Two weeks ago, I told Adam that I was taking him on a date to a mystery location during Restaurant Week. Although he had worked at Ocean for four-and-a-half years, he had never gotten to eat there as a guest. It was entirely a surprise until an hour and 45 minutes before our reservations, but that’s a story for another day.
I’ve eaten at Ocean a few times when Adam misfired (accidentally ordered) something and once as a guest. After meeting Adam’s restaurant family over the years, it was awesome to get to treat him to a meal. And what a meal. As a heads up, this post will be longer than most others since Adam and I ate the entire Restaurant Week menu. All of it.
Apparently the restaurant has recently switched over to bread from Birmingham Breadworks. We got to try some of the crostini and some of the Breadworks baguettes with a ramekin of olive oil and parmesan. While we were still working on the bread, the appetizers came out. The first one I tried, the papa à la pomodoro, was a rustic tomato soup. The garlic and basil added a bit of depth and spice, and as Adam said, it was like a texture-rich gazpacho.
Adam’s first app, the beet salad, combined a lot of different ingredients to craft a much more complex dish. Both the golden and red beets were earthy, and golden beets gave it a bit of sweetness. The blood orange and avocado oil drizzled on top was a nice counterpoint to the beets’ earthiness, while the dried kalamata olives gave it a tidge of saltiness. The goat cheese and candied pecans added creaminess and crunch, respectively, and rounded out the dish in a lovely way.
When the main course was served, I started with the salmon while Adam gave the snapper the first treatment. The salmon’s risotto set (what was served with the fish) was buttery and creamy, and the bit of peach bar-b-que sauce was both sweet and tangy. But the fish itself was cooked to a perfect mid-rare, which made it the perfect counterpoint to the creamy set.
Adam’s snapper was more of traditional Southern comfort food. The succotash that went along with the fish was a comforting mix of fresh summer vegetables. The snapper was mild, and the tastes blended almost perfectly. I had no trouble finishing the rest of the dish even though I was already full of bread and appetizer. We each got a different white wine — Adam’s was really close to the one I drank at Satterfield’s. Mine was slightly less acidic, but paired quite nicely with the fish.
Then came dessert. The fig and cipollini tart wasn’t the dessert I was most excited to try, but it was quite different from others I’d experienced during Birmingham Restaurant Week. The bruléed figs that were served with the tart were amazing — the sugar on them was crisp, and the fruit itself was tender. Though the figs were the dominant element, the onion flavor came through in the second half of the flavor of the tart. The texture was quite lovely, and the flavor combination was unique.
After dinner, we headed to Octane for Daiquiri/Gimlet?/Daiquiri night to round out our tour of previous employers and to see some friends who had headed that way. If anything could round out a night perfectly, that was it.