WHY OCEAN PRIME: At times, this swanky Uptown steakhouse comes off like a Rat Pack theme park: white dinner jacket-clad servers, ring-a-ding-ding lounge music, and private dining rooms named after Sammy, Dino, and Old Blue Eyes himself. “What? No Peter Lawford?’ my lunch companion snickered.
All snark aside, I applaud Ocean Prime’s resurrection of the classic American supper club. Most new restaurants these days are chef-driven, cozy neighborhood joints. Ocean Prime dares to be big and bold, flaunting its modern steakhouse chic—cobalt blue accents, rich wood tones, and black leather—with sexy swagger. Open less than a year, the Dallas offering from this small, Ohio-based chain packs an appreciative business lunch crowd decked out in its Ralph Lauren best. That shouldn’t be a surprise with the restaurant’s premier Rosewood Court perch, directly across the street from The Crescent. Prime indeed.
WHAT TO EAT: Ocean Prime’s mid-century machismo could be horribly oppressive if it weren’t for two things: the staff and the food. Both are friendly without being too familiar, exuding great taste and charm.
Appetizers were steakhouse standards. A jumbo lump crab cake was lightly seared and served with sweet corn cream. Lobster bisque hit all the necessary points: rich, golden, and slightly sweet with — surprise! — a sweet corn fritter anchoring the bottom of the bowl. The jumbo shrimp cocktail arrived amid a bubbling cauldron of dry ice. A bit ridiculous and showy but the shrimp were plump and delicious. All was forgiven.
I was happy to see that Ocean Prime had twice as many salad options as sandwiches or entrees, making a light lunch possible. Favorites included the heirloom tomato salad with goat cheese and wild arugula and a shell fish “Cobb” salad, littered with shrimp, lobster, crab, bacon, and blue cheese and then tossed in a creamy lemon dressing. Only the blackened salmon salad disappointed with its overly sweet trio of strawberries, grapes, and poppy-seed dressing.
But this isn’t a salad house, it’s a steakhouse, and Ocean Prime’s 7 oz. filet is one memorable cut of beef. Lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, the meat was melt-in-your-mouth perfection with a scarlet-rare to medium-rare center as requested. Roasted garlic mashed potatoes were silky and rich, but I could have done without the fried onions atop the filet, one accessory too many. Seafood standouts included crab crusted blue tilapia and ginger salmon with soy butter sauce.
Desserts are decadent and big enough to share, including a 10-layer carrot cake (yes, 10 layers), chocolate-peanut butter pie, and key lime tart topped with whipped cream and white chocolate shavings. Much like Ocean Prime itself, the desserts are a retro lot, big on flavor and long on old school charm. I think Frank would approve.
THE FOOD: Steak and seafood
THE COST: Average lunch entrée price $16
FULL BAR: Yes
WHO’S THERE: Harwood International and Rosewood Hotels executives
THE POWER TABLE: Table 83, a round table in the back that provides equal parts privacy and great views.