And, while you're there you can pre-order my board game, which I saw for first time last Thursday. Bizarre is a superb way to spend time with pals, BSing your way around the world . . . kind of what I do all the time on the road. But I don’t BS about food I eat.
I hope you enjoy!
I went to Oceanaire the other evening. What a shock. I was expecting a big crowd, but there wasn’t one. I thought the changeover to Landry Restaurants as the parent company wouldn’t be any more apparent than the last time I ate there. Wrong. There’s still same smiling attentive staff, perhaps a little too fawning, but I get it. Everything we tasted and attempted to taste was fraught with issues. First, why no herring on the relish tray, and why all the pieces of vegetable from mainline food service companies in the height of harvest season at an expensive restaurant that boasts of its "fresh factor"? Half of them were bruised or rotten . . . or cut last week. I can tell a nasty old food service carrot or celery stick from a mile away. That’s inexcusable at that price point and with its concept and POV.
My wife’s bib lettuce salad was made twice, and still wasn’t right and tasted awful. That sweet vinaigrette with pimiento in it was anything but good and the Granny Smith apple was another affront to local seasonalism at its core. Clams Casino had a prefab taste and according to our server, it was “made and prepped ahead of time,” which was confirmed when I tried to order some raw, on the half shell. I get that. You don’t want to be shucking for a broiled clam dish to order in a busy restaurant on a weekend, but my clams tasted like they had been made way too long ago and were tough and rubbery, a near impossibility if the clams are fresh. They actually tasted like they had been precooked before being stuffed. That’s how firm they were. Ouch.
The oysters I had were from fisheries that have spawning issues right now so the oysters were creamy or flaccid. Hey, if that’s the case, don’t sell them! Not a big deal to limit your selection, but in September there are loads of great managed oyster beds to choose from. At almost $3 a piece, you owe it to your customer to order smart and sell smart. Ditto on how you serve them. If someone tells me when I specifically ask about size, etc., that the oysters are medium sized with a deep cup, well, they better be. They weren’t.
Mussels were old and dried and only two mussels out of the two dozen in my bowl even filled out the shell when steamed. The crab cake was undersized, tasted old, and was not the bursting at the seams jumbo lump beauty that used to be served there with regularity. My wife and I split a lobster . . . a big one . . . and at $26 a pound it was expensive. No problem there at all, we showed up with both eyes open. But don’t serve me a molting “soft shell” lobster at that size and price point. Are you kidding me?
For years this restaurant was a reliable go-to eatery for our family, a place with at the very least, great tasting, fresh, simply prepared seafood. Not anymore. The building was depressing to walk into, the halls are lonely without Manny’s there, and the food was subpar. Beyond that, as a 30 year veteran of the food biz (holy s**t, I am almost 50!), I can tell you with utmost assurance that despite what anyone tells me in defense of the place, the parent company messed with the winning formula for this particular location to adjust for the new business plan that is saving the company from bankruptcy problems.
Less is not more in the luxury seafood restaurant side of the restaurant world. I have old friends who work there too . . . in the kitchen, front desk, and on the floor as servers. I feel sorriest for them, having to show up each night, remembering how great this place once was. I think the world of Rick and his team in the kitchen and I have to assume that some sort of velvet handcuffs are on the place right now because they know better than what I saw arrive on the plate the other night. That being said, communication would have solved half the problems I encountered.
Anyone else eat there recently?