So let’s see, what have I been doing these past four weeks?
Wrapping up my job in Orange County while finishing up a major project. Searching for a my OC replacement. Preparing for my new job in San Diego.
Yeah, it’s been busy. Heck-of-a stressful month. Some days, I found myself not eating all day. I used to wonder how can someone forget to eat? Well, it happened to me. Sometimes two consecutive days. When it was all over, how does one celebrate?
On Friday, I made my second visit to Oceanaire. The first visit was memorable and a celebration for something else two years ago. And upon finishing up Bravo’s Top Chef last week, I made it a point to visit Oceanaire, home of fourth place contestant Brian Malarkey.
Besides being a contestant on Top Chef, Malarkey has also been featured in San Diego Magazine and was named Chef of the Year for 2007 by the California Restaurant Association. The restaurant itself has several Best Seafood/Fine Dining awards under its belt. If you didn’t know all that already, Oceanaire reminds you with posters and postcards spread throughout the restaurant.
I guess that’s a good enough reason to visit but a tiny part of me was hoping to see him ushered around the dining area to all the patrons. But no such luck. The seafood remained the star throughout the evening.
Nothing much has changed at Oceanaire. The dining room is still reminiscent of a 1940s luxury ship with sleek red leather booths and dim lighting. And every table was still equipped with a Heinz ketchup, Old Bay seasoning and Baleine sea salt. Difference between last visit and this? The food ordered, of course.
We ordered the grand shellfish platter, an entree of opah to split between two people and hash browns (a golden, disc-shaped pile of crispy potatoes, enough to feed a small family).
The grand shellfish platter comes in two sizes: small ($36) or large ($75). The small size order consisted of several mussels, scallops, huge cocktail shrimp and three types of crab legs packed on a towering mound of ice. Oysters were substituted for more shrimp. It’s a sight when it enters the dining area with patrons gazing upon the seafood sculpture. Everything was extraordinarily fresh and the choice of four dipping sauces (garlic anoli, soy sauce infused with garlic and ginger, red wine vinegar mix and cocktail sauce) that accompanied it only heightened the appreciation of the food. The highlight for me were the scallops which were still attached to the shell.
By comparison, the hearty but delicious opah (served between risotto and tomato salsa) that followed it paled in comparison. I was already stuffed to the gills. But in true Darlene form, I still needed something sweet.
On the dessert menu are baked Alaskas (ordered last time), creme brulees and Dixie cups. The Dixie cup is vanilla ice cream packed in small styoform container with a wooden spoon (think Sunday school treat). The meal being extravagent so far, it’s refreshing to see something available for less than a dollar on the menu. It was a silly contrast to the opulance of Oceanaire, but the kitchen made the order worthwhile when it was accompanied with warm chocolate sauce served in silver tureen.
The visit to Oceanaire almost makes the stressful month worth it.
To read about my last visit to Oceanaire, click here.