Stepping Out: Océano Bistro

| Scene Reporter

44 N. Brentwood Drive
Clayton, MO 63105

If these wintery days have you in a somber mood, Océano Bistro is sure to put a smile on your face. With a largely seafood inspired menu, each dish is an ode to a coastal city filled with warm sunrays.

The restaurant features primarily seafood, ranging from local Missouri trout to sea bass and scallops. Tropical and Mediterranean undercurrents flow through many of the dishes, like the grilled mahi mahi with seared polenta, sweet tomato marmalade and a blood orange and fennel-citrus relish.

Knowing I would have plenty of seafood options for the second course, I started with the umami Kobe sliders. The two small sandwiches of plump meat, Vermont white cheddar and pickles on airy homemade brioche rolls intrigued me, as I was anxious to sample their bold attempt to capture the elusive “fifth flavor”—umami. Unfortunately, they were a bit dry and lacked the delicate arrangement and vibrant flavors of some of the other appetizers, most notably the spicy blackened bigeye tuna with ginger, roasted red pepper and a spicy mustard emulsion.

Fortunately, the blackened tuna set the tone for the rest of the night. For the entrée, I had the herb-crusted sea bass. The sea bass was seared to a perfect brown and was firm and fresh. The risotto was velvet-like, featuring pureed butternut squash, and complimented the fish rather well. The fish and risotto sat nestled in a ring of Prosecco buerre blanc, a rich sauce made from reduced Italian champagne, vinegar, shallots and butter; however, I could have done without the beurre blanc and more of the smooth risotto.

Other seafood entrees include the grilled farm-raised Atlantic salmon with shaved apple-fennel salad and a bacon wrapped arugula cake with cider jus. While I did not try this dish, the waiter promptly informed the table during ordering that the salmon was raised in an aquaculture farm that he felt was similar to the conditions in which a free-range chicken would live.

I finished my meal with a gooey, semi-sweet phyllo-wrapped brownie. The phyllo crust enveloped the molten brownie in such a crisp shell that you could hear, amongst the chatter of the patrons, the layers of the crust cracking as the spoon dug into them. This Aegean-inspired brownie was topped off with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and surrounded by a vanilla bean flecked crème anglaise—a kind of light custard.

Océano’s meal put the table in such a chipper mood that we stayed chatting after we had finished eating (probably hoping for some other delicious dish to make its way over.) Outfitted in warm colors and bathed in soft light, the restaurant’s ambiance would be perfect if not for the peculiar lack of table cloths. Océano’s atmosphere is casually sophisticated, perfect for an anniversary or celebration with friends, with entrees ranging from $18 to $32. If you go before Feb. 10, you can have their three-item tasting menu for $25—a perfect way to ward off the winter blues and satiate a curious palate.

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