A whiff of perfume that reminds you of your mother. A song that transports you back to high school. The sound of tires crunching on gravel that takes you back to a favorite summertime vacation spot. And on a rare and special occasion, there’s the nostalgia for a place that you have never visited and a time when you weren’t yet born.
I’d been told that the atmosphere at the Oceanaire Seafood Room is reminiscent of a luxury cruise ship, but I wasn’t prepared to be taken back in time. My first few steps into the restaurant were to the bar area (yeah, I know, ha ha, big surprise) and I was agasp at the sight of the twenty foot high bar back drop lit with ethereal blue lights. The Oyster Bar was large and an invitingly round shape. But it was on the walk to the table when I first realized the music in the background. I always have an emotional response to Big Band music; it reminds me of my grandfather and the story of him meeting my grandmother at a swing dance in Seattle in the early forties. Glancing around I saw that the occasional stuffed fish and the beautiful deep red and overstuffed booths broke up the stark white walls. We settled at our table, the best in the house, in the middle of all the hustle.
We were immediately greeted with a relish tray of olives, pickles, cherry peppers and some sort of pickled fish. We gleefully dug into the tray while we pondered the full menu and then decided to order off of the Magical Dining Month menu (again, big surprise). Swept up with the restaurant theme, I started the night off with a Sidecar, which was absolutely delicious but horribly overpriced for a ¾ martini glass pour ($13.95). AG ordered a Singapore Sling, which arrived in a large hurricane glass and topped with a paper umbrella. I was jealous.
I had checked out the menu online and was excited to try the Rock Shrimp and Grits appetizer. I was in no way disappointed. Loaded with shrimp, the grits were creamy and delicious. The dish was finished with a peach BBQ sauce, which was tangy, spicy and sweet.
My entrée was the “Black and Bleu”, a huge portion of Wahoo encrusted with Cajun seasoning and topped with Bleu cheese. I’m always thrilled to see Wahoo on the menu; I caught one in Bermuda a few years ago. (And when I say I caught one I mean that I watched the guys catch one while I was trying not to get seasick on my Dark ‘n Stormies.) Anyhoo, I’ve never forgotten my enjoyment of that fish (which we ate later that night), so I tend to order it whenever I see it. Unfortunately my serving was overcooked and dry, but flavorful nonetheless.
As usual I was struck with order envy. M Lu got the “Katsu”, sushi grade Blue Marlin wrapped in Nori. Seared to perfection, the Nori provided the perfect crunchy contrast to the cool and sweet fish. It was served with a sweet ginger sauce and fresh watercress.
Having heard about their fabulous and generous sides, we tried the Fried Green Tomatoes. Crunchy and perfectly soft in the middle, they were served with a Sriracha Aioli that pretty much knocked my socks off.
Three desserts were offered on the Magical menu so we got one of each. Served with a homemade vanilla wafer, the Crème Brulee was creamy with a great crunch. The Cheesecake was served with a fresh and flavorful strawberry sauce, but I was disappointed with the whole sans crust thing. So it was a good thing I got the Key Lime Pie. The crust was unbelievable; buttery graham cracker crumbs stacked half an inch high. The filling was tangy, sweet and firm. Served with a touch of a barely sweetened Chantilly cream, it was the perfect ending for my meal. I even emailed my dad (the Key Lime connoisseur) that it’s worth the trip to I-Drive for this pie alone.
It’s pretty obvious that I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at the Oceanaire. I was transfixed with the details, the food and the happiness I felt just sitting there. It reminded me of a time that I had missed, when things may have been more simple. When people thought smoking was good for you. When people went to swing dances. When people sailed in luxury and sipped simple cocktails. When people dressed for dinner.
"For Improved Regularity, Add Brine to Your Diet"
Check out the website for a fun fish tutorial. And make sure your speakers are on.
Oh, and make sure you take a trip to the restrooms.