The Oceanaire Seafood Room, San Diego

I’ve just returned from a conference in San Diego. Overall, it was a pretty dismal experience, food-wise. Rubber convention center chicken burgers, a rat in the dining room of the not-very-good Indian restaurant we tried. The restaurants in the Gaslamp quarter are there for the tourists and they don’t bother with anything more than a pretense at quality (although they don’t worry about overcharging for their pitiful fare).

When we decided to arrange a large dinner, I let the most food-quality-conscious person involved pick the restaurant. When I found out that the choice was the Oceanaire, I was excited: we had been meaning to try their Seattle location and one of their chefs is a contestant on Top Chef, a tv show we enjoy. Also, by this point, I was getting tired of really bad food. The best meals I’d had in San Diego were catered meeting food and that is not a good thing.

The Oceanaire seems to be a bit more of the style-over-substance kind of place. From the decor to the food presentations: Our appetizer platters were delivered as 2 foot tall ice mountains with various pieces of seafood stuck to the side. These were fairly good. Of course, there was no cooking involved, but at least they seemed to have gotten quality seafood.

My main course was a disappointment. I had a piece of Alaskan Halibut that was overcooked and had very little flavor. The potato/asparagus mixture sitting underneath the fish was quite good, but I had a bit of a hard time finishing the fish. At the conclusion of the main course, I noticed that several of my companions had not finished their main courses.

Desert was another over-the-top affair. We ordered several of the deserts for our party and split them amongst ourselves.  Each of these deserts was huge, suitable for 2-3 people and each of them they had the subtlety of an atom bomb. It wasn’t chocolate cake, it was CHOCOLATE CAKE!!!!! Most the of the desserts were ok, not outstanding. The New Yorkers at the table felt that the New York Cheesecake had the right flavors, but the wrong consistency. The bread pudding (usually one of my favorite items) was basely edible. Everything else was ok.

This meal with wine came to around $100/person. For me, I have to compare it to Seattle restaurants. I think that the food quality is a bit above Salty’s, Cutter’s or Palisade, but not by that much. It is also that kind of place, more for the tourists.

Let me put it this way: if I have $100/person to spend and I want seafood, I’ll go somewhere better. If I want to celebrate a special event, I’d probably do it at one of the view places I mentioned above. However, if friends wanted to go there, I’d probably go again just to see if I got them on an off night. If I was served the same meal I got this week, I probably would never return.

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