The Oceanaire Seafood Room
1300 Nicollet Mall
Restaurant Week is upon us, so we took the opportunity to visit a place we probably wouldn’t otherwise. Everyone has raved about Oceanaire — from the excellent seafood to a stunning atmosphere — but we were only mildly impressed.
From the moment we walk in, the atmosphere is abuzz. It is much more lively and energetic than we expected, and it feels as though we have arrived just in time for the party. Large post-work dinner groups and a handful of couples saturate the large dining areas, not a free table in sight. We’re glad we took the time to book a reservation, but feel slightly cramped at the table we’re given. Jim’s chair is shifted countless times by hustling wait staff weaving throughout the tables, and I feel an urge to lean to the right every time a waiter sprints from the kitchen so I am not in the way as he dashes to his next table.
The prix fixe is the reason we are here. It does look tasty, and allows us to try multiple specialties for a set cost. The waitress does what she can to lure us toward multiple regular menu items, but we stand firm and she realizes it’s a losing battle. We order intending to split each course to try a little of everything, and enjoy an iced vegetable platter and massive bread loaf to tide us over until the first course arrives.
First course: The clam chowder has rich flavor and spot-on balance between cream and broth, and is more filling than the tiny cup would have you believe. Our waitress does convince us to try the crab cake (yes, singular). “These are what we’re known for,” she raved. “They are absolutely spectacular — unbelievable.” Perhaps because crab cakes are the one item we have perfected in our own kitchen, it didn’t stun us. The cake is surprisingly moist with great flavor, but is not nearly worth the $16 Oceanaire charges for one.
Second course: The Star Prairie Farms Trout Amandine is served tail-on, lightly battered, and topped with almonds. Very simple, but equal in tenderness and crunch. Chef’s Grilled Australian Barramundi is our favorite of the two. The hefty fillet is settled in a hot sour broth atop glass noodles and surrounded by mushrooms, greens and miniature shrimp. Flavor is uniquely tangy, yet expertly paired with the dish’s components.
Dessert arrives, and we tacitly decide to eat our own – no splitting, but for a small taste of the other’s choice. Jim cuts into a thick chocolate brownie doused in chocolate sauce, topped with vanilla ice cream, and completed with a cherry. My caramel-smothered banana bread pudding arrives plated next to a scoop of ice cream and a caramelized banana, and takes control of my fork until I nearly polish it off. Thankfully, we’ll walk home to help it all settle.
The atmosphere? Sophisticated yet friendly. The food? Fresh and enjoyable. The prices? Ridiculously high. We’re glad we experienced The Oceanaire Seafood Room, but it’s slightly overrated. We both agreed — we’d only be back if someone else was paying.
RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Ambiance/Environment: ♠♠ 1/2
Menu Selection: ♠♠♠
Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠♠
Total bill: $80 (two $30 prix fixe + iced tea + tip)