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"Without the freedom to criticize, there is no worthy praise." Beaumarchais
Ocean Prime, Aventura

Address:19501 Biscayne Blvd.
Aventura Mall, suite 2029.
Phone: 305-931-5400
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri.-Sat. till 11 p.m. Sun. till 9 p.m.
Liquor: Full bar, varied wines by the glass
Wines: A good list of affordable wines
Prices: Appetizers $8-$17; entrees $24-$48; desserts $8-$10
Ambiance: Retro supper club
Service: Attentive
Credit cards: Visa, Mstr, AmEx Dis




Ocean Prime, Aventura

By Jana Soeldner Danger

Nostalgia, along with seafood and steak, are on the menu at Ocean Prime. The upscale restaurant in the Aventura Mall is reminiscent of supper clubs popular in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
This type of restaurant, which probably originated in the Midwest, generally featured fairly simple menus of American-style cuisine, and stylish yet comfortable decors. They were meant to be destinations where guests would go for an entire night of entertainment that might include cocktails, dinner, music and dancing. Ocean Prime seeks to recall those days when eating out was an anticipated occasion rather than something you did because you were too tired or just disinclined to cook at home.

The restaurant is adjacent to Nordstrom’s. It can be entered either from outside or inside the mall, and outdoor seating is available. Ocean Prime might be expected to appeal mainly to the over-30 set, but on a recent weekday evening, guests were a mix of ages that included a sizeable number of young professionals, suggesting that the restaurant bridges generations.
The nautical motif features porthole-shaped windows and a sculpted, three-dimensional mural depicting abstract ocean waves illuminated by blue lights. The centerpiece of the entry is a floor-to-ceiling wine rack.
The lounge, where there is a piano bar with live music that sometimes inspires dancing (Wednesday through Saturday evenings), has high-topped tables and soft lighting. The retro-modern décor of the dining room features tan wood wall paneling and chairs, amber lighting, spacious black leather booths, and crisp white tablecloths.
As in the heyday of supper clubs, the menu consists mainly of grilled meat and fish. The list of appetizers includes retro-classics such as shrimp cocktail and oysters on the half shell (both $16); oysters Rockefeller ($15); deviled eggs ($11); and French onion soup ($8); as well as some more contemporary offerings such as Ahi tuna tartar ($16); beef carpaccio ($14), and sweet chili calamari ($14).
Presentation is simple and straightforward without fancy embellishments. Although the menu offers a good variety of fish, shellfish, and cuts of meat, most of the preparations are pretty much the same: seasoned grilling, then finished with a choice of a la carte sauces. One section of the menu is devoted to what are called chef’s specialties, however, and here preparations are more diverse. While appetizer and entrée prices are not exceptionally high for a place of this type, nearly everything else, including potatoes, vegetables, and sauces, is a la carte, which can quickly drive up the cost of a meal.
Dinner begins with warm, crusty bread brought to the table almost immediately, and service is attentive throughout the meal. The wine list offers a generous selection by the glass.

Starters

Shrimp sauté ($17), which the menu lists as the house signature appetizer, consisted of very fresh, lightly grilled shrimp served with a flavorful, mildly spicy sauce made with cream, Parmesan cheese, and a bit of Tabasco. The accompanying salty cheese toast was tasty, and good for sopping up extra sauce. This was a very pleasing dish that was spicy but not so hot the delicate flavor of the shrimp was lost. We would definitely order it again.
Goat cheese ravioli with mushrooms ($12) was also delicious. The perfectly el-dente pasta was plump with plenty of tangy goat cheese, and accented with colorful sun-dried tomatoes. The buttery white wine sauce, fragrant with garlic and lemon, was balanced and flavorful, but there were few mushrooms in the dish.

Entrees

Chilean sea bass ($37) was outstanding. The thick filet, lightly seasoned with a mix of salt, white and cayenne peppers, thyme, and onion powder, was seared on the outside to a very delicate crispness. The interior flesh was fresh and firm, and as flaky as a perfect croissant. A sauce of butter, champagne, and truffle oil was an ideal costar, and circles of glazed carrots added bursts of color and sweetness.
A New York strip steak ($42) was thick, tender and juicy, and cooked exactly to our medium-rare order. The à la carte green peppercorn and cognac sauce ($3) was a nice addition, but not necessary to the enjoyment of the meat.
A side of jalapeño potatoes au gratin ($10) had plenty of spice, but it was too heavy on the cheese, and the texture was a bit mushy.

Desserts

Crème brûlée ($9) was rich and creamy, with a crispy caramelized crust that tasted of toasted marshmallow and sweet, plump raspberries and blackberries which also added a taste of summer to an unctuous blueberry lemon cheesecake ($9) Other desserts include retro classics like baked Alaska ($10) carrot cake ($9); and chocolate peanut butter pie ($9).

To submit information and tips for this column, please e-mail to: editor@southfloridagourmet.com
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