Dining That's Fine Nick's Fishmarket Mixes Traditional Fare with a Slice of Hawaii

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Byline: Anne Close Daily Herald Correspondent

Spring is the season of blooming dogwoods, thunderstorms and celebrations. With Mother's Day, Father's Day, Memorial Day weekend, and graduations held within weeks of each other, spring provides many occasions to celebrate.

Nick's Fishmarket in Rosemont, a second location of the popular downtown establishment, is an ideal spot to host a special family event. The clubby atmosphere - complete with leather booths, tropical fish tanks, and low lighting - appeals to everyone with an appreciation for fine dining.

Standards at this restaurant are high. Service from the tuxedo- wearing staff is solicitous to the extreme (the level in our water glasses hardly dropped by a half-inch before they were refilled). Every effort is made to ensure quality and freshness, including flying fish in daily from Alaska, Hawaii, and Europe.

What really sets Nick's Fishmarket apart from other fish restaurants and steakhouses, however, is its unique blend of traditional fare (such as salmon in champagne sauce with shitakke mushrooms or thick, high-quality steaks) and infusion of Hawaiian- style fish and preparation. It adds a sense of fun to the menu and provides an unusual experience for the palate.

Take the Maui Wowie salad, one of the many innovative salad selections. This salad mixes thinly-sliced sweet Hawaiian onion, avocado, hearts of palm, shrimp, tomato, feta and cucumber into a refreshing take on the classic chopped salad. The results are mouthwatering.

The black and blue tuna is another great way to begin your meal. This starter features thinly-sliced rare Ahi tuna with a salad of steamed vegetables, bok choy, peppers, carrots, and celery. The kicker here is the unconventional sauce, a kind of Asian-style barbecue with strong flavors of celery and soy sauce.

For dinner, I ordered the Hawaiian favorite, which changes depending on the season and what is most freshly available. That night it was ono, a wonderfully meaty sweet white fish whose texture is oddly reminiscent of chicken. It was expertly prepared in a cilantro-lime-butter sauce with mild roasted jalapeno skins and pine nuts. The diverse flavors were masterfully blended so as not to overpower the fish.

The halibut was less spectacular, but nonetheless excellent. …