Oceanaire Seafood Room
400 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
Other locations can be found through website
The Oceanaire in San Diego is one of my favorite "fine dining" restaurants in San Diego. The restaurant serves very fresh fish, with their menu changing daily based on the fish they have that day. The atmosphere is a bit loud and lively. There is jazz type music playing in the background, you don't need to dress nicely, and the tables have oversized salt and ketchup containers. The staff is always bustling around. It's definitely not your typical fine dining atmosphere, but I still love it. Here are the many reasons why Oceanaire has become one of my favorite places to dine:
1. The crab cakes. If you eat anything here, it has got to be the crab cakes. And once you've tried the crab cakes here, Oceanaire pretty much ruins crab cakes for you from anywhere else. Oceanaire is famous for their crab cakes, and I have to say, they live up to all the hype.
Imagine the best tasting meaty portions of a crab, that usually take forever to get to due to all the layers of shell in a crab, already pulled out for you and put in one giant lump. Imagine those tasty meaty portions of the crab mixed with a light sauce that lightly holds the crab cake together, doesn't detract from the delicious sweetness of the crab, and only accentuates the crab's flavor. And that is how I feel when I am eating an Oceanaire crab cake. It's not just that it's big, or that it has a lot of meat. It's a combination of using the best meat portions of the crab and whatever it is that they mix with it to hold it together.
The crab cake comes with a buttermilk type dipping sauce and a lemon wedge. I like to dip mine in the sauce. So yummy.
If I were to make a list of foods you have to try in San Diego, Oceanaire's crab cakes would be at the top of my list.
The crabcake is a bit pricey though. $15.95 for one crab cake. For those cringing at that price, I would recommend to go to Oceanaire during restaurant week, where the crab cake is always a choice for appetizer, or for their price-fixed menu. Currently Sun-Thurs, between 5-7 they offer a 3 course menu for $32.95. I've never tried it, but the crab cake is one of the appetizer choices.
2. Fresh fish. Their menu changes daily based on the fresh fish they have that day. Until I went to Oceanaire for the first time, I didn't even know you could order a fish cooked medium. I thought that only applied for steaks! Most of the time, Oceanaire cooks the fish medium, so that the fish is very tender and not dry. I normally would be afraid to eat a fish that isn't cooked well done, but the freshness of Oceanaire's fish lets me enjoy very tender and moist fish. Here is the menu from the night we went:
On this occasion, I had the angry snapper.
I loved the presentation of the whole fish. A whole snapper is flash fried, creating a nice, crunchy skin. Yum! The fish skin has a lot of pepper and other sauces to make it spicy. I love the spiciness of the fish, the crunchy skin. The fish had cuts in it, making it easy to take the meat off even though it is served whole. As if the fish isn't big enough, it is also served on a bed of mashed potatoes.
The boyfriend loves, loves the seared tuna here. He loves getting seared tuna everywhere he goes, but Oceanaire's is the best. I have to agree. I'm not a big fan of seared tuna, but even I enjoy the seared tuna at Oceanaire.
3. The service. Super attentive service. Water glasses are always refilled. Waiter is constantly checking to make sure everything is okay. They usually assign one main waiter and one assistant waiter to each table. I've always enjoyed the service here. When you ask where the restrooms are, the waiters will even walk you to the restroom! On one occasion, the boyfriend and I had a server named Josh. His service was the best service I had ever had at any restaurant ever. I've tried to request him on subsequent occasions, but he wasn't working the nights that the boyfriend and I were dining during. Too bad.
He really is that good.
4. Special Occasions. If you tell them you are celebrating an anniversary or birthday when you make your reservation, they make sure to give you one of the more private booths. They also will have "Happy Anniversary" or "Happy Birthday" printed on the menu. And you get a Baked Alaska for dessert! Hence the picture from the beginning of the post.
So this particular visit was a special occasion. It was one of the many places the boyfriend and I went to to celebrate my birthday. The presentation of the Baked Alaska is fun to watch. The taste is just okay. It's really about the show though. The Baked Alaska is basically ice cream and brownie, covered in some kind of cream. They light the cream on fire with Bacardi 151. I've seen some waiters add sparks to the fire, but I didn't get that for my cake this time. Oh well. Here is a progression of the Baked Alaska show.
First, the unlit dessert is presented.
Then the alcohol is lit on fire.
Then the flaming alcohol is poured onto the dessert.
Then the knife is heated in the fire.
Then the cake is cut while still on fire.
The dessert is served on your plate as the flame dies away.
5. The starting dish. Oceanaire starts with hot sour dough bread and a plate of cut vegetables and pickled herring. I love the vegetable dish. The carrots, radish and celery go great with the pickled herring. The picked herring is served with onions so that it isn't too fishy.
6. The bathrooms. Now I normally don't make a habit of visiting or
rating bathroom's restaurants, but I have to point out the ones at
Oceanaire. Inside, they have cloth towels for drying your hands! After
you dry your hands, you just throw them into a basket full of used
cloth towels. I almost feel guilty using a whole big cloth towel just
for the drying of my hands. Obviously Oceanaire has to do a lot of
loads of laundry to supply so many towels.
Other highlights. This place has an oyster bar that is supposed to be good. I don't really eat oysters, and never tried this, so I don't know. If you watch Iron Chef, Brian Malarkey is the head chef at Oceanaire. Sometimes you can see him and talk to him.
Below is a cool quote that is written on the restaurant wall.