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Very Good Service at Oceana

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Very Good Service at Oceana

cabrales | Nov 4, 2003 08:59 AM

I dined at Oceana recently -- my first visit. While the cuisine is not particularly to my tastes, there could be viewed a culinary appropriateness to it. There's a certain appropriateness of technique to the cuisine.

Significantly, the service was very good by US standards and that enhanced the evening considerably. For reasons on which I will not elaborate and in a stark departure from my normal practices, my two dining companions and I did not order any wine or bottled water. We ordered three three-course prix-fixes ($68 each). That was all we ordered, except for my little cup of espresso. Yet the service was as **solicitous** as ever, and we were never made to feel less than entirely valued as guests. An informed and respectful dining room leadership. Even the bus parties in the dining room were more courteous than in most US restaurants.

The decor of the restaurant is also interesting, being intended to mimic an ocean liner from both the outside and inside. Inside, the roof was tilted in the manner that a ship would be, and the sides of the long restaurant resembled those of a ship, complete with paintings of outdoor ocean scenes (akin to La Cote Basque, but mimicking more an oceanliner landscape and more modern and soothing).

Onto the cuisine. A trio of amuses, that included (1) mini (yes, even by gougere standards) gougere with speck, (2) a pumpkin-tasting kohlrabi veloute served in a shotglass, and (3) a small piece of trout, which tasted fatty and somewhat like salmon.

(1) Salad of Jonah Crab, Piquillo Pepper in Textures, Avocado & Iced Nine Herb Veloute

Too aggressive for my tastes, but then that is a common comment I have at US restaurants. A circular mound of shredded Jonah crab (fresh), surrounded by a distinct-tasting avocado-veloute that had been significantly transformed from basic avocado. I tasted the sensations of grapeseed oil or argan (sp) oil, but those were likely not in the dish. The piquillo peppers were presented as small red tiny balls, surrounding the central crab presentation.

(The Robuchon "spun" pasta app was not available, sadly)

(2) Loup de Mer en Croûte. Basmati Rice, Coconut, Coriander & Glazed Bok Choy, Essence of Tamarind and Wasabi

This is apparently the chef's signature dish, inspired by a Gray Kuntz creation. It is well executed, although the seasoning was not to my subjective tastes. I could see other diners who do not prefer very subtle cuisine liking this dish much more than I did. Unlike the Bocuse loup en croute, in which the entire fish is cooked in a pastry shell that is patterned to look like a fish, this was the bass "attached" to a thin, nicely deep-fried layer of toasty crunchiness. The effect resembled to some extent the deep-fried "shrimp toast" (with a thin piece of toast) one finds at certain Chinese dim sums, but more refined of course. This piece of fish was presented lengthwise in fillet, and its cooking was appropriate. It sat on top of the rice and small sections of softened bok choy. The tamarind and wasabi were well-integrated, I'd have to admit with each other.

(3) Sorbets -- Coconut, mango, grape (likely Concorde), passionfruit, chocolate (which I did not taste, of course) and raspberry small scoops were served on a clear "artists' palette"-mimic plate. They tasted better than most sorbets I've had in NY, particularly the coconut with respect to texture. Nice touch of two "paintbrushes" fashioned from meringue with brown colored (meringue?) tips.

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