Right from the moment they delivered the pre-appetizer amuse-bouche, we knew that Oceanique meant business. The presentation was picture perfect. The flavors were even better. It was a swordfish and halibut ceviche with ginger, lime, and basil wrapped in a ribbon of leek. Tiny cuts of tomato and a housemade gluten-free potato chip act as taste and texture accents, and drizzles of carrot and cilantro oils complete the palate. It was a complex combination of robust flavors that resolved in a feeling of elegant satisfaction. It turned out, course after course, that flavor experience is a hallmark of Oceanique.
The design of the dining room is simple and minimal, white table cloths and champagne colored walls with classical accent wall panels at intervals along the west wall, creating a nod to tradition while evoking modern sensibilities. A touch of golden glow is introduced via Edison bulbs encased in glass boxes. The minimal environment draws even more focus onto the exquisite presentation of the plates.
From the Plats Chaud (Hot Dishes) menu, we had the Butternut Squash Ravioli. The pasta is delicate, and the flavors so deep and warming. Fennel and crispy sage bring a woodsy flavor while the squash keeps it light and creamy. Chopped prosciutto and walnuts beautifully round out the flavors and textures.
Next we sampled the Wild Japanese Day Boat Scallops. This is another incredible, dark, soothing dish with the inherent silky qualities of the scallop surrounded by the sharp flavors of soy sauce from their lobster-soy broth, a vinegar lilt from an in-house concoction called white boy kimchi, and a little sting of cilantro. There’s a growing spice that continues to build with each bite and a fantastic, deep ramen’esque quality.
From dark, warming flavors we move to crisp, cool, and refreshing. At the top of the Salades menu we found the Wild Maine Lobster, Belgian Endive, and Heirloom Tomato salad. With thick, pillowy pads of Bufala Mozzarella, slices of avocado, and a little cluster of caviar as a centerpiece, this is a very decadent and elaborate dish. The endive is sparing but potent bringing a sharp arugula addition to the sweet lobster meat and the salty sting of red caviar. Delicious.
Moving into the entrees, we first experienced the Wild Maine Halibut. This is a fish dish that calls for a red wine pairing, given the sauce itself is a port-cabernet sauce adding a little heft to a fish that’s very delicate in flavor. The preparation was perfect, brushed in olive oil and roasted at a low temperature, keeping the fish extremely tender and juicy. With sides of broccolini and orange cauliflower, it’s a precise conglomeration of exquisite earthy flavors and delicate textures.
The Organic Norwegian Fjord Ocean Trout goes in a very different direction, pairing it’s fresh fish flavor with south-of-the-border spice, turmeric, poblano pepper, and topped with a fresh sprig of cilantro. Everything on the plate is bold, flavor-forward, and distinct. The side of butternut squash even reveals a vibrant current of spiciness. The side of elotes is the best, though. A mound of corn off the cobb covered in butter, lime juice, chili powder, cotija cheese, and crema fresca. It’s creamy and delicious.
For dessert we ordered the Napolean. It’s the most diaphonous dessert imaginable. Everything is made in house, three layers of flaky puffed pastry sandwiching layers of lighter-than-air vanilla mousseline. Even the side of ice cream is made in the kitchen. With a sprinkling of seasonal berries to complete the picture, it’s the kind of light, exceptional decadence that you can fit into the end of any meal.
Oceanique is located at 505 Main Street in Evanston, 847-864-3435, oceanique.com.