Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mitchell's Ocean Club

So back in May I used the comments form on the Cameron Mitchell web site to pass along my concerns about the planned overhaul to my favorite CM restaurant, The Ocean Club. I actually DID hear back from someone, and she offered to invite me to one of their practice nights before the reopening... of course I accepted and Amy & I took them up on it! I believe last night was their first "large" practice night, with two more coming during this week before the official reopening this Wednesday (8/9).

Very noticable change right away -- they put a small waiting area/lounge over the Easton ground-floor exit right there, with a huge wood-paneled sign for the place. Here's their new logo (from the CM web site):

Inside, the layout is almost exactly the same as before - host/hostess stand in the same place, bar in the same place (and shape), slightly raised seating area to the left, and main dining area beyond the bar. The DID add a really nice outdoor patio running along the outside of the place (above the entrances to the various Gaps on the outside there) - which is supposedly going
to be heated in the winter for use year-round. There's also a piano just beyond the host stand (with mic), to suit the new "piano club" feel. Though the lay-out and shape are the same, the DECOR is completely different. Gone are the bright blues and ocean-style theming, all replaced with wood paneling (a medium shade, not TOO dark), a rock-wall, a white curtain illuminated with color changing lights around the bar (think "M"). Overall, the look is very "high class steakhouse", not "fusion seafood".

Which makes sense, because (as you might've noticed in the logo), steaks are now featured in the menu just as prominently as seafood, possibly even moreso, and the entire menu has been expanded and restructured around that. The PRICES have increased accordingly as well. It's now in the M - Mitchell's Steakhouse pricerange, going from "moderate" to "expensive". Steaks (and the "Chef Creations") fish items are now served a la carte, and there are separate potato and "accompaniments" sections for side dishes. Thanks to that, where before two could eat a 3 course meal and get out for maybe $60, now you're looking at upwards of $100 instead.

For appetizers, we opted for one of the new choices, a Wisconsin Aged Cheddar Fondue. It was served in a white crock with a tealight burning under it to keep it warm, and french bread, carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and chunk salami for dipping (using provided fondue forks naturally). From watching the servers coming out of the kitchen, it seemed like this was a pretty popular appetizer last night - pretty unique (even though The Melting Pot is also at Easton, but outside of that setting...) and very tasty.

They have a pretty good selection of salads - Amy had the "signature"; salad, which is includes apples & walnuts like the signature salads at many other CM restaurants, with a slightly different dressing than elsewhere. I had the french onion soup w/ brandy aged swiss. Both were just "ok" - good, but nothing to write home about. On the soup-side, stick with the she-crab bisque (making it's return).

For entrees, they have about 8 or so "chef's creations", then a featured fish (7 or 8 different types of fish) and steaks (7 or 8 different cuts, including prime rib). The steaks seem pretty similar in price, cut and preparation as Mitchell's Steak House. It's been awhile since i've been there, but I wouldn't be surprised if the fish options were similar to the Fish Market - in a lot of ways the new Ocean Club feels like a mix of the two. Gone are almost all of the Asian fusion menu items featured fairly prominently at the old Ocean Club - the sole returning entree is a slightly fdifferent take on the Ginger Crusted Salmon (which happened to be possibly my favorite dish at any restaurant anywhere). The salmon (and crust) is exactly the same (though a larger cut of salmon), and the sauce is exactly the same (thankfully - it's incredible) - though with the larger cut of salmon there's not quite enough on the plate now... our server was kind enough to bring me a bit extra when I asked. It's not served on sticky rice any longer (presumably to get you to pony-up for one of the potatoes or other sides), though it does come with stir-fried snap peas instead of the broccoli. I'd be OK with the peas, but I REALLY miss the rice - the sauce is so good and the rice was able to further highlight it. Amy had the petit filet, which was quite good - as I said, pretty much like Mitchell's.

The dessert options are pretty typical for a CM place - creme brulee, a cake or two, etc. They DO have Baked Alaska which is one of those classic desserts that you really don't see offered much these days, so that's cool. We split the "Georgia Peaches & Cream" - like a warm peach crisp served a la mode.

In all a very good experience, and I'd recommend the place. I do miss the funky ocean-themed decor, but the new look suits the new price point very well. I'm not sure the mall will be able to support ANOTHER restaurant in that price range (on top of Smith & Wollenski's and Melting Pot is only one notch down), but we'll see. As for the menu, it's larger than before, and very high
quality, though I really do miss the Asian fusion focus.

Final Score.... I'd say 4/5.