A few weeks ago, on a dreary, chill Sunday afternoon, I met my pal Beth—now departed on an awesome road-trip project, 12 Cities 1 Year—at the downstairs bar of Ocean Prime for happy hour, which, far from bubbling, was so dark & quiet it felt like a dive despite the glitz. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the doldrums being my element. Nor did the fact that Ocean Prime doesn’t actually host happy hour on Sundays faze me; our goal was to score some oysters, bargain or no.
But there’s a difference between that which isn’t a bargain & that which is a ripoff. With only one type in the house, Ocean Prime’s offer of 6 oysters for 16 bucks seemed like the latter. Much of the joy of ordering a platter of oysters on the half-shell stems from sampling an array; barring that, at $2.60 a pop, the option to go à la carte should at least be made available. Add to that an egregiously marked-up (4x? more?) list of wines by the glass, & Beth & I knew we’d be out of there after 1 drink & a few handfuls of stale popcorn.
Good thing Oceanaire was there to remind us that high-end seafood chains aren’t all gloom & doom. Though it’s been a while since I’ve posted a full review, rest assured the 14th Street outpost is plenty reliable; the menu may change, but the quality doesn’t. So I won’t belabor too many points here, just give you an up-to-date taste.
Oceanaire’s happy hour menu—which is offered on Sundays; take that, Ocean Prime—includes crisp, greaseless cornmeal-fried oysters with aioli & fries & a trio of juicy “grilled beefsteak bites,” i.e. steak sliders, with caramelized onions & horseradish mayo on fresh, fluffy little buns.
Spears of parmesan-crusted fried asparagus, being jumbo, were a little too al dente, & the tomatoes in the blue cheese–tomato “fondue” were underripe & woody—never mind the fact that the mixture was no fondue; it was just, well, a mixture. But the right bites of this app, at the tips, were a bunch of fun nonetheless.
Still, charred green beans with tomato-bacon aioli, technically a side dish, were their superior by far—garden-sweet & popping in the mouth, dipped in the smoky, tangy, creamy accompaniment.
Oh, & about those oysters? We got them too: a choice of 9 or 10 varieties, all priced à la carte (or 3 for $6 at happy hour). As far as this Boston girl is concerned, that there’s what defines a decent raw bar.