The Oceanaire Seafood Room
1700 7th Avenue
Seattle WA 98101
Fresh and Tasty Meets Classic Era Style
By: Bryan R
There's a lot not to like about the 1950's. The racism, the H-bomb fanaticism, doo-wop-they're all chapters of our history we'd rather leave behind. On the other hand, the 50s also had some positive aspects such as the advancement of the modern computer, the civil rights movement and old fashion cruise liners that traveled the high seas. Today it's a little sad; unless you hop on a mega cruise ship, it's hard to relive the experiences of the old-fashioned ocean liners. But you can get a little taste of it at Oceanaire, if you'll forgive the pun
Oceanaire, located in downtown Seattle, offers premium seafood in a setting reminiscent of an vintage ocean liner. By combining subtle maritime-themed details, just the right layout, and a touch of art deco styling here and there, Oceanaire gracefully builds the impression that you've just been zipped decades back in time and are about to enjoy a meal while steaming across the Atlantic. It's a pleasant, unpretentious environment that successfully avoids being kitschy or blatantly themed. Little details, such as the curvy, brown leather booths and the large, sweeping bar with street side views made a wonderful impression. Granted, at times Oceanaire shows its chain-restaurant roots, but those moments are forgivable, especially in light of the many succulent dishes on the menu.
While the ambiance was thoughtful, the service was particularly outstanding. Our server, a friendly and exceptionally knowledgeable chap, provided us with a great many recommendations. He pointed out the many freshly caught options and even suggested the best way to prepare each particular fish (maybe I'm a bit of a nerd, but I always enjoy learning a little bit of background about the food I'm about to enjoy). It's rare and refreshing to be served by such knowledgeable staff and it sticks out in my mind as some of the best service I've experienced.
I really liked Oceanaire's retro, art deco style dcor. For anyone who has played the game Bioshock, Oceanaire will look eerily similar to a place called "Rapture", before all of the madness ensued. The only thing that could have made it complete would have been to hear Bobby Darin's rendition of "Beyond the Sea".
The sake black cod came with no frills or extras, but it was very delicious and nearly melted in my mouth when it hit the tip of my tongue. The sake flavor really came through, as did that smooth milky taste you get from eating black cod. Some people might complain that everything is la carte, but I didn't mind, especially since the quality of fish was so high.
In terms of sides, we wholeheartedly agreed with the server when he said, "Add bacon to anything and it becomes all the more delicious." Usually Brussels sprouts are one of those dishes that kids and sometimes even grown-ups try to avoid, but the Brussel sprouts with bacon were quite delightful. Maybe it was the bacon, or maybe the fact that they used fresh brussel sprouts, but I couldn't get enough of these little things.
On the other hand, the garlic mashed potatoes didn't make quite as positive an impression on me as the other dishes. There were a lot of things right with them, such as the hand-mashed preparation with evident lumps and garlic directly mixed in, though its yellow tint did put me off a little. The presentation of the potatoes in a Matterhorn-shaped mound was great, but the taste was pretty much standard. I'd recommend going with something else unless you must absolutely order potatoes.
At the Oceanaire, everything is la carte so it's typical to order a main dish for yourself while ordering several side dishes to share with your party. The side dishes are generous and it's easy to get a little over-ambitious (between two of us, we shared two sides and had plenty to take home!). For my main plate, I opted for the Sturgeon Special which included a generous fillet covered in a rich, buttery mushroom sauce with equally good kale on the side. Mild and with a subtle sweetness, it was quickly apparent why our server referred to the sturgeon as "lobster fish". Like halibut, the texture of the fish was firm and dense which may explain why the contrasting sauce was a light and buttery affair. It was easily one of the best fish dinners I've had in the last several years.
For side dishes, Steve and I split the garlic mashed potatoes ($7.95) and the Brussels sprouts with bacon ($8.95). Although I had high hopes for the garlic mashed potatoes, I was a little disappointed. I wanted a buttery, garlic-y, savory mountain of potatoes. Instead, the dish only had a slight garlic taste (at least according to my taste buds) and a slightly rough, peppery aftertaste. The Brussels sprouts were another matter entirely. Like most people, my first encounter with The Sprouts didn't go down well and for the last 20 years, I've kept my distance. But recently, I decided to give them another go and have never looked back. When picked fresh Brussels sprouts are not bitter whatsoever and instead, have a clean, refreshing taste. And at Oceanaire, they mixed fresh, tasty sprouts with butter (or maybe it was bacon fat?) and the magic ingredient: bacon. Combined, these flavors produced a salty and fatty dish that closely reminded me of the heart-stopping buttered cabbage dishes I've enjoyed during the holidays. It's an easy recommendation.