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Living in Holland when we were first married gave us the chance to spend long weekends in France. Paris was our favorite destination, but we also explored the countryside: Normandy and Provence, the Haut-Jura and Languedoc-Roussillon. This is why it’s such a treat to have Oceanique in Evanston as a convenient time machine that takes us back to that time, complete with a meticulous but innovative approach to seafood and an extensive wine cellar.
Chef de Cuisine and owner Mark Grosz bills the restaurant as an eclectic seafood restaurant in the French-American style, and that fusion quickly becomes apparent from the first course.
On a recent evening there, we had chilled Massachusetts Moon Shoal oysters topped off with jalapeno-red onion salsa and a radish salad. The heat and acid of the salsa and the salad, as well as the textures, beautifully complemented the briny smoothness of the oysters. The oysters were also offered roasted with elote, cauliflower, and saffron.
Fancy restaurant salads are all we dream about these days, when we consider our own at-home dinner planning. We would love to have the energy and the wit to toss together golden beets with warm goat cheese, artichokes, and organic lettuce. Or, a salad with prosciutto, Manchego cheese, fennel, almonds, apple, and red onion. But that’s what makes going out for dinner so special.
The calamari and shrimp salad came with watermelon radish, ginger, daikon, and a sake-based vinaigrette. White asparagus, caviar, and avocado perfected a wild Maine lobster and Bufala mozzarella pairing.
Although it’s a seafood restaurant, Oceanique offered three dishes for meat and game lovers. A rack of lamb with foie gras featured a pomegranate-plum mostarda. The filet mignon came with fingerlings, chanterelles, and cippolinis, while the Indiana quail boasted an apricot-mushroom stuffing.
But we chose two fantastic offerings from the sea, both from Rhode Island. The black sea bass looked beautiful and tasted crazy-good, nestled on top of a puree of fennel, artichoke, and lemongrass. The skate had leeks, Brussels sprouts, and fingerling potatoes as companions.
Befitting a French-inspired restaurant, the dessert list is mouthwatering. We stayed classic, ordering the chocolate layer cake with chestnut ice cream and a Napolean. Both were fantastic.
Now to the wine. There’s a fantastic old Polish proverb quoted in the menu: “Fish, to taste right, must swim three times: in water, in butter, and in wine.” The dazzling Oceanique wine list makes it easy (and very pleasurable) to fulfill that final requirement.
The extensive selection of nearly 900 wines includes rare champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and California Cabernet. The reserve library includes such stellar labels as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Angelo Gaja, and Domaine Leroy. Rest assured, there are also many options for us mere mortals in the beautifully curated list of New and Old World wines. As for us, we kept it French: champagne to start, followed by white then red Burgundy, all in keeping with our walk down memory lane.
Oceanique is located at 505 Main Street in Evanston.
For more information or to make a reservation, call 847-864-3435, or visit oceanique.com. —Reviewed by Mary and Frank Phillips