“Fish to taste right, must swim three times: in water, in butter, and in wine.”
At Oceanique, the fish most certainly does. The Polish proverb above, found in delicate, italic font at the bottom of the menu, truly summarizes the culinary experience at Oceanique. Located just off the Purple line’s Main stop and considered to be one of the Chicago metropolitan area’s finest seafood restaurants, Oceanique is perhaps the greatest gem of the upscale Evanston eateries.
Once inside, the bar is the first thing you’ll set eyes on, and with good reason. Long and sleek with plush, red bar stools overlooking a vast, vivid painting of the ocean, the bar is fully stocked, both with a variety of alcohol and an extremely apt barman.
If you’re under 21, don’t fret – the barman works magic to create booze-less wonders. We were served a seemingly endless supply of delightful non-alcoholic drinks, from a ginger Arnold Palmer (peach tea, fresh lemon juice and ginger simple syrup) to a blood orange and dragon fruit blend infused with passion fruit tea. We ended the night with a shot of hot cocoa topped with shavings of nutmeg.
The atmosphere is reminiscent of France in the 1900s with walls covered with vintage French paintings and posters and music crooning in the background. The décor is subtle, understated and refined with warm lighting and small, private tables.
With such an impressive menu, narrowing your choices down to one or two dishes can get difficult – and we can attest to that. Our waiter suggested we opt for chef and owner Mark Grosz’s seven course tasting menu (which changes every season) to make the most of our meal. The winter tasting menu starts off with chunks of wild Maine lobster served with buffalo mozzarella, caviar and avocado to complement the fresh, salty flesh of the lobster. Next come the wild Maine diver scallops, served in a lobster-soy broth and sprinkled with colorful slices of kimchi and a few leaves of cilantro.
While seafood is Oceanique’s specialty, their non-seafood dishes are certainly up to par. The third course is a butternut squash ravioli topped with walnuts, prosciutto and crispy sage leaves. The warm, buttery sweetness of the squash paired with the salty, nutty flavor of the accompaniments makes for a perfect combination of flavors.
The organic Spanish turbot comes next, topped with orange cauliflower, lemongrass and pea tips, followed by the Indiana Culver Farms duck and foie gras, served with spaetzle, Belgian endives and huckleberries. A small scoop of seasonal sorbet to refresh your palate is served between the two courses.
If you’re not quite in a food coma yet, the dessert will certainly tip you over the edge. The seventh and final course is the chef’s pastry selection. We were lucky enough to get to taste both the warm pear tart (made with almond pastry custard and served with a scoop of bay leaf ice cream) and the Day & Night cake (layers of chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, whipped crème Chantilly and chestnut ice cream). Don’t ask us to pick winner.
If you’re looking for your next Sunday night takeout, this isn’t it. Save Oceanique for parent’s weekend, or a special occasion. It’s one for the ages.
Price range: $$$$
Address: 505 Main Street, Evanston, IL
Hours of operation: Mon-Thu 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., Fri-Sat 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
15% WildCard advantage
Monday’s no corkage
Wednesday lobster $24
A special thanks to Oceanique for providing us with a press dinner for this review.