I don’t intend all my restaurant reviews to be of the Asian-fusion variety, but Chris and I had an anonymous gift card (evidence suggests it was from Chris’s bosses) to Ocean Zen, a 2006 Best of 417 winner. We also wanted to celebrate the completion of my thesis’s first working draft, so I made reservations for the hubby and I on Friday night.
We were greeted on the other side of the enormous wooden doors by friendly hosts. Our table wasn’t quite ready, so we waited in the foyer. This gave us time to take in the decor of the dining room. Another review I read referred to the interior design as having an “under the sea” theme—and not of the Little Mermaid persuasion. I really didn’t catch that theme until I read that review; the use of wood, metal, fire, and water made me think of zen-like feng shui.
But enough about the decor. I mean, as cool as it was, that’s not why we were there. The hosts seated us within ten minutes of arriving, and we had a seat right next to the kitchen in a half booth-half bar top table. Now, if we had planned a romantic dinner, this was not the ideal table; however, I happen to like being in the action, and we could see the kitchen, the bar, and the dining room from our vantage point.
Our server greeted us right away, but we had to remind him a second time to bring Chris’s iced tea. Our Blue Crab and Cream Cheese Stuffed Crispy Wontons were promptly brought to our table. These rich pockets of heaven are arguably the best in town and could easily be mistaken for a dessert rather than an appetizer.
Chris ordered the Mongolian Barbeque Glazed Grilled 12 oz. Ribeye with Szechwan-style Asparagus, Bacon Cheddar Smashed Potatoes, and Peppercorn cognac Cream Sauce. Chris says, “The ribeye was good but was a little disappointing. I expected it to be a little better, but part of that was my fault; I ordered it medium rare, but it was a little too rare for me. The glaze was fantastic and had a sweet, subtle kick to it. The steak was tender—not tough. It was a good piece of meat, but it wasn’t the most flavorful steak. The asparagus was quite possibly the best I’ve had—it wasn’t stringy or limp or soggy but was crisp, fresh, and flavorful. The smashed potatoes were also great. They had a good texture and were infused with real pieces of bacon that added a rich flavor, which complemented the steak. All together, it was a great dish.”
I ordered the Sesame Nori Crusted Seared Rare Ahi Tuna with Lobster Mousse Stuffed Shrimp, Wild Mushroom Risotto Cake, and Balsamic Lobster Glaze. The tuna was excellent at first bite—hot and seared on the outside and warm and rare on the inside with a subtle tuna flavor. The risotto cake was the best risotto I’ve ever tried; it’s flavor was rich with flavor yet light in texture. The shrimp was rich with the lobster mousse and was wonderful. Actually, the flavors of the risotto and the shrimp outshined the tuna. And perhaps I’m a slow eater, but by the time I reached the last of the tuna and risotto, they had lost their warmth and weren’t very yummy to eat anymore.
This was our second visit to Ocean Zen since its move to the Battlefield location, and so far the service and food has been consistent. Friday night, from our booth near the kitchen, we witnessed the teamwork of the staff, which was fun to watch. We’re excited to visit Ocean Zen again and see how its service and food continue to improve, and we can’t wait to pick out a favorite OZ dish.
“Bear in mind that you should conduct yourself in life as at a feast.” — Epictetus