January 20, 2007

I went to my first ever “media event” on Thursday night to enjoy the cooking of Oceanaire’s new executive chef, Eric Donnelly. It was a lot of fun — kind of like an enormous free sample.

We’ll get to the food, but first I want to explain my newbie perspective on the whole concept of a “media event”. As I understand it, the restaurant invites various important food writers (and me), pours vast quantities of wine, serves ludicrous amounts of food, and sends everyone home buzzed, stuffed and happy to write glowing articles. It seems like a good strategy for the restaurant.

With that in mind, here goes.

The restaurant has a titanic space — meaning both that the room is enormous and that the decor is reminiscent of a turn of the century cruise boat. The food started off beautifully. I like eating food that I wouldn’t or couldn’t make at home, and the heaping tray of Oysters Rockefeller, the clams topped with bacon, and the escargot hit an easy triple. Normally I hate oysters, don’t particularly like clams, and I’d never tried a snail. Amazingly, shockingly, all three of these were delicious. The escargot, for those who like me have been too squeamish to try, was in a little dish of butter and garlic and topped with a miniature puffed pastry. The texture was a little unusual, but it worked.

The same starter tray included prawns and crabs in the shell. These were a little bland, but seeing big crab legs sticking out of the ice added to the general sense of decadence.

Next came the salads. Everything was served “family style”, which is a code word meaning, “more than any table could possibly consume without rupture”. The caesar salad was nice, good anchovies, but unexceptional. The bibb lettuce with walnuts and pears was better.

I have a confession. Past this point in the meal, I’d had far too much wine to be able to give an accurate accounting of the food. The problem is that the attentive waiters never let the glass get less than half full. I had to rely on my own wine-soaked judgment to determine how much I’d already had. That’s asking too much of my judgment.

The striped Atlantic sea bass was simply prepared, as was the Oregon “Kobe” beef with mushrooms. In both cases the ingredients were fresh and good, but all in all nothing to write home about (though apparently worth blogging about). For an event expressly designed to showcase the chef’s unique artistic creations, I was left a little disappointed.

The meal concluded with an assortment of desserts and schmoozing, both very sweet.

My one regret is that like an idiot I forgot to bring my camera. I saw Ron of Cornichon happily clicking away, so I’m sure you can see great images on his blog.

Oceanaire Seafood Room on Urbanspoon

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