Oceana, NYC 3

November 12, 2009

We had not been back to Oceana for a year and a half, even though our two previous visits led me to declare it the best seafood restaurant in NYC. This had followed two mediocre meals at Le Bernardin, which, since then, has redeemed itself for us with two excellent meals. Oceana recently left its charming, quiet, but somewhat cramped townhouse on East 54th Street for a new location on 49th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. Linda and I went there for dinner on November 10, 2009, encouraged by its retaining its Michelin star in the just released 2010 edition. Due to the move, Zagats has suspended Oceana‘s rating and third place ranking in NYC seafood restaurants in the 2010 edition.

We were shocked on entering. Before us was a marble raw shellfish bar and an ordinary cocktail bar with televisions above. We couldn’t tell how loud the TVs were as loud disco beat music permeated everything.

We resisted an impulse just to leave with the idea that the dining room in the back would be calm. It wasn’t. Disco with an insistant thumping bass beat was on loudspeakers everywhere. The enormous dining room was filled with a mostly expense account crowd trying to talk loud enough to be heard. We sat at a table at the far end with the private dining rooms behind us. We could see the busy open kitchen off to the right.

Linda ordered a glass of Louis Roederer “Brut Premier” NV. I had a glass of Avinyo Cava, which was surprisingly good. An amuse-gueule of a little glass of thin lobster bisque with a fines-herbes cream arrived.

We looked at the menu, which had the same format and some of the same dishes as before, but was just à la carte, the three-course $78 prix fixe having been dropped. We ordered a bottle of 2008 Alban Vineyards Viognier which was very good. 

Linda started with 
Garganelli Pasta
smoked shrimp, cranberry beans, pancetta

Only one of three shrimps had good, smoked flavor; the other two were mushy. The pancetta gave the dish some interest as the other ingredients were bland.

My first course was
Seafood sausage stuffed calamari
wilted greens, herb vinaigrette

The grilled calimari were very good. The ground seafood stuffing was in the background, which was fine as it provided some substance and let the grilling of the calimari dominate.

Linda went on to 
Arctic Char à la Plancha
sautéed root vegetables, cranberry-apple coulis

Linda thought that her char was very pedestrian and that the cranberries did not go well with it. The “seasonal” root vegetables were just some shredded squash and a little carrot: boring.

My main course was
Taro wrapped pompano
baby bok choy, long beans, peanuts, coconut cilantro curry

The fish was quite dry and with little flavor despite having been cooked wrapped in taro. But the sauce was exotic and that is what one tasted.

We finished with the mignardises, nice little peanut butter and chocolate chilled lollipops.

I don’t think I have ever seen a transformation of the ambience of a restaurant as dramatic as this, although the recent similar move of Aureole comes close. I imagine that the new Oceana will make tons of money for the Livanos family, but we will not be back.


The see our last blogpost on Oceana, before the transformation, click here.

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