The locally owned, 280-seat, 8,000-square-foot restaurant counts among its neighbors the Cheesecake Factory, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Brio Tuscan Grille and a dozen other chain restaurants, and it filled the space vacated by another chain eatery, McCormick & Schmick’s.
But how does Club Oceano stack up against its competition?
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Very well, if a couple of visits during the restaurant’s first month of operation are any indication.
First, a note about service. I’ve adjusted my expectations for service at any and all restaurants downward, because the incredibly tight labor market makes it virtually impossible for new restaurants to find employees, let alone really good employees who are blessed with the “hospitality gene.” But Club Oceano defied my expectations. On my two visits, service was spot-on.
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Now for the food. From the dinner menu, we sampled two soups: Lobster Bisque ($8) and Coconut Seafood Chowder ($7). Both were rich, creamy and delicious. Don’t be put off by the “Coconut” in the chowder’s name — the coconut serves as a background note, and is not at all overpowering. The Strawberry Candied Walnut Salad ($10) also proved to be a fine choice, the blue-cheese crumbles adding a salty, pleasantly funky counterpoint to the candied walnuts.
From the “Cold Ocean Starters” menu, the Neptune Cocktail ($22) offers the holy trinity of king crab, shrimp and sliced lobster tail, all served on ice. The Mussels in White Wine Sauce ($11) were plump and tender, served with grilled slices of crusty garlic bread.
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We chose fresh-fish options from the Club Oceano Specialties menu, including Fresh Cut Chilean Sea Bass ($34), served with a miso sauce, Italian black rice and seasonal vegetables, quickly sauteed. The sauce complemented the moist, well-prepared sea bass. Florida Grouper ($34) is pan-seared, then topped with a ribbon of tomato-black bean (mostly tomato) sauce and served with cilantro rice and seasonal vegetables. Both dishes were well-executed.
A lunch visit (served daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) was a revelation. Turns out this seafood restaurant serves up one of the best versions of Fish & Chips I’ve ever encountered. Flaky, moist fish fried perfectly with a crispy, not-too-heavy, not-too-light batter. Served with wedge fries and cole slaw, the dish costs $13 at lunch, $17 at dinner, and is a great budget-conscious option at the fine-dining restaurant.
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Club Oceano’s Agave Salmon ($15) was also a winner. It’s seared to a crispy exterior and served with a light lemon butter cream sauce, Italian black rice and asparagus, the spears perfectly cooked to crisp-tender. A larger portion of the salmon is available on the dinner menu for $24.
The drinks menu boasts a wealth of craft cocktails that sound appealing, but I opted for the white-wine by-the-glass list and found a hidden gem nestled among the usual chardonnay suspects. The Bibi Graetz Casamatta ($10 a glass) hails from Tuscany and is a blend of Vermentino, Trebbiano and Moscato. It is refreshing, just barely off-dry with its a touch of sweetness.
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The full Club Oceano menu can be accessed at www.cluboceanoseafood.com/menus — note that the lunch menu and dinner menu are on separate links. The drinks menu is also online.
Club Oceano’s founders are Sam Zheng, Raymond Chow and Brian Andzik, all Dayton-area residents. Zheng and Chow operate Sky Asian Cuisine in Kettering. Andzik has served for 28 years as chairman and one of the chief organizers of the popular Italian Fall Festa held each year. Together, this trio has created a striking new restaurant worthy of a visit — and perhaps many returns.
I’ll be back to try the Southern Seafood Boil and the seafood pasta dishes — and to revisit those crazy-good fish and chips.
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