This week Ocean Prime in Dallas held a media dinner to promote its new summer menu. Prior to attending, I knew its a steakhouse. I knew that the decor was upscale. But there were lots of things that I did not know. For instance, Ocean Prime placed third on D Magazine’s 20 top steakhouses in 2011. It also has about as many seafood dishes on its menu as it does meat. And, very importantly, Ocean Prime changes its menu seasonally.
The menu we tasted at our set dinner had been well chosen to highlight what Ocean Prime customers keep coming back for. Even the restaurant’s most popular dish, filet mignon, was in our meal – but more of that later. We started with Mayflower Oysters served family style with cocktail sauce. They were fresh and briny, a perfectly measured start. Also, Prince Edward Island (PEI to those who like their food named after airport codes) Mussels in a creamy broth were also light and suited to the season. Luckily, the assembled hacks had an aversion to mussels per se, so I picked up the bowl and slurped down the broth before it was removed, single-handedly preventing waste and increasing sustainability (I felt sustained). Despite being good, neither of these dishes could approach the level of something I had on my last visit to the restaurant – the chilled crab meat cocktail ($17). Quite the most opulent crab experience I have had in this town.
A crisp wedge of iceberg (with red onion, smoked bacon, grape tomatoes, bleu cheese and Cabernet buttermilk dressing) will satisfy the most ardent steakhouse salad lover. I was full of anticipation for the lobster bisque. I make this dish, so I have a deep respect for all
restaurants that go through the three stage process of stock-velouté-soup to make the same. Ocean Prime’s version is a Laura Ashley take on the idea – all oodles of heavy cream with masses of lobster meat submerged in its silky depths. This bisque was yellow, whereas mine usually comes out a rusty brown on account of it being made from cannibalized shells. One inventive extra: execuchef Sonny Pache drops a sweet corn fritter in the middle, forestalling any texture monotony by providing crispness on demand. This is one of best lobster bisques I have had, and I can visualize the experimentation and iterations going on in the corporate kitchen as it was being created. “No, more cream, a pint, not an ounce… Lighter on the brandy. Pile in the lobster meat…” To those who suffered in the creation, it was all worth it.
Next a crab cake, admirable for its absence of filler in lieu of the sweet meat. This is a light dish, just in case you are planning to go and wondering if you need to keep room for the main course (you do).
The main course was the restaurant equivalent of a coup d’état. We were the couped side. Chilean Sea Bass and Filet Mignon were served in the same course – the favorite and second favorite dish on the menu, on the same plate. It wasn’t that the filet was simply dressed with house made seasoning and perfectly cooked medium rare, or that the sea bass was served with glazed carrots and Champagne truffle sauce. It was the sides of tender sweet corn, creamed spinach, lobster mashed potatoes and truffled mac ‘n’ cheese that just blew us away. Each is conceived in a style that only a Russian oligarch could tire of. Just like corners at a race track are given names after famous racing drivers, you feel like these dishes should
be named after famous eaters. The Julia Childs Creamed Spinach. The Oliver Hardy Lobster Mashed Potatoes. These are not sides; they are monuments.
Just to test whether any life remained in the hacks, three house made desserts were brought out to finish us off. Blueberry lemon cheesecake, peanut butter torte and carrot cake. The latter cannot be moved any further north, or it will interfere with the flight path into Love Field, so tall is it. The sweet flavors are addictive, but maybe should be split between two as the helpings are filling.
The drinks provide a small selection of eight cocktails that nonetheless focus on fresh ingredients. The wine list is an expensive (3x times retail or more) over-Californicated cellar. There are no Viognier wines, no Chilean wines, one Argentinean, and nothing from Texas. Curiously, there is no Bordeaux. This list was chosen by headquarters and desperately needs some local input.
Ocean Prime can be found in several locations around the country. Each offers the same menu to assure the country-hopping expense account users who are lucky to frequent it of a familiar experience and exemplary service. They do source locally, as available. In the realm of Dallas destination steakhouses (a tough bunch) Ocean Prime keeps its neck well above water.