Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ocean House is a Swimming Success

There’s prime real estate, and then there’s Ocean House. Located in scenic Dennisport, MA, this restaurant not only provides panoramic, stunning ocean views but serves up some of the most inventive, tasty cuisine in all of Cape Cod. Chef Anthony Silvestri’s New American menu features fusion fare with subtle touches of Pan Asian influence along with a heavy focus on local, seasonal ingredients.
There’s nary an unattractive seat in the house given the enormous glass window that dominates the main dining room and seemingly opens right into the Atlantic Ocean like an infinity pool. It’s a breathtaking sight to behold, particularly at sunset. It’s easy to mistake a Wednesday evening for the weekend, as evidenced by the two hour wait and throngs of people awaiting their tables. Boisterous locals shout (yes, acoustics are loud) over to friends at nearby tables, happily exchanging summertime stories. Hints of Cape Cod and aromas of seafood permeate through the air.

Undoubtedly, diners are enjoying the bartender’s creative, stiff cocktails, which feature a luminous red concoction called Cactus Flower ($12), an upscale margarita infused with elderflower and lavender liquor, including said flower atop the glass’s rim. A watermelon mojito is also light, refreshing, subtly sweet and well executed. Twenty wine selections are also available by the glass, most notably a phenomenally good Pinot Noir, Neiome by Caymus (California, 2011, $10) that would pair nicely with either fish or filet (mignon).

The lone disappointment of the evening are the fried Point Judith calamari ($14), a simple, classic seafood staple that one would think an acclaimed restaurant such as Ocean House would nail. Sadly, while the octopi are adequately cooked, what they lack is distinct flavor. The dish promises smokiness by way of chorizo and spiciness by way of cherry peppers, but barely any are detected on the plate. Fortunately, this misfire is instantly offset by yellow fin tuna tartar, which is a revelatory dish, not merely due to the freshness of the fish and intense flavoring (sesame and ginger vinaigrette), but because of its wildly unique and fun spinoff on the ice cream cone. A quartet of miniature ice cream cones contain the tartar, and are layered with a dollop of incredibly light, airy, whipped wasabi foam. Chef Silvestri’s creation possesses a wow factor usually reserved for more experimental chefs such as Ken Oringer at Clio.

Entrees are equally strong. This is not-your-average tasting halibut, whose flavor is enhanced here by encrusting it with ginger and pairing with braised Napa cabbage, red curry oil, and black rice ($28). Thai cioppino also offers a unique twist on the Italian-American seafood favorite, infused with kaffir lime broth and packed with an abundance of fresh seafood. A special of wild striped bass (in season for one month only) – whose thicker texture closely resembles a more tender cut of swordfish – is also divine, cooked in a zesty tomato broth and creatively paired with potato hash.

Service, for the most part, is respectable. However, with an 8 o’clock dinner reservation and neither water nor bread placed on our table until forty-five minutes have elapsed, our waiter apologizes for being called to other tables. Lesson #1 in Service 101: never blame delays on how busy the rest of the restaurant is. Fortunately for him, his bubbly personality and intricate knowledge of the men (along with a wonderfully crispy, triangular piece of sesame bread served vertically) made us quickly forget the early foible.

Overall, Ocean House, with its waterfront setting and inventive menu, is a solid Cape Cod fine dining option that manages to do most things well. It’s the little things, however, that make Paul's Palate not want to jump overboard for a return visit any time soon.