Oceanaire: seaside fair, classic spin

By Sarah Moomaw, News Correspondent

Boston’s fine dining scene is just that – fine dining. It’s extraordinary food, but at a price. And for the average college student on a tight dining budget, that often means avoiding such restaurants altogether.

But Bostonchef.com is around to change that, organizing the biannual Boston Restaurant Week that provides Bostonians and tourists a chance to eat like money doesn’t matter.

For Winter Restaurant Week, currently in progress, restaurants around Boston offer prix-fixe menus of signature dishes at standard Restaurant Week prices: Dinner is three courses for $33.10, lunch is three courses for $20.10 or two courses for $15.10.

Oceanaire Seafood Room usually goes untouched by those on restricted budgets. With entree prices on their normal menu only pennies shy of Restaurant Week’s set price, the bargain is obvious.

For the first course, Oceanaire offered three options. The taunting challenge of picking between fried calamari, clam chowder and a salad of baby greens and goat cheese is only the beginning of wishing Restaurant Week was a year-round event.

The clam chowder is loaded with clam and potatoes like any good New England-style chowder should be – slightly unexpected from the string of restaurants that started in Minneapolis, Minn. But these Midwesterners seem to have done their research.

The chowder base is creamy and thick, but does not overpower the seafood flavor or spark fear of having chosen a too-heavy first course.

The baby green salad is lightly dressed with a simple port vinaigrette, tossed with goat cheese, dried cherries and toasted pecans. The salad portion is large enough to almost be an entree, improving the value of our hard-earned pennies.

Four entree options appear on the week’s menu: Simply Grilled Bay of Fundy Salmon, Chesapeake Bay Style Lump Crab Cakes, Stuffed Chatham Yellowtail Flounder and Black Angus Flat Iron Steak Black & Bleu.

The salmon is fresh, cooked to order and comes out a perfect medium, delivered moist and light pink. Drizzled with an aged balsamic vinegar and topped with a Mediterranean mix of veggies, the portion includes leftovers for lunch the next day – a college student’s favorite discovery.

Two crab cakes comes out of the kitchen standing tall and large, with a two-inch diameter, lightly golden brown. In true Chesapeake Bay-style fashion only the smallest amount of filler, which usually consists of breadcrumbs, egg and/or mustard and traditional seafood seasonings, was used to hold the cake together. The crab looked, and tasted, freshly picked from the shell with large lumps of crab.

Different than most restaurants, side dishes are a la carte, meaning they don’t come with the entree. Conveniently, the portions of entrees are large enough not to need them when paired with a first and third course. The side dishes range in price on the dinner menu as they are served family style for the table to share.

The baked macaroni and cheese side dish is made with parmesan, asiago and fontina that creates a melted mesh of cheese-turned-sauce. Packed into a baking dish, topped with breadcrumbs and baked until golden brown, it has a crunchy top that seals in the melted cheeses and elbow noodles.

Saving room for dessert is always the trick to the prix-fixe menu. Another three options take their turn at causing an agony only resolvable by consumption.

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are served with milk for those looking for a lighter dessert option that the New York cheesecake with seasonal berries. The cookies are gooey in the middle, with a light crunch on the outside – perfect for dunking in a classic glass of milk, absorbing just enough without turning into a mushy mess.

The cheesecake is crust-less and snow white in color, making the seasonal berries and sauce quite a visual contrast. The sweet berry sauce tastes like pureed berries – slightly thick and frothy like a melted smoothie, contrasting the savory cheesiness with a natural sweetness.

Oceanaire is located at 40 Court St., Boston. Accessible by the Green and Orange MBTA lines. Restaurant Week runs from March 14 to 19 and 21 to 26. All participating restaurants and menus are listed on Restaurantweekboston.com.

Leave a Reply