Saturday, 24 January 2015

Venturing Into the Sublime at Ocean Prime Tampa

International Plaza and Bay Street
2205 North Westshore Boulevard 
Tampa, FL 
+1 813-490-5288

Tastiness Factor: 8.5/10

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4.5/5

Locavore Approved? The seafood here, as in many places around Tampa, is very fresh which is pretty easy due to its proximity to the water.  As per its name, Ocean Prime has a myriad of the freshest seafood on the menu.  So, if you are a locavore like me, stick with the seafood for a local treat!

New Year's Eve was an extra special occasion this year since I had the pleasure of spending it with my father and his twin brother on a milestone birthday (I will not divulge which one!).  Before the fireworks to ring in 2015, we headed to Ocean Prime in Tampa for our last meal of 2014.

I must admit that I initially had my doubts about Ocean Prime, since it: a) a chain and b) in a mall.  Fortunately though, this was one of those times when a book should not be judged by its cover.

When I say that this restaurant is in a mall, I should be fair and add that they actually takes up a whole side of the mall and has its own separate entrance.  It is a very stylish, large restaurant with two main rooms- the bar and the fancier dining room.  Despite being one of the first to make our New Year's reservation several months before,  we were seated on the bar side at a rather awkward long rectangular table.  The bar was quite loud and we actually had to walk to the other end of the table periodically to speak with those on the other side.  We would have much preferred to be in the dining room which was more suited to a NY Eve dinner.  We know to state our preference the next time!

Dining Room

The service was among the highlights of the evening.  Our server was very professional and knowledgeable about the menu.  Despite the packed house, she came to ask us how all of our courses were and attentively folded our napkins when we left the table.  We never once felt rushed, which was an anomaly on New Year's Eve and our server allowed us time to enjoy our cocktails before taking our food orders.  There were even a few special touches prepared for the festivities, including a chocolate fountain with cake and fruits to enjoy at the entrance for guests who were waiting to be seated (nice touch!).

Ocean Prime offers a dizzying number of different menus, including lunch and dinner menus, a gluten-free friendly menu (I felt like I was back home in Vancouver!), a young adult menu, a happy hour menu, 3 different drink menus (wine, cocktail and after dinner) and a dessert menu.

The wine menu is quite extensive wine menu and a very nice cocktail menu, including the Cucumber Gimlet (sweeter than I expected but still refreshing) and their infamous Berries and Bubbles (poured tableside, bubbling and smoking, very nicely balanced).

The dinner menu is divided into soups, raw bar, salads, appetizers, seafood, chicken and chops, steaks and sides (served separately and best shared by the table).  It is quite a lengthy menu, so there is sure to be something for everyone.

Between the 8 of us, we managed to cover the menu pretty well, and enjoyed the following:

Oysters on the half shell- Goodies from the raw bar.

Collosal shrimp cocktail- Also from the raw bar (which is a bit misleading since they are cooked!)

Tuna tartare- Of all of the dishes I tried, this was by far the winner.  Tuna tartare is on Hubby's favourite appies and he ranks this one up there with the best.  Fresh tuna, over avocado with small tortilla strips intermingled for texture- simply sublime.

Calamari- This apple is usually flash-fried but I requested grilled.  They were nice enough to accommodate me, but honestly I think it detracted from the dish.  The calamari had no grilled flavour and had that dreaded rubbery texture.  On a positive note, the other elements on the plate including the Asian flavours and the slaw with a few cashews tossed were quite tasty.

Cobb Salad- E veryone unanimously loved the dressing (it was termed "Italian" but was more reminiscent of a poppyseed).  The small slivers of salami worked well to give great flavour without making it too heavy for an apple.  Having said that, there is more than enough to share!

Stipped bass with lobster, mushroom, spinach and fennel slaw, topped with a butter sauce- This was the fish special of the night and boy was it ever special!  The stripped bass (more meaty and not as fatty as chilean sea bass) was beautifully cooked and the slaw underneath was amazingly full of different textures and flavours.

Chilean seabass- This is one of their signature dishes and it is easy to tell why.  How can one go wrong with wonderfully fatty seabags topped with a truffle butter sauce? I don't think they will be taking this one off the menu anytime soon!  The dish is usually served with potato but my aunt subbed in their creamy risotto (yum!).

Sea scallops- As you can tell, these beauties were perfectly seared and served over parmesan risotto.

Pork porterhouse- This was my mom's pick and unfortunately it was probably the least successful dish of the night.  She asked for it cooked medium but it was well beyond that and quite tough.  Although the meat was not a hit, the bed of veg underneath (brussel sprouts and potatoes) was delicious.

Steaks- Ocean Prime may be known for its seafood, but also specialized in steaks, like this filet mignon and New York striploin.

Side dishes- As you will note in the steak photos above, sides are not included with the mains.  There is a long list of sides at the bottom of the menu, including black truffle mac and cheese (a decadent treat!).  I also recommend ordering the brussel sprouts and the asparagus.  The sprouts were roasted and seasoned to perfection, while the asparagus was simply steamed and served with a hollandaise-like sauce that my dad raved about.

Overall Verdict?
As you can tell, my New Year's Eve full of delicious eats and, of course, the finest of company:)  Ocean Prime confidently delivers quality food and professional service in a very nice atmosphere.  And they have even taught me a lesson- maybe there are some chain restaurants worth going back to and this is one of them!

Ocean Prime on Urbanspoon

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