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Ocean Club - Fresh Catch

4002 Easton Sta. Columbus, OH 43219 (614) 416-2582

When did they start putting the fancy restaurants at the mall? Used to be, you had to choose from something at the food court or go somewhere else. Now, malls all over the country are leasing some serious frontage to highbrow joints of all manners. Easton is a great example. There’s top-shelf everything out there – from fish to fried rice to fondue. Let us, for the purposes of this feature, concentrate on the fish.

There are lots of ways to get inside the giant crystal cathedral in the middle of Easton Towne Centre™. The one by the Gap is the entrance we’re going to be referring to. We would tell you compass points, but we get so turned around at Easton. We’re sure you do too. Everybody knows where the Gap is, though. So, upon entering the giant crystal cathedral in the center of Easton Towne Centre™, one must simply proceed past the Gap and up the stairs or escalator and into the Ocean Club for some of the fanciest fish available in the Columbus metropolitan area. Don’t worry, it isn’t a real club (like the kind with members). It’s a Cameron Mitchell joint. Everyone is welcome. No fees.

The first noticeable thing about the newly remodeled Ocean Club is that they probably could charge a membership fee. It has a very classy, well-thought-out ambience. It has the vibe of a place where you can slip the right waiter a fifty and have him return with a Partagas #10 – Cuban, of course. It is the kind of place where the old fashioned comes in a giant tumbler that weighs in at close to a pound. When you get up from the bar to go to the table, someone grabs all your drinks and meets you there. It is that kind of class.

The patio is most assuredly the place to dine for these few months in which it is appropriate to dine on a patio. The breeze is nice, the people watching is superlative and the food is exactly the same stuff they serve inside. So is the wine.

Starters at Ocean Club excel. It seems a somewhat unlikely comparison, what with one constituent being from deep beneath the sea and the other the defining commodity of the landlocked Midwest, but crab and corn go better together than either love and marriage or a horse and carriage. The jumbo lump crab cakes with sweet corn cream are the most adroit exemplars of that phenomenon. They are complemented nicely by a crispy, fresh and well-chilled white – maybe something with a hint of grapefruit: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Coincidentally, that same wine will explode (figuratively) on the palate when it chases the last remnants of sweet chili and calamari away. It could even get through the “surf” part of Ocean Club’s “Surf and Turf”. The pan-seared diver scallop is an essential constituent on the highbrow menu these days, because it is so danged delicious. When Ocean Club pairs a couple of them with some tender, pulled, braised short-ribs, they just slay. The only issue is that they are a little much for the white wine.

There are plenty of completely red-friendly ways to start a meal at Ocean Club as well. The wedge salad has smoked bacon, pungent blue cheese, and buttermilk and cabernet in the dressing. It could handle a giant red, or fare just as well with a medium-bodied one. Of course, there are plenty of options on Ocean Club’s list that could cover the “Surf and Turf”, the wedge and even the chop salad and the prime beef carpaccio. If you must, do it backwards. Have a nice bottle of big juicy red with the appetizers and move to a white with the meal.

Everything on the regular dinner menu is white friendly with the exception of the short rib osso buco with horseradish mashed potatoes and the more traditional steaks. We must assume that they were added because we are in Ohio and there is a bylaw somewhere in the annals of our great state’s legislative history mandating that every vendor of food or food-like products offer at least one form of meat. The short rib osso buco, however, is good enough to merit getting an entire bottle of a giant, stemmy, juicy red just to drink with it. The White Oak Cabernet comes to mind first thing. The huge berry fruit comes through right before the tannic assault of broken twigs and crushed seeds, which then mellows to a soft, velvety finish. It is the perfect way to rinse the remnants of tender, fork-cut short rib and smooth and tangy potato from an already delighted palate. Push the rib and the red to the side when you are through, and be sure not to fill up.

The white-friendly fishes on the menu at Ocean Club are the reason for its name, so it is safe to assume that they are always of the highest quality. Only a fool would name his restaurant Ocean Club and serve cruddy seafood, and Cameron Mitchell ain’t no fool. Even the salmon, which is traditionally known to be a pronouncedly fishy tasting creature has none of the sharp and acrid fishiness that gives it its reputation. It is robust and delicious and just screaming to be eaten with a bottle of California Chardonnay or full-bodied white. The soy butter sauce presents a bit of a challenge for some of the crisper and lighter-bodied varietals. But, if a Sauvignon Blanc or something like an Albarino is what you are in the mood for, try the trout, the snapper, the scallops, the sea bass, the Mahi, the halibut, the crab legs, the lobster tail or the chicken. None will disappoint.

What might leave you a little disappointed would be skipping dessert. The stuff is just ridiculously tasty – and giant, as seems to be in vogue with desserts these days. If you didn’t drink the entire bottle of jammy red with the osso buco, drink some of it with chocolate. If you did, drink the rest of the California Chardonnay with some fruit. If you are out of wine altogether, have the attentive, courteous and knowledgeable server bring you a cup of coffee and a snifter of something. You need something to sip while eating sweets and you don’t want to rush the process at Ocean Club.