See a slideshow of Ocean's chef at work.
I took a sip from my $9 margarita as I sat with two beautiful ladies at Ocean's. The drink was like a martini, but with fresh lime and subtle hints of liqueurs in the back finish. Heaven! As the tequila warmed my chest, I wished it weren't too hot to sit outside. The patio looked amazing. Its black furniture was empty, and a large fountain flowed silently in the summer heat.
The Ocean's ceviche arrived at our table on a large, white, rectangular plate. The yellowfin tuna sat underneath a fine julienne of peppers and onions with green olives and cilantro. The fish had been prepared with citrus, giving it a slightly cooked texture but leaving the natural taste of the tuna, which was sliced thin and arranged perfectly on the plate, with two halves of a corn tostada on either side. The red manzano chile sauce spread across it looked like a painting; it was smoky and tasted more like chipotle puree.
819 W. Alabama, 713-520-7744.
Lunch hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Dinner hours: 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.
Ocean's Ceviche: $12
Lobster Sope: $16
Rasurado Ceviche: $12
Taco Maximiliano: $9
Oriental Ceviche: $12
Prime Filet Mignon Taco: $14
Diver Sea Scallops: $25
When you order ceviche from the menu here, you can get salmon or yellowfin tuna. We went with tuna every time because raw salmon — or a ceviche of salmon — has an oily texture with a strong flavor. Why would a ceviche restaurant have just two choices of fish? The tuna might be from the Gulf, but the salmon was most likely farmed in another state.
The Lobster Sope, a grilled lobster tail with a creamy chipotle sauce and black beans, was delicious. The lobster was rich, and the spice of the chipotle woke up my palate. The beans added another level of texture, and the accompanying tostada was topped with fresh avocado, supplying even more richness. As amazing as the margaritas were, I'd switched to a Dos Equis lager, and it complemented the seafood really well.
Several of Ocean's dishes come with pommes frites, a surprising accompaniment. But the salty, hot, starchy fried potato adds a nice contrast in textures and flavors that is appreciated when eating a lot of acidic fresh fish.
We asked for a few more items from the menu, and our server had to check with the kitchen and make sure they had not run out of them. There were no scallops or mussels, but I wasn't bothered by this — it just means they're keeping them fresh. We settled on the Rasurado, a fish ceviche with serrano peppers. "Rasurado" is Spanish for "shaved," which refers to the dish's thin shavings of raw onions and chiles. My lunch companions and I systematically cleaned up the light and refreshing fish.
We added the Taco Maximiliano and the Oriental Ceviche to our lunch. The taco came with succulent shrimp — if I didn't know better, I would've wondered if the tender, flavorful shrimp were fresh and not previously frozen. It would be a crime if they were not straight from the Gulf. A thick shaving of parmesan sat on top of the shrimp. Seafood and cheese are always tricky. Done right, the combination can add continuity to a course. Done wrong, it can be disgusting. Ocean's Shrimp Maximiliano was perfect.
The Oriental Ceviche was extremely simple: tuna soaked in soy sauce and orange juice with hints of rice vinegar and sesame oil, with a julienne of fresh cucumber displayed on top and tostadas.
My best friend was waiting for me when I arrived on my second visit to Ocean's shortly before closing time to grab a late dinner and a margarita, which I had been craving. The bartender shook us some drinks, and we chatted as we waited for another friend.
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We eventually sat down and began negotiations with our server about what seafood was available. The beauty of Ocean's is the menu is short and simple. I ordered the only ceviche I hadn't tried at this point, the Sinaloa Fish Ceviche. It boasted the chiltepin chile, the mother of all peppers, and was served with red onions and olives.
The Diver Sea Scallops were available and tremendously satisfying with their mole sauce. They were an instant hit with my seafood-skeptic friends. It was the first time my best friend had ever eaten a scallop.
My friend is picky when it comes to seafood, especially shellfish, so I ordered the Prime Filet Mignon Taco thinking this would please him. But the "prime filet" was overcooked and tough. It's not easy to get prime filet in this country — it's mostly shipped to other countries and is so expensive nobody wants to mess with it. Why would you want the most tender of all cuts to be prime anyway? It is already tender. Not to mention, if you really wanted to have the best beef money could buy, why not just buy some Wagyu from Texas and call it a day?
But a taco wasn't going to ruin our night. The evening had cooled down the dreamy patio, so my late-night ceviche dinner companions and I took our Modelo Especials to the patio and enjoyed the summer night air.