cost in the neighborhood of $120. That sounds high, but it's not like we ate cheeseburgers and drank PBRs.

What worries me about Copper River? For one, this curvy amphitheater has a history of becoming a coffin. While it's aesthetically like nothing I've previously seen inside, it's forgettable in that Lakeville shopping center if you've never been inside. If Lakeville grows around it, Copper River's going to be all right; if not, they might have a tough time keeping its fish house afloat.

Hey, I'd come back. The food was tasty while being original, and those are key first steps toward sustenance. If you click the Events tab on their website and find their happy hour specials, you'll notice some solid knocks (minus the $1 off signature cocktails. Come on). The food prices are especially seductive.

Listen, there are situations in which you need something a little more decorative than your living room couch cushions and the grill on your porch. If you want the steakhouse experience and you don't want to give yourself the downtown headache, Copper River is a respectable alternative. What I can certainly promise is you'll see and taste things that most of their competitors can't offer.

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