OceanaireReview of Oceanaire

We found Oceanaire by accident. It looked like a 1950s moderne fish house dropped down in downtown Seattle. We stepped inside and the dark wood was 1950s moderne as well. We asked to see a menu. It was also 1950s moderne. There were lots of different kinds of fish, lots of different kinds of oysters, lots of different preparations and lots of wonderful classics like Oysters Financiere, Clams Casino, Asparagus Gribiche, Fish and Chips, Tuna Burgers, King Crab Legs, and Crab Louis.

We sat down for a late lunch. Oceanaire serves all afternoon, so you can just drop in and eat. The waiter put a metal dish full of herring, pickled peppers, cherry tomatoes, celery, radishes and other goodies on our table. There was also some excellent sourdough bread and good butter. It was more than just 1950s moderne. This was a good honest, old fashioned seafood house.

We started out with the Caesar salad. While they didn't throw it together at the table, it did have a good mix of egg and anchovie and lots of crisp romaine lettuce. We moved on to the fried oyster poor boy sandwich. This was an great rendition, true comfort food. We also had the fish tacos with a spicy chili rub, corn tortillas, black beans and avocado salsa. In all, very satisfying.

Oceanaire is not trendy. They are not trying to impress with exotic ingredients or preparations. Oceanaire does the classics, and they do them right!

Since our first visit we've tried the fried oysters in several styles, creole, mock Mexican, and on a wonderful fried fish platter with fried shrimp, fish, scallops and fries. We loved the rich skate wing with brown butter, capers and a true layer of toasted pine nuts. This, like many of the dishes here, was quite rich. Possibly the deadliest dish we have tried was the celeriac carbonara, shredded celery root served with an extremely rich carbonara sauce.

Not all their food is that deadly, but it is all delicious. We love the mahi mahi in a green curry sauce wrapped in a banana leaf, the seared ahi tuna with wasabi and pickled ginger, and the roast salmon with an olive and bread crumb crust. We also love the sides, the mustard greens, the spinach with garlic and oil, and of course, the french fries. We often have the french fries as our appetizer. Why let them get cold.

The menu can be overwhelming, but it is hard to go wrong. Oceanaire is fun. You can finally order all those things you read about in those old Family Circle magazines and Time Life cookbooks, and they are even better than their faded color pictures would lead you to believe.

We will warn you that the portions are huge. This is a time honored fish house tradition, not part of the supersizing of America. Still, we usually leave supersized.

If you plan carefully, and exercise will power, you may find you have room for dessert. Once again, welcome to the time warp. Go for the brownie with vanilla ice cream, macadamia nuts AND caramel sauce. Are you starting to pick up a note of excess here? How about the real Southern comfort, blackberry and apple crisp, a la mode? They even have baked alaska, a sadly neglected dish, possibly due to fire laws.

So, don't come to Oceanaire to be surprised. Come to be fed. Come to be comforted. Everything is familiar, but better, making Oceanaire a sort of magical place out of time.

Review: 29 January 2004

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