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Oceanique in Evanston?

Oceanique in Evanston?
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  • Post #31 - December 7th, 2006, 10:27 am
    Post #31 - December 7th, 2006, 10:27 am Post #31 - December 7th, 2006, 10:27 am
    :)

    You know my bride loves almost all types of fish. Me, personally can only handle the whitest of fish. ... but after reading the reviews I do not believe that anything there could be bad.
  • Post #32 - December 7th, 2006, 10:32 am
    Post #32 - December 7th, 2006, 10:32 am Post #32 - December 7th, 2006, 10:32 am
    Panther in the Den wrote:You know my bride loves almost all types of fish. Me, personally can only handle the whitest of fish. ... but after reading the reviews I do not believe that anything there could be bad.


    I hope you'll get a chance to go and, better yet, maybe they'll even have this wild Alaskan white salmon that LDC had. As I noted in my initial post, neither of us had heard of it before and we both found it quite intriguing. I certainly would not have guessed salmon had it been presented to me without identification. Let me know if you get a piece--I'd love to know what you think.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #33 - December 7th, 2006, 10:51 am
    Post #33 - December 7th, 2006, 10:51 am Post #33 - December 7th, 2006, 10:51 am
    Panther in the Den wrote::)

    You know my bride loves almost all types of fish. Me, personally can only handle the whitest of fish. ... but after reading the reviews I do not believe that anything there could be bad.


    Just be sure you are not shunted off to the bar area. Demand seating in the main dining room or you may be dissapointed with the service.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #34 - December 7th, 2006, 11:37 am
    Post #34 - December 7th, 2006, 11:37 am Post #34 - December 7th, 2006, 11:37 am
    I dunno - I've had good service in the back of the front room, just beyond the bar.
  • Post #35 - December 12th, 2006, 5:12 pm
    Post #35 - December 12th, 2006, 5:12 pm Post #35 - December 12th, 2006, 5:12 pm
    Sounds like I hit a nerve, there.

    Here are high-end restaurants in Evanston that I consider "great" - where you can go with confidence that you will have an excellent, destination-worthy meal, worth driving from anywhere in the Chicago area:

    Oceanique
    Chef's Station
    The Stained Glass
    Jacky's Bistro
    Va Pensiero
    Narra
    Campagnola
    Jilly's Cafe
    Pete Miller's

    Here are additional places that I consider worth going to, while not necessarily destination-worthy, but still serving very fine food:

    Bar Louie
    Blind Faith
    Buffalo Joe's
    Carmen's
    Chili's
    Clarke's
    Cosi
    Cross Rhodes
    Dave's Italian Kitchen
    Davis Street Fishmarket
    Dixie Kitchen
    Gio
    Giordano's
    The Globe
    Hecky's
    Joy Yee's Noodle
    Koi
    Las Palmas
    Le Peep
    Lou Malnati's
    Lucky Platter
    Lulu's Dim Sum
    Lupita's
    Merle's Barbecue
    Mt. Everest Restaurant
    Nevin's Pub
    Prairie Moon
    Stained Glass
    Tapas Barcelona
    Thai Sookdee
    That Little Mexican Cafe
    Wolfgang Puck's Grand Cafe

    I've found very, very good food at ALL of these places. I'm sure that some here will disagree with one choice or another - we all have our favorites - but put together, it's quite an impressive list of choices for excellent food.

    There are additional others not on the list, because I haven't been there (including some places that are supposed to be very good), or because they are cafes (not exactly the same thing as a restaurant), or because I don't think they're as good as these (for example, I've tried all ~8 Thai places in town, and while some are okay, I don't think any is as good as Thai Sookdee).

    That's quite an amazing assortment of quality AND quantity for an area just a couple miles wide. And again, I stand by my statement - that both lists top any similar-sized area in Chicagoland, with the exception of the Near North area.
  • Post #36 - December 12th, 2006, 7:45 pm
    Post #36 - December 12th, 2006, 7:45 pm Post #36 - December 12th, 2006, 7:45 pm
    Wow, that's quite a list. I can't say I agree with most of it, but different tastes are what makes this board go on and on. :)

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #37 - December 12th, 2006, 8:47 pm
    Post #37 - December 12th, 2006, 8:47 pm Post #37 - December 12th, 2006, 8:47 pm
    nsxtasy, may I add a few "worth going-to" places (all of which I've visited, and can at least marginally recommend)?

    La Petite Amelia (French Bistro)
    Asado (Brazilian steakhouse)
    Kuni's (sushi)*
    Addis Abeba (Ethiopean)*
    Dozika (pan-Asian)*
    Evanston Chicken Shack
    Prairie Joe's*
    Cozy Thai*
    Annam Cafe
    Claire's Korner (mostly take-out Jamaican)
    Jamaica Gates*
    Celtic Knot*
    Firehouse Grill
    Siam Pasta
    Kim's Kitchen*
    Kansaku
    Mandarin House*
    Noyes St. Cafe
    Olive Mountain
    Pine Yard
    Sashimi Sashimi
    Trattoria Demi
    Sea Ranch

    and of course, an LTH favorite ... Wiener and Still Champion*

    *sites of Evanston Lunch Group adventures or other LTH events
  • Post #38 - January 9th, 2007, 4:35 pm
    Post #38 - January 9th, 2007, 4:35 pm Post #38 - January 9th, 2007, 4:35 pm
    Back to the original point of this thread, I had a first rate meal at Oceanique a couple of weeks ago. Critical to me was that, not only was the seafood first rate, but all items on the plate were bursting with flavor. the chef has a deft hand with vegetables. In my view, this is a destination seafood place (can't speak to the non-seafood items), not just a good suburban place. (Please do not take this as a direct or indiect comment on whether Evanston is a "great" dining destination.)

    One specific incident bears mention. In our party of four, I ordered a bottle of red for two of us, but my wife wanted a glass of white. When she asked for a description of the three or four they had by the glass, the sommelier proceeded to being her three or four glassses with a sip of each offering, and she selected the one she liked best. I'm sure they were influenced by the fact that I'd ordered a full bottle and we were having a full meal (so don't go expecting this), but still, this is going above and beyond the call of duty.

    Jonah
  • Post #39 - August 21st, 2007, 5:40 pm
    Post #39 - August 21st, 2007, 5:40 pm Post #39 - August 21st, 2007, 5:40 pm
    I hereby nominate Oceanique in Evanston as a Great Neighborhood Restaurant.

    The first thing I'd like to ask is, what constitutes a "great" restaurant? Many people have written many things here about the word "great". To me, to paraphrase those in the real estate industry, the most important three things in a restaurant are "food, food, food". GREAT food. Food where you take one bite, and your senses all go, "WOW! That's delicious!" And that's what the food at Oceanique does for me. Furthermore, it's not just one or two dishes; it's literally everything I've had there. Starting with the appetizers, and the soups - oh, the best soups in the Chicago area! - and the salads, and continuing through the rest of the meal. Oceanique specializes in seafood, and over half of their savory dishes feature seafood of some sort or another. The seafood includes exotic kinds of fish/seafood, many of which I first tasted there, as well as more common types, but in all cases, it's always extremely fresh and delicious. The sauces which accompany the dishes are equally outstanding, adding flavor without overpowering the dish. But wait - there's more! The very best part of the meals I've had at Oceanique are the desserts. I know, you don't hear much about desserts at a seafood restaurant, but I will match the quality of the desserts at Oceanique with ANY restaurant in the Chicago area, from their signature day-and-night chocolate mousse cake, to their fruit tarts (they do a wonderful short pastry crust), to the fruit napoleons to, well, every dessert I've had there. It's one of the very few restaurants I've been to where we can order two appetizers, two soups/salads, two entrees, and two desserts, and I know that all eight dishes will be "to die for". Those who have never been there probably think I'm going "over the top" in saying this, but those who have been there will understand.

    So much for the food. What else makes a restaurant a "great neighborhood restaurant"? The location, in a relatively non-descript storefront, same place for almost twenty years. And the service, of course; the staff there is always knowledgeable, courteous, and friendly. They have a certain spirit that goes beyond merely "good service". I'll give two examples to illustrate. Late one afternoon, my SO and I were out shopping and strolling past Oceanique in our "grubbies" (t shirts, shorts). We stopped to look at the menu in the window, and everything sounded so good as usual. The hostess came outside to ask if we had any questions, and we started chatting. She suggested that we come in for dinner. We said that we didn't feel dressed for dinner at Oceanique, but she insisted that our attire wasn't a problem. And the staff there made us feel right at home as always. (And I should add that I don't think they recognized us from previous visits or treated us any differently from anyone else.)

    The other example was something that happened after another visit. I noticed that they charged for each serving of iced tea, which is a bit unusual; most restaurants, in all price categories, offer free refills of iced tea. I sent a brief e-mail note afterwards to the restaurant afterwards, politely noting this while also mentioning that our dinner was otherwise exemplary. A day or so later, I received a warm e-mail reply from Mark Grosz, the proprietor, thanking me for mentioning it and telling me that henceforth they would be offering free refills on iced tea. I thought it was noteworthy, not only for the responsiveness on the issue itself, but also because it came from Mark himself, not his staff. Approachable, indeed! (Oceanique is a single-location restaurant, chef-owned by Mark Grosz since he opened it in 1989 with partners whose interest he bought out in 1994.)

    What else makes Oceanique worthy of this honor? The wine list. They have almost 600 selections, have won the Wine Spectator's "Award of Excellence" every year since 1994, and was recently upgraded to their "Best of Award of Excellence", which means they are now recognized as having one of the 700 best wine lists in the world. And they offer a monthly wine dinner featuring a leading vintner, and have done so for quite a long time.

    How about value? Not that Oceanique is ever exactly inexpensive. But they have offered their special weekday three-course bargain menu (currently $42) for a long time, too. (And shhh... if you're going on a night other than Saturday, check their website beforehand for coupons, hint hint.)

    Another thing I've noticed is Mark very often volunteers his time and services on behalf of charitable organizations and their efforts. I've frequently seen him at benefits in and around Evanston, and gift certificates for dinners there often show up in charity auctions for various causes. It doesn't surprise me at all that Oceanique is one of the restaurants participating in the Dine Out Chicago program (now through August 29) sponsored by San Pellegrino to benefit Share Our Strength, an organization working to end childhood hunger in America.

    Oh, I'm supposed to add links to previous discussions about Oceanique on LTH. This one is relatively brief. This one has a lot more discussion and information (and also provides ample evidence that any use of the word "great" is bound to be controversial :wink: ).

    Oceanique
    505 Main Street
    Evanston IL
    847-864-3435

    The following photos are from Oceanique's website:

    Image

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    Last edited by nsxtasy on August 22nd, 2007, 10:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #40 - August 22nd, 2007, 6:23 am
    Post #40 - August 22nd, 2007, 6:23 am Post #40 - August 22nd, 2007, 6:23 am
    I've never been to this restaurant, and proably jus never will, my desire for searfood restaurants around here is pretty darn nil, but I have to say, those are some gorgeous pics!
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #41 - August 22nd, 2007, 7:38 am
    Post #41 - August 22nd, 2007, 7:38 am Post #41 - August 22nd, 2007, 7:38 am
    They're from Oceanique's website, I would hope they're gorgeous.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #42 - August 22nd, 2007, 8:27 am
    Post #42 - August 22nd, 2007, 8:27 am Post #42 - August 22nd, 2007, 8:27 am
    FWIW, a comment about photos. I've seen a lot of photos on LTH. They nearly all make the food look delicious. In many cases, the taste of the food turns out to be disappointing.

    I don't take photos at restaurants. I don't have anything against others who do so, though. So I can't add photos of my own from Oceanique. And I don't think photos by others have been posted here, at least not in the topics I've looked at.

    I know from experience that the food at Oceanique tastes as delicious as the photos above make it look. But don't take my word for it; go there and try it for yourself. Even if Oceanique doesn't win the GNR award. I'm confident you'll love it as much as I do. And helping each other discover restaurants we love is why we're here at LTH.
  • Post #43 - August 22nd, 2007, 8:45 am
    Post #43 - August 22nd, 2007, 8:45 am Post #43 - August 22nd, 2007, 8:45 am
    I have to strongly disagree with this nomination. I have been to Oceanique on two different occasions and can’t, in the widest stretch of my imagination, see how this place could possibly be considered for a GNR.

    The first time I went, the Chow Poodle and I had been shopping in Evanston. We were carrying several large shopping bags from our expedition and were dressed nicely, but casually, in jeans and t-shirts. It was fairly early (I think around 6:00) and the dining room was completely empty except for maybe one or two tables, yet we were outright refused service in the main dining room. Instead, we were seated at a small table against the wall in the bar area. Once seated, we were completely ignored by the staff who were busy shooting the breeze at the bar. When we finally were able to place our order, we waited well over 30 minutes for our meals to be served. Both meals came out cold. They had obviously been sitting in the kitchen for quite some time before being brought out. I would have sent them back had we been able to find our waiter, or any waiter for that matter, during the rest of the time we were there. By that time, the main dining room had begun to fill up and all of the wait staff’s attention was focused on that room. Finally, we asked a busboy who happened by to ask our waiter for our check. The check was eventually delivered without even as much as an apology for the lack of attention we had received.

    After reading nsxtasy’s glowing reviews on LTH, I decided to give Oceanique another try. To be completely fair, my second meal was better. At least I was allowed to sit in the main dining room this time and the fish was nicely cooked and served warm, but there was nothing about this meal that elevated it above a meal that I could get at any number of places around town.

    The GNR’s are not about awarding restaurants that simply turn out good food (giving Oceaneque the benefit of the doubt on that front). The GNR’s are about restaurants that resonate with the LTH community (to quote Dickson, “The Guide to Adventurous Eating in Chicagoland). Although Oceaneque might be the best seafood restaurant in Evanston, I don’t see anything about the place that sets it apart from any number of other seafood focused restaurants such as Catch 35, Hugo’s or Joe’s Stone Crab, for example (not to mention the many ethnic restaurants serving seafood)…and certainly nothing that makes it special enough to be granted GNR status. Even the threads that nsxtasy has linked to show a certain ambivalence among LTH posters…certainly not a consensus about this place being great.

    In summary I say no, no, a thousand times no to this nomination. This is not personal, nsxtasy, it’s just the way I feel. If I don’t post this, it can’t be taken into account during the voting process.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #44 - August 22nd, 2007, 9:58 am
    Post #44 - August 22nd, 2007, 9:58 am Post #44 - August 22nd, 2007, 9:58 am
    Without going into detail over our experience at Oceanique, suffice to say, we strongly support this nomination. As our review suggests, we had an excellent time in virtually every possible respect. While there is no doubt that others may have had different experiences, we were thrilled with our meal there. I don't think there's really much to add except, perhaps, to quote from the last line of the review we posted at the time: "All in all, a wonderful, relaxing, enjoyable evening with some of the best food, stellar presentations, and cozy ambiance it’s been my pleasure to enjoy in a long time."
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #45 - August 22nd, 2007, 10:28 am
    Post #45 - August 22nd, 2007, 10:28 am Post #45 - August 22nd, 2007, 10:28 am
    nsxtasy wrote:I don't take photos at restaurants. I don't have anything against others who do so, though. So I can't add photos of my own from Oceanique. And I don't think photos by others have been posted here, at least not in the topics I've looked at.

    NSX

    In the future when you use photos from other web sites, with permission I gather, please provide attribution. If you notice even when I use one of, say, Mike G's pics or he mine, we Always provide proper attribution.

    In the case of a GNR nomination referencing the photos are from the restaurant in questions web site and, I am assuming, professionally done and styled, is especially important.

    Regards,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #46 - August 23rd, 2007, 9:27 am
    Post #46 - August 23rd, 2007, 9:27 am Post #46 - August 23rd, 2007, 9:27 am
    I've gotta admit that I'm having a hard time with this one.

    I've been to Oceanique. It's a nice place with very good food. There are certainly a handful of glowing posts about it from LTHers.

    But, what separates it from the dozens of other restaurants with similar profiles that don't have GNRs?

    There's really an intangible element to a GNR for me--that certain special something that makes me want to get to that restaurant ASAP. There's a handful of existing GNRs that I disagree with, but I'd say that the sheer mention of a solid 80% of them make me grab my car keys and get moving.

    Oceanique is a good restaurant that I'd recommend, but I'm having a hard time finding that special element that makes me want to come running.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #47 - August 23rd, 2007, 9:34 am
    Post #47 - August 23rd, 2007, 9:34 am Post #47 - August 23rd, 2007, 9:34 am
    I have never been to Oceanique, and it is fairly unlikely I will get there to have a personal opinion on this one. Naperville to Evanston is just not a trip I choose to make very often.

    If I had just looked at the postings on it prior to this nomination, I would have thought it deserving based on the strong support of a number of posters. But, with the nomination, those who are less than strong fans of Oceanique have come out. Are there more? I want to hear as many voices as possible, to get a sense as to whether the dissenting voices are a small minority, or part of a larger group that has not posted negatively, probably out of deference and just to be polite (I know this happens).

    So if you have been to Oceanique, and have not posted, please do. Is it great, very good, special, or just the same as other high end seafood places? And maybe some northsiders could even arrange a meal.

    Interesting that Le Titi and Oceanique both come up in the same thread, and were sampled by one intrepid LTH'er on consecutive days - advantage Oceanique, as I read it.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #48 - August 23rd, 2007, 9:59 am
    Post #48 - August 23rd, 2007, 9:59 am Post #48 - August 23rd, 2007, 9:59 am
    I have eaten at Oceanique twice now, and do not support a nomination for a GNR Award.

    My wife and I have gone two times within the last 6 months, and found the food just a little above average taste wise(the presentation and plating of the food is incredible I have to say) and we found the service to be at times pretty poor(disappearing, unattentive waiter/waitress).

    We have tried the tasting menu on our first visit. And on our last, and most recent visit we ordered off the menu. A scallops appetizer that was more flash, and presentation than substance(the scallops were rubbery, and overcooked). For my main dish my wife had the filet(I know its a seafood restaurant but she was so disappointed with the fish from the first visit she didnt want to try again). The filet was just ok, nothing like a steak prepared at one of Chicago's finer restaurants, it was closer to medium, than it was to how it was ordered, medium rare. I had the halibut, and once again the presentation was excellent, but the fish was just ok nothing that blew me away.
    Last edited by jimswside on August 23rd, 2007, 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #49 - August 23rd, 2007, 10:07 am
    Post #49 - August 23rd, 2007, 10:07 am Post #49 - August 23rd, 2007, 10:07 am
    My experience at Oceanique was that the food and service were very good. It was pricey and our feeling was that if we won the lottery we'd go back.

    However, this was so long ago (15+ years) that it's not relevant to today's situation.

    From the comments by others I'm sure it can still be a fine restaurant, but I never thought of it as a GNR sort of place.

    One last thought. Again I doubt it's relevant, but I thought I'd pass this anecdote along.

    For several years I lived about one block from Oceanique and was working from home. This was in the restaurant's very early years. Every once in a while I'd be in a local photocopy place and see the chef hand writing the day's specials and then making photocopies. The list would always be posted in the restaurant's window.

    As I walked past Oceanique every day to go to the Post Office, I often stopped to look at the specials. It quickly became obvious that the "daily specials" were unchanged for extended periods of time (at least a week).
    Where there’s smoke, there may be salmon.
  • Post #50 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:07 am
    Post #50 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:07 am Post #50 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:07 am
    It's been a couple of years since I've been to Oceanique and while I found the food competent, it was, for me, less than expected at the price point in terms of overall experience. I find myself unwilling to pay again to test my opinion. Looking forward to reading more.

    -ramon
  • Post #51 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:24 am
    Post #51 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:24 am Post #51 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:24 am
    We have friends who LOVE Oceanique. It is their favorite restaurant in the Chicago area.

    We used to live around the corner from it, on Hinman, and one week night decided we really wanted a NICE meal. I don't remember what DH ordered, but it was unremarkable. I had some sort of wintery, stewy, roasted veggie thing. There was a protein, but I can't remember what it was (probably meat not fish). It started out great, warm and comforting, enveloping, really - except for the very odd and completely out of place crunch from raw cauliflower that was mixed very thoroughly throughout. It was completely ruined for me, and I couldn't eat it. I couldn't pick these teeny tiny bits of raw cauliflower out.

    And it was, for us, expensive. Particularly expensive considering I didn't eat most of my dinner, and what I did eat, I had to carefully mush around in my mouth to find the hard bits of vegetable so I could remove them.
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #52 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:42 am
    Post #52 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:42 am Post #52 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:42 am
    dicksond wrote:Interesting that Le Titi and Oceanique both come up in the same thread, and were sampled by one intrepid LTH'er on consecutive days - advantage Oceanique, as I read it.

    I support the nomination of Le Titi de Paris as well as of Oceanique; I have been to both on numerous occasions. However, if I had to choose one over the other, it would be for Oceanique. To me, it is more of a "neighborhood" restaurant, with a neighborhood storefront persona and feel, while the food is exquisite. And the variety of foods at which Oceanique excels exceeds those at Le Titi (although both are excellent).
  • Post #53 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:44 am
    Post #53 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:44 am Post #53 - August 23rd, 2007, 11:44 am
    nsxtasy wrote:
    dicksond wrote:Interesting that Le Titi and Oceanique both come up in the same thread, and were sampled by one intrepid LTH'er on consecutive days - advantage Oceanique, as I read it.


    While I find this interesting also, I just want to clarify that there is in no way, as far as the GNRs are concerned, a competition between the two nominations. Either, both, or neither could be a GNR, and the evaluation of each is on its own merits.
  • Post #54 - August 23rd, 2007, 12:23 pm
    Post #54 - August 23rd, 2007, 12:23 pm Post #54 - August 23rd, 2007, 12:23 pm
    Aaron Deacon wrote:
    nsxtasy wrote:
    dicksond wrote:Interesting that Le Titi and Oceanique both come up in the same thread, and were sampled by one intrepid LTH'er on consecutive days - advantage Oceanique, as I read it.


    While I find this interesting also, I just want to clarify that there is in no way, as far as the GNRs are concerned, a competition between the two nominations. Either, both, or neither could be a GNR, and the evaluation of each is on its own merits.


    I agree, Aaron, it is just a curiosity worth noting but not of any real meaning.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #55 - August 25th, 2007, 1:11 pm
    Post #55 - August 25th, 2007, 1:11 pm Post #55 - August 25th, 2007, 1:11 pm
    To weigh in here, I have eaten at Oneanique fairly often over the past decade. Being affiliated with Northwestern, this is one restaurant where we often take our guests. We do so because the food appeals to upper middle class diners and prices are reasonable (especially if you ask for the Northwestern $50 per person menu, including tax and tip (!) - n.b., I don't know if you need to be employed by Northwestern to get the deal, but they have never asked for our ID - it is a shortened version of the full menu).

    I enjoy Oceanique. I am not grumpy when forced to eat there. They are a superior fish/seafood restaurant. They are creative without being astonishing. Eating at O'Q is not an ah-ha experience. I agree with Eatchicago on their value.

    But if I were making a list of which are essential Chicago restaurants, Oceanique would not make the list. If we had a category for Very Good Metrotopolitian restaurants (VGMR award), O'Q would have my vote.

    And so I agree with eatchicago that O'Q is not really worthy of a GNR award, but it is worthy of patronage.
  • Post #56 - August 26th, 2007, 9:00 pm
    Post #56 - August 26th, 2007, 9:00 pm Post #56 - August 26th, 2007, 9:00 pm
    I find this nomination a particularly interesting case study.

    My first reaction was "Oceanique? I've heard generally favorable things, but never thought of it as an LTH fave."

    So I went back to look at the reviews, and while there were some average experiences reported, there were a surprising number of stand-outs, with a very special quality (to the posters) evoked.

    And yet, in the this nominating thread, there have been even more posters who admit to good experiences at Oceanique but who don't attribute to it that ineffable GNR quality.

    I myself, have never been, and my opinion of the place has now shifted twice in the past couple weeks. If anyone else feels this place is unusually special, now is surely the time to speak.
  • Post #57 - August 27th, 2007, 10:26 am
    Post #57 - August 27th, 2007, 10:26 am Post #57 - August 27th, 2007, 10:26 am
    Aaron Deacon wrote:I find this nomination a particularly interesting case study.

    My first reaction was "Oceanique? I've heard generally favorable things, but never thought of it as an LTH fave."

    So I went back to look at the reviews, and while there were some average experiences reported, there were a surprising number of stand-outs, with a very special quality (to the posters) evoked.

    And yet, in the this nominating thread, there have been even more posters who admit to good experiences at Oceanique but who don't attribute to it that ineffable GNR quality.


    Thanks, Aaron for the excellent summary. In the normal course of things, I think there is a civility here that causes a lot of us to not reply to a gushing post by saying, "yeah, I ate there and was unimpressed." Many reasons for this, I suppose.

    A GNR nomination completely changes that equation, and forces those who care about the GNRs and how they represent LTHForum, to share their less positive experiences. I am glad to see there turns out to be a lot more experience with Oceanique than it first appeared; I am not surprised that the undisclosed experiences tended to be less positive than the posted ones.

    It is one of the strengths of LTHForum that we really do try to give places the benefit of the doubt since every place will have a miss once in a while. But when we start asking ourselves whether a place is great, the rules change and little misses, or even the fact that a place does not miss but also does not rise above a general level of competence, count.

    Just my impressions and thoughts, some of which clearly apply to this nomination, while others may or may not.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #58 - September 2nd, 2007, 11:41 pm
    Post #58 - September 2nd, 2007, 11:41 pm Post #58 - September 2nd, 2007, 11:41 pm
    Strong support for this nomination. I have heard it argued that it could be the best seafood restaurant (at least among mid-high end places) in the Chicagoland area. Impeccable service, creative combinations/presentations, a great weekday deal on the three-course dinner ($39, I believe), and a massive (if slightly pricey) wine list.

    It's a bit out of the way for such a high-quality place (I expect it would get more press coverage and respect if it was in River North), but it's small, owned by an amazingly talented chef with passion for what he does, and a Great Neighborhood Restaurant.
  • Post #59 - October 6th, 2007, 10:21 am
    Post #59 - October 6th, 2007, 10:21 am Post #59 - October 6th, 2007, 10:21 am
    I finally had my first meal at Oceanique last week and I came away very impressed. Ironically, I'd lived less than a block away several years ago and even though I walked by its door almost daily, I never stopped in because I figured it was too expensive and too fancy for me. Flash forward 15 years and while I still don't know exactly which fork to lead with, I am, happily, the recipient of a regular paycheck these days.

    Given the mortality rate in the restaurant industry (especially in Evanston), Oceanique had already passed one important test -- the test of time. How many restauarants are still even there to consider 15 years later? That longevity alone indicated some amount of empirical success on its part. So too, did the constant recommendations about the place that I heard from its fans. And there's no way to look past chef/owner Mark Grosz's pedigree -- he worked under the legendary Jean Banchet. Additionally, Oceanique's focus on local and seasonal -- cooked in "the French-American style" -- really spoke to me.

    Finally, back in July, friends suggested we go there for dinner sometime after Labor Day and the plan was hatched . . .

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    Amuse
    I promised myself I'd remember the specifics here but unfortunately, I don't. There was pickled ginger, a lotus root chip, sweet 100 tomato, avocado, and the center item is (iirc) a salmon preparation. The amuse provided a nice preview of what the meal held in store for us -- bold, distinct flavors, great technique and beautiful plating.


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    Michigan Corn-Leek Soup with Maine lobster, favas and cauliflower
    This soup was delicious. I loved the contrasts in texture, as the corn still had a nice crunch to it. The combination of flavors here was delicious and comforting.


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    Yellow Curry Steamed Mussels with local corn and Spigarriello
    I had a taste of these fresh mussels and they were terrific. I loved the sauce and was happy I had bread to dip it all up.


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    Chicken liver mousse
    The kitchen sent this bite out to the person at the table who only ordered one appetizer, so she'd have something to nibble with the rest of us.


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    Grilled calamari and shrimp in sake essence, with ginger and an ocean salad of avocado and daikon radish
    Here, the combination of calamari and shrimp was a successful one. I loved the flavors, and the textural contrasts were satisfying.


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    Lightly smoked salmon with radish-cucumber salad, horseradish, creme fraiche and Casa Nostra toast
    My son proclaimed that this cold-smoked salmon was even better than what I make. Sadly, I have to agree with him. :wink:


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    Foie gras pan seared with peach-fig chutney, "Shanghai" and caramelized peach
    What's not to love about foie gras -- especially when it is seared so perfectly? I thought the accourtrements paired with the rich foie very well.


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    Roasted seasonal beets with warm goat cheese, arugula, heirloom tomato and white truffle essence
    This was a nice combination which was similar to a salad I make at home. I liked it, but my version contains some toasted pecans and I missed that crunch in this version.


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    Grilled Shishito peppers and shrimp with matsutake mushrooms and red wine essence
    Overall, I enjoyed this dish but I found that the grilling on shrimp overwhelmed them a bit. It was a bit difficult to really find the shrimp note.


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    Grilled scallop
    The kitchen sent out this course, which had a beautifully seared crust and a tender interior. Here, the grilling seemed to be a perfect way to handle the featured ingredient.


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    Raspberry sorbet with fresh mint, intermezzo


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    Wild yellowfin tuna seared rare with black pepper, asparagus, parmesan, local corn and bacon
    This massive hunk of immaculately fresh tuna was truly delightful. I loved it and the way it worked with the other components of the dish -- a great combination, very well executed.


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    Prime filet mignon with matsutake mushrooms, red onions, escargot, favas and French red fingerling potatoes
    Not only was the filet delicious, it was cooked expertly, with the flesh being perfectly medium rare all the way out to the lightly charred crust. I wondered how a 'seafood' restaurant would handle this item and was very impressed by it.


    I had such small tastes of the next three dishes, I don't think I can really comment on them in any meaningful way. They were certainly tasty and the folks who ordered them enjoyed them . . .

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    Wild Alaskan Coho salmon with butternut squash, leeks and poblano-cilantro sauce


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    Rouget with local corn and spinach, olive tapanade and heirloom tomatoes


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    Australian barramundi with golden chanterelle mushrooms, tropea onions, French red fingerling potatoes and port-pinot noir sauce

    I tasted all 5 of the desserts we ordered and enjoyed them all. Oceanique's seasonal-local mission was very apparent throughout the plates. The one dessert that probably stood out the most for me was the Napoleon, which I completely devoured.

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    Chocolate pots de creme


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    Peach tart with vanilla ice cream


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    Panna cotta with fresh berries


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    Fresh berry tart with caramel ice cream


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    Fresh fruit napoleon

    I am so glad that I finally got to try Oceanique. It's a real gem and it's quite unique in many ways. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of another restaurant in Chicagoland where seafood is the focus and this level of skill and this classic aesthetic are applied to it. On that level alone, Oceanique distinguishes itself. On both their menu and web site the following note from chef Grosz appears:

    "Do not be disappointed is a fish is not available: we maintain the highest level of freshness for our guests."

    I think that just about says it all. There is a standard at Oceanique to which I wish every restaurant would adhere. It was clear to me that this was more than just text as our meal progressed. Everything was amazingly fresh. And the deft hand with which it had been prepared was plainly evident througout our meal.

    =R=

    Oceanique
    505 Main St
    Evanston, IL 60202
    (847) 864-3435
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #60 - October 6th, 2007, 11:38 am
    Post #60 - October 6th, 2007, 11:38 am Post #60 - October 6th, 2007, 11:38 am
    ^^^
    Ronnie, we had dinner at Oceanique years ago, and based on your photos and descriptions we need to go back. My mouth was watering reading your post!
    Someone may have asked you this before, but what kind of camera and what settings do you use? Your photos are beautiful.

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