Talking about fresh seafood, The Oceanaire execs really did their research when setting out to create a concept for the restaurant. The Vice President of Cuisine explains, "When we created The Oceanaire concept we dined out at all the important seafood restaurants across the country and what we came away with is that there are a lot great seafood restaurants and there are a lot of great restaurants that offer seafood." So The Oceanaire execs decided to take the best of both worlds and combine them to create an environment where people felt comfortable, much like a steakhouse ambience which featured seafood. According to Wiestling, it's not just any seafood, but "the freshest seafood you can find in your market." That's not always the easiest thing to do, but it's very important to the standard of quality The Oceanaire has come to represent.
In a time when "sustainability" has become a type of buzz word, The Oceanaire has been been following this standard of sustainability for over a decade. Respect for the ocean and its many sources of life emanates from Wiestling's voice as he explains "...the fact of the matter is seafood is primarily a wild species and it's a hunted species and you can't just keep taking it and taking it. You can't just up the production of it when supplies get low." Contrary to the country's poultry and beef supply, where upping production can be done rather easily.
Wiestling admits he thinks the word "sustainability" is an over-used term; nonetheless, he does appreciate the awareness of consumers being raised. The Oceanaire goes so far as to show its customers how, when and where their food is coming from. "We like to pedigree that on our menus... so that we can zero in on who caught it, where it came from, and how long it's been out in the water. All that is information our guests like to learn about..." he explains.
With 12 locations nationwide, The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Baltimore's Inner Harbor East is just one of the loops in the chain of success for this fine-dining seafood franchise. On MCCN's visit to the Baltimore location, Executive Chef John Taylor was just getting comfortable after a week on the job, newly transferring from Boston's Oceanaire restaurant to his new top chef duties. Chef Taylor urged my dining partner and I to put ourselves in his hands and we were not disappointed. First bringing forth offerings of fresh oysters, giving insight on each one presented. Did you know that oysters found in the Atlantic region have a saltier taste while those in the Pacific region are sweeter? That's seafood trivia straight from Chef Taylor.
After the oysters came the salad with spinach lettuce, figs, prosciutto, blue cheese kissed with a white balsamic vinaigrette. It was amazing, fresh, and inspired. In talking to Chef Taylor, his secret was uncovered—he's a bit of a romanticist. His midwest roots are very dear to him and are the inspiration behind some of his cuisine. He also likes his menu to reflect the season.
Entree number one was an Alaskan Halibut with butternut squash, Italian pancetta with an apple cider base. How's that for reflecting the autumn season? Plated on top of the butternut squash, the halibut was nothing short of exceptional and hearty as well. I'm not a huge fan of squash, but I did enjoy this butternut squash, which reminded me of roasted potatoes.
The next entree incorporated a multicultural flair. Sea Bass served in a Dashi broth with bonito flakes, shitake mushrooms, miso glaze and pickled cucumber. This is not for the faint of heart. If you are used to going into a restaurant and having your sea bass taste a certain way, I wouldn't recommend this. This is really for a more adventurous person who likes to explore new or different tastes. The miso glaze is grilled on the top of the sea bass to give it its lightly crusted texture and on top of that encrusting is a dollop of the creamy miso glaze along with the garnish of pickled cucumber. If you don't like the creamy sauce, this dish is not going to do anything for you; however, the sea bass is thick and meaty and the flavor is enjoyable on its own.
During MCCN's visit Executive Chef John Taylor also prepared a smokey flavored wild mushroom risotto plus a maple syrup infused acorn squash with cranberries and a dessert of Baked Alaska (all pictured below). For more information about The Oceanaire Seafood Room and is 12 locations, visit their website: http://www.theoceanaire.com/