Farm to Sea

Ocean serves local fruit and veggies with seafood from coast to coast.

By Jan Walsh

We came to Ocean Restaurant tonight craving seafood. Yet we find so much more. From heirloom tomato salad, sweet pea pasta, fried okra, to blueberry cobbler, owner chef, George Reis brings an abundance of local fruit and veggies from start to finish. And he sources fish and seafood from the finest purveyors from the Atlantic to the Pacific, in addition to our Gulf Coast.

As usual we start with Bar Manager, Robby Greenwood a bottle bubbles, Henri Maire Crémant du Jura, and our all-time favorite dish at Ocean. Two orders of succulent Baby Lobster Tails special are smothered with “The Love” owner and chef, George Reis’ secret seasoning and wood fired. But what is unusual is to see George in the kitchen helping cook them. Typically, he is running around both Ocean and 5 Point next door overseeing the kitchens and restaurants. But due to staffing shortages, industry wide, he has his sleeves rolled up keeping his skills sharp and doing whatever it takes to keep his regulars coming back for more. Good news is we hear a few former staff members are returning next week. So hopefully Chef has returned to his highest and best use by now. We also start with Heirloom Tomato Salad Persian Cucumber Salad. Nothing but dead ripe deliciousness. A kaleidoscope of colors and a fusion of textures, each wedge, slice, and dice is fleshy and juicy, enhanced by tart pickled carrots, sumac shallots, pungent feta, crispy pine nuts, and highlighted with basil, EVOO, chive blossom vin. Like eating a rainbow. Highly recommended!

For mains Kev opts for an app of Lobster Tortellini. This dish sounds tempting, but I must pass due to truffle oil allergy, just as I had to forgo the fried okra due to canola oil allergy. But I do not have to float far to find another catch, and select the Pan Seared Scallops. As with all pasta, perfection is all about the texture. Kev’s pasta is deep emerald in color and sticks to the tooth on each bite, the ultimate al dente doneness. Each plump jewel is stuffed with hearty bites of succulent, tender Maine lobster claw meat. Rounding out this dish are English peas, fennel shallot salad, grana, truffle and chive oils. There is something very special about the scallops at Ocean. Not only the quality but also the freshness and preparation. Each pristine sea scallop is flawlessly prepared, golden brown on top and opaque, fragile, and springy inside. A subtle synthesis of buttery, nutty, briny, sweetness brings forth a memorable mellowness. Tonight’s scallops float atop an earthy, fulfilling baby leek bacon risotto, in fig thyme beurre blanc with notes of fall. Catch both the lobster pasta and scallop risotto, if you can!

Kev has the sweet tooth in the family, and I tend to wave off desserts. Yet I am presently on a mission to stop missing sweets. Every year when it comes time for Birmingham Restaurants annual 50 Favorites, I am always lean on the dessert awards. So, my goal is to try at least two desserts from each Birmingham Restaurants Member this year. Hmm, Alabama Strawberries or Blueberry Cobbler tonight? We select the cobbler along with Baklava Ice Cream. The cobbler is a classic, comforting Southern biscuity mound bursting with warm, ozzy blueberries. Cream Anglaise encircles the cobbler, vanilla ice cream tops it off, melting and melding into the dessert, layering it in cold creaminess. Oh, my! The beautiful baklava wows with its golden, toasty, phyllo crust wrapped around a scoop of ice cream, like a warm blanket, and finished with anglaise and rose honey. On first fork cut, the melting cream drizzles out playfully onto the plate and our palates. Another hot cold dessert not to be missed!

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