Tales and Tails

Tonight, we celebrate Kev’s birthday at Ocean’s bar.

By Jan Walsh

I offer Kev dinner at any Birmingham area restaurant for his birthday. And he responds, “Let’s go to Ocean’s bar and eat baby lobster tails!” I am not surprised. He often suggests Ocean for dinner, although he claims I am the seafood lover, and he is the meat guy.

We typically sit at the end of the bar in front of the open kitchen. Oh, if this bar could talk… it would likely join in our conversation tonight, telling tales of our many times here, maybe even some that we may have forgotten. Like sitting with an old friend, among other old friends we run into at the bar, as owner and executive chef, George Reis catches up with us and tempts us with today’s catch.

Bar manager, Robby Greenwood also knows us well. And for Kev’s birthday toast, he suggests a new French sparkling that we have yet to try, Henri Maire Brut Jurassique Cremant du Jura NV. Located in Eastern France’s Jura region, between Burgundy and Switzerland, Domaine Henri Maire where it dates to 1632. It is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made in the Champagne method. Elegant, white creamy bubbles boast telltale notes of apple and white flower. Its alcohol level of 14 percent is beautifully balanced with clean fruitiness. We both love this wine and will order it again next time. “Happy Birthday, Kev! To many, many more…”

As entrees, two plates of the Baby Lobster Tails are being reserved, which is an appetizer not mentioned on the nightly menu. But first we order starters. We select Kev’s favorite Shrimp Cocktail, along with New England Clam Chowder on this cold, winter night. We don’t order shrimp cocktail just anywhere because as soon as it is served, the food critic in me emerges. At first glance I can tell if the shrimp in a cocktail is up to my standards… And Ocean’s shrimp have all the telltale signs of quality, freshness, and perfect preparation. Each shrimp is enormous, pink, perfectly curled, firm, and moist. And its shiny tail is well attached. We squeeze lemon, adding a hint of acidic zest. And they hold their firmness as we dip into two scrumptious sauces, classic cocktail and wasabi oyster cocktail. Every bite is cold and crisp, exceeding my standards. When it comes to chowder Kev has his own standards, having grown up in the northeast, he had it in many states throughout New England. The chowder is served steaming hot. Balanced in body, creamy white in color, with a generous helping of clams, enhanced by the texture and comfort of diced veggies, also overdelivering on expectations.

Our two plates of baby lobster tails arrive still sizzling with aromas of wood fire and “The Love,” George’s signature blend of seasonings, which is brushed onto every piece of grilled fish and seafood. The size of the tails makes them slide out of the shells—whole. These babies are sweet and succulent, tender and tasty, and highly recommended as always.

Everything on the dessert menu tempts. Thus, Kev asks Robby choose for him. And his birthday at the bar ends with a shared Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake and a lit candle for Kev’s wish. The thick, dense cheesecake is a chocolate lovers delight, made even better by its marvelous mocha anglaise and vanilla bean whipped cream. As he blows out the flame, I wonder what he is wishing for, and hope, whatever it is, comes true.

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