Executive Chef: Ben Pollinger
Executive Pastry Chef: Jansen Chan
Cuisine: Seafood, American Nouveau
Neighborhood: Midtown West
Price: $50 per person for food (excluding drinks)
I had never been to the original Michelin-starred Oceana restaurant located on East 54th Street, but from what I have heard, it was a sophisticated old-school restaurant dedicated to crafting refined seafood dishes with (over)flourish. The new Oceana is located on West 49th Street and seems to have adapted the “bigger is bigger” mantra of its new Times Square neighbors; the restaurant’s 12,000 sq ft takes up approximately half the block.
This glittering behemoth of a restaurant consists of the full-service cocktail Bar, the casual Café surrounding the opulent marble Raw Bar, a sprawling main dining room, three private dining areas accommodating intimate parties of 4 to 500-person galas, and the al fresco Patio and Park is open during the summer months. The private dining options can fit a variety of needs: the Chef’s Table is literally a table for 4 guests located in the kitchen where the diners can witness all the action; the Grand Salon is a lofty space accommodating 80-120 guests; the Wine Room seats 18 guests within its floor-to-ceiling glass walls displaying bottles from the 500+ bottle wine list.
The restaurant oozes glitzy opulence with its glossy marble counters and Art Deco columns, yet still evokes images of comfort with its white-linen lampshades and plush throw pillows at the cushioned booth tables. The iridescent turquoise lobster tanks and illuminated frames of drawings of fish hanging on the walls serve as a constant reminder of why you came here — for the seafood.
The menu at the new Oceana is considered a bit more “approachable” than the culinary spectacle of the former. The dishes still maintain the same dedication to the best seafood the restaurant has to offer, from the delectable raw bar to the fresh lobsters to the whole fish cooked precisely to order. The pristine seafood towers looked like quite a feast, and would appeal to corporate types with expense accounts all over. The oyster selection changes daily, and consists of at least six varieties from the usual East and West coast waters. We started with a tomato gazpacho-esque amuse-bouche, and proceeded to devour multiple mini-loaves of the delicious freshly baked bread as we waited for our meal. For appetizers, we tried the Manhattan Clam Chowder and the Octopus à la Plancha. As we were not too hungry, we decided to share several main courses family-style, including the Taro Wrapped Dorade, North Atlantic Skate and the Grilled Pacific White Sturgeon.
Just a note: Portions here are considerably smaller than the super-sized plates you get at the typical Midtown steak and seafood houses.
Oceana’s ambiance and space has every essential checked off for your typical Midtown business power meal epicenter. The service is efficient and accommodating; I asked the server what the origins of a particular tea were and although she did not know, she went to find the answer for me, and that is always appreciated. Everything about Oceana appears to be deserving of a Michelin star… with the exception of the food. In general, the main courses were lacking, despite the Asian fusion twists. I wanted to try the more adventurous culinary craftings; however, I think it is probably best to stick to the classics: the Raw Bar and simple whole fish selections. During my meal, I did particularly enjoy the bread, Manhattan Clam Chower, Octopus a la Plancha, and the Slow Roasted Peach Butter Cake dessert. All of Pastry Chef Chan’s dessert creations looked quite decadent and worth saving some room.
Sourdough Baguette and Ciabatta Bread
Chilled Tomato Soup with Crispy Croutons
Refreshing and tasty. “Well, it’s certainly is amuse-ing.” – Chandler
Ninigret Cup (RI) and Kusshi (BC)
When it comes to oysters, I think bigger is better! Ninigret Cups are a new favorite of mine, along with Fanny Bays
Manhattan Clam Chowder with linguiça sausage, potato, thyme
Light but hearty soup full of juicy clams with a smoky sausage flavor
Octopus á la Plancha with asian style herb vinaigrette, ramp puree
Favorite dish at Oceana: Succulent sauteed octopus with an Asian flair
Chilled North Atlantic Skate with marinated zucchini salad, chili-fennel vinaigrette
Mixed on the skate as I am not a fan, but Natalya liked it. However, I did love the zucchini salad and the vinaigrette was delicious
Grilled Pacific White Sturgeon with sicilian style baby eggplant
I felt the sturgeon was a bit overcooked, but enjoyed the eggplant
Taro Wrapped Dorade with baby bok choy, long beans, peanuts, coconut cilantro curry
The best of the main courses — the unique crispy taro wrap went quite well with the flaky Dorade fish
Wild Mushrooms with fresh herbs
Very fresh and zesty mushrooms
Tomato Risotto with cherry tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano, oregano
This side sounds a lot more intriguing than it tastes… a bit too mushy with a Chef Boyardee tomato sauce flavor… pass
Slow Roasted Peach Butter Cake with raspberry fool, croissant ice cream
Spectacular dessert! The slow roasted peaches on top of a butter cake melted in your mouth and the croissant-flavored ice cream also had crispy bits of croissant embedded in it for a unique buttery taste
Dulce de Leche and Chocolate Ice Cream Pops in cookie crumbs
Mutan White Tea
This white tea is primarily produced in the Fujian province of China (southeastern coast); the leaves are greenish-brown with silver tips