Oceanique Restaurant Review – More Than Just Fish in the Sea

Oceanique, a gourmet French-American seafood restaurant in Evanston, IL, also noted as one of Chicago’s finest seafood restaurants, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Oceanique uses only local, organic produce and seafood from green-friendly suppliers to prepare its marvelous meals.  This restaurant also boasts a vast wine collection with over 800 different selections.

 

Head chef and owner, Mark Grosz, the mastermind behind the restaurant, began his culinary education under chef Jean Banchet, head chef of the restaurant, Le Francais, in Wheeling, Illinois. He also gathered experience from various restaurants in France and Hong Kong.

 

Chef and Oceanique owner, Mark Grosz

 

On Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014, Grosz hosted a wonderful dinner tasting, which I could not possibly miss. Now all of my friends thought it was strange I was going to eat food at a seafood restaurant, when they all know that I am a vegetarian. (I exclude meat from my diet including poultry, pork, beef, and seafood). However, I was excited to sample the food because I would be having a completely vegetarian dining experience in a seafood restaurant! There were other vegetarians there that evening, and I thought it was very courteous and accommodating of the chef to provide us with meatless courses.

 

Entering the restaurant itself, which sits cozily on quiet Main Street in Evanston, I was greeted by the lovely atmosphere of dimmed lighting, long, hardwood tables, and simple white and cream-colored walls, with intricate patterns. There was a long dining room near the lobby, a side bar, and an additional room to the left. 

 

 

The restuarant bar

The long dining room

The main dining room

 

It was a pleasure to meet Mr. Grosz. He was welcoming, warm, and extremely knowledgeable. He gave all of us the descriptions of the courses we would taste ahead of time. Each course was also paired with an appropriate wine.

 

The chef certainly had a way with vegetables! The first course presented was fava beans, purple potatoes, and grilled leek with carrot and cilantro oil. This dish was delectable and I thoroughly enjoyed every taste that landed on my tongue - I savored every bite. All of the tastes and aromas were harmonious. The tastes were light, yet packed with flavor. My favorite part of this dish was the purple potatoes, soft, and wonderfully starchy. 

 

Fava beans, purple potatoes, and grilled leek with carrot and cilantro oil

 

The second course was yet another creative presentation of seasonal vegetables, with a variety of colors and textures which consisted of cabbage with ginger and garlic vegetable broth, fava beans, heirloom carrots, leeks, cilantro, and watermelon radish. It was a vibrant plate with reds, greens, yellows, and browns. I especially loved the woodsy, crisp taste and aroma of the sweet, light broth. The amount of garlic was perfect and was nicely salty. The broth was also a lovely contribution to the fantastic taste of all the different vegetables.

 

Cabbage with ginger and garlic vegetable broth, fava beans, heirloom carrots, leeks, cilantro, and watermelon radish

 

The third course served was a superb medley of pear, red watercress, red onion, pecans, buttermilk, and Maytag blue cheese. The pear had a crisp, fresh taste to it and I loved the Maytag blue cheese, which was sharp and salty.

 

The fourth course, butternut squash ravioli with fennel, crispy sage, and walnuts, was a heavenly dish. Each and every ingredient went together perfectly, and my mouth watered when the scent reached my nose, and the presentation was beautiful. The brown butter sauce and the butternut squash had a nice earthy, sweet flavor. The sage also nicely complimented the dish overall and the walnuts had a satisfying nuttiness to them.

 

Butternut squash ravioli with fennel, crispy sage, and walnuts

 

After the butternut squash, we were all served a cup of lychee sorbet to clean our palates. It was subtle but had a simple, tropical, and mild taste to it. My taste buds were cleansed and ready for the next set of dishes.

 

Moving on to the fifth course of the evening, I enjoyed yet another dish with brightly colored vegetables including orange carrots, purple potatoes, brown oyster mushrooms, fennel, all surrounded by a port wine reduction. Everything looked too pretty to disturb or eat. The port wine reduction was nicely acidic and tart, which also helped tie together all the different vegetable flavors. The oyster mushrooms were nicely tender and the purple potatoes were very succulent.

 

Orange carrots, purple potatoes, brown oyster mushrooms, and fennel, with a port wine reduction

 

The last dish was the crowing jewel and ultimate finale, for me, in terms of dining out: the dessert. My mouth watered as it was placed in front of me. It was another plate too beautiful to touch or disturb. It was called a banana marjolaine with chocolate mousse, shaved chocolate, chopped lychees and raspberries, and chocolate and caramel glaze on top. I cannot begin to describe the flavors and sensations that I experienced. It was Heaven on my plate. I really loved the wonderful cocoa notes of the mousse itself and the blackberries and leeches, which can be a rather underappreciated fruit.

 

Banana marjolaine with chocolate mousse, shaved chocolate, chopped leeches and raspberries, and chocolate and caramel glaze

 

What a genuinely, lovely meal I experienced at Oceanique. Everything from the wine to the food to the service was exceptional, warm, and delightful. I hope to return there very shortly to experience more of what Chef Grosz creates.

 

Photos: Jennifer Lunz

 

Oceanique restaurant is located on 505 Main Street, Evanston, IL 60202.

Hours: Monday-Thursday 5:30 - 9 pm, Friday and Sat 5:30 – 10 pm, Sunday - Closed

For more information about Oceanique Restaurant or to make a reservation, visit the Oceanique website or call 847-864-3435.

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