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Ocean Prime Philadelphia opened its doors on Sept. 9, 2013 to rave reviews and just in time for Philadelphia's acclaimed restaurant week. The latest in Cameron Mitchell’s supper club concept restaurants, Ocean Prime Philadelphia is poised to be the next go-to center city destination.
Known for their steaks and seafood, I would venture to say that the bar and cocktail offerings try their best to steal the show at this prime downtown location on the corner of 15th and Sansom (site of the former Roy’s Hawaiian). The two story bar is stunning and the cocktails are equally impressive. The Black Orchid featuring Black Raspberry Vodka, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, hand squeezed lemon and white cranberry juice was hands down my favorite. For bourbon lovers, the Whiskey Clover is also an excellent choice. In addition, the restaurant offers an extensive wine list that should please even the pickiest oenephiles.
When I first moved to Philadelphia several years ago, I tasted a tuna tartare appetizer that blew me away. Sadly that restaurant is long gone and I have been on a quest to replace that particular dish ever since. The Ahi Tuna Tartare at OceanPrime has finally filled that void for me. Bright red pieces of fresh Ahi Tuna are served atop a bed of avocado and drizzled in a ginger ponzu sauce. The result is not only a visually beautiful dish, but also an intensely flavorful one that had us scraping the plate at the end. Seriously, each bite melts in your mouth. I would go back for that dish alone.
The Point Judith Calamari appetizer was equally tasty. Tender rings of calamari are very delicately fried and then tossed in a sweet Chili sauce topped with candied cashews. The result is a sweet, savory and crispy treat that tastes so much lighter than other fried calamari dishes I’ve had. Be advised that, by appetizer standards, this dish is huge. It’s practically a meal in itself and is ideal for a party of four or more. That being said, this dish is so good that I highly recommend that you try it even if you’re dining solo. I mean, that’s what doggie bags are for, right?
For the entrees, my dining partner and I opted for the fish, and while somewhat perplexed by a few of the presentation choices, we were not disappointed. The Chilean Sea bass was perfectly seasoned and cooked. However, the accompaniment of peas and carrot slices with whipped potatoes was somewhat incongruent with the delicate yet complex champagne truffle sauce. With such an excellent piece of fish, I would have preferred simply the fish and the truffle sauce. Terribly un-American I know, but at this price point I felt a more sophisticated presentation was warranted.
Similarly, the Blackened snapper with Jalapeno spoon bread presented the same issue. While the fish was delicious and perfectly prepared, the accompaniments - a mix of red peppers and green beans in a cream sauce – lent the dish more of a “down home” style and taste that seemed out of place in such an otherwise cosmopolitan restaurant.
But rest assured that these are simply personal preferences, and did not detract from what was otherwise an exceptional meal, top to bottom.
Based on the parade of sizzling steaks past our table all evening, it’s clear that you will not be disappointed by Ocean Prime even if fish is not your thing. I have it on good authority that the steaks here, particularly the bone in filet, are spectacular. And unlike many high-end steak restaurants where you are bound to the menu, Ocean Prime provides the unique opportunity to pair any steak on the menu with a variety of house-prepared sauces and toppings, including béarnaise, green peppercorn, black truffle butter, maytag blue cheese, the signature oscar style, and shrimp scampi. In fact, based on the description by our waiter Steven, it was very, very difficult not to choose the bone in filet with shrimp scampi as one of our entrees.
If you manage to save room for desert (and after that calamari appetizer, that’s no small feat), the 10-layer carrot cake is not to be missed. Yes, that is actually 10 thin slices of moist, tender carrot cake separated by 10 layers of cream cheese icing and served with pineapple syrup for good measure. I don’t know how on earth they make it, and I don’t care so long as they keep on making it. Carrot cake not your thing? Not a problem, as I was informed by a fellow diner that the chocolate peanut butter pie is truly a thing of decadent deliciousness. I believe the exact phrase used was that, it was “a debate-ender.” Sadly we were so full from the meal that we only had room for one dessert. But, there’s always next time. And there will be a next time...
While at the high end of the price range at $27 to $46 an entree, Ocean Prime provides a complete dining experience that I think is well worth the price. The space is stunning, the portions are substantial and the quality of the food is easily on par with the other big steak houses in the neighborhood.