Last Tuesday, between Catholic Channel shows, my friend Joe and I decided to grab a bite to eat at Oceana Restaurant on West 49th Street. The restaurant is a jewel in the crown of the Livanos Restaurant Group. The restaurant, which has stood the test of time in the temperamental NYC food scene, has been consistently ranked one of NYC’s top restaurants. It has garnered a Michelin star each year since 2006, which is no small feat.
Oceana’s executive chef is Ben Pollinger. He is a Jersey boy, who I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the years. And in my book, he is one of NYC’s best chefs, especially after the dinner we had. When we first arrived at Oceana it was just before dinner service, so we decided to grab a drink at the bar. I had a chipotle margarita. It was really easy drinking and refreshing, even on a freezing cold November day. The chipotle flavor was very subtle. It lent a smokiness to the margarita minus the heat.
Joe and I split a bunch of appetizers. We started with the roast pumpkin salad, which had grilled octopus, toasted almonds, and an apple cider vinaigrette. If you love octopus, this preparation was top notch. Many times, you go to a restaurant and order the octopus and what you get is closer to bubble gum. This octopus was excellent. I’m a pumpkin fanatic, especially this time of year.
We also ordered the Hudson Valley Foie Gras terrine, which was served with grilled brioche, braised pineapple, and Meyer lemon jam. I am a sucker for foie gras. This terrine did not disappoint. The combo of the foie gras terrine with the jam on the buttery grilled brioche was ethereal.
Chef Ben sent us a few plates to try, including the house made chestnut tagliatelle with bay scallops, bluefoot mushrooms, cranberries, and sage; and black sea bass crudo topped with roasted red peppers, blood orange, basil, and smoked paprika vinaigrette. Both plates were spot on. The chestnut tagliatelle was spot on. The bay scallops were sweet, which complimented the woodsiness of the bluefoots. The black sea bass crudo was super fresh. I really loved the flavor of the smoked paprika vinaigrette. Smoked paprika is one of my favorite spices. It adds a natural smokiness.
Joe and I both ordered the smoked salmon Reuben, which came highly recommended by both Chef Ben and the bartender. The house smoked salmon was topped with melted cheese and house fermented sauerkraut served on top of house made sourdough bread with house made kosher dill pickles. This is one instance where fish & cheese are perfect together. The smoked salmon was deliciously smokey. It reminded me a bit like lox. The sauerkraut was excellent. It was crunchy and flavorful. This dish may be the best restaurant dish I’ve eaten in the last few months.
Believe it or not, this was my first time dining at Oceana Restaurant, but it will not be my last. I definitely have to take my wife with me next time. If you love seafood done right then you must also visit Oceana Restaurant.
Pax et bonum,
Anthony “Tony Mangia” Scillia