Review: Océano Bistro in Clayton
Océano Bistro offers seafood favorites along with some less familiar dishes for the landlocked longing for water. You’ll have more trouble finding parking at this Clayton institution than getting a lunch seat in the large restaurant. Set your sails for the sunny enclosed patio if you can. Otherwise, what Océano’s interior lacks in ambiance it makes up for in fresh flavors.
New England Seafood Chowder
Océano’s New England seafood chowder is one of the best in the city. Huge chunks of peekytoe crab were the captains of this flavor ship, rowing alongside perfectly cooked potatoes. The orangey-colored broth was creamy, thick and a little spicy – if you’re one to add hot sauce, you may not need to here. But fear not, aromaphobes; the extra kick was mild and the color provided by a smoked tomato butter topping that brought more complex flavor than heat. With that broth and all the crabmeat, Océano nailed the texture. This complete package could serve as a meal on its own or a great side alternative to fries.
Maryland Lump Crabcake
Available as an appetizer or a sandwich with a side (It’s called the chipotle crabcake in sandwich form.), the Maryland lump crabcake was firm and not cooked to death. The Fresno chile, fennel, Italian parsley and chives flavoring the cake, along with the chipotle aioli it was served with, edged this seafood staple ahead of ubiquitous, run-of-the-mill recipes. Sometimes old stalwarts are solid picks.
Smoked Salmon Grilled Cheese
Smoked salmon grilled cheese are the words you’ve been waiting for. Smoked Gouda was on board with fontina and provolone, all melted between crisp buttered bread with tomato and a garlic aioli. The salmon itself wasn’t overly smoky, making for a unique take on grilled cheese that felt both new and familiar. Soft and crunchy, it’s a great first mate to the chowder for a warm, filling meal.
As one does in Clayton, you’ll notice many patrons enjoying entree salads at Océano. If they’re munching on the Caesar or red chile rock shrimp chopped, then they’ve got the right idea. The classic Caesar was set apart by small touches: fried capers brought the anchovy through in the dressing and made the whole dish pop. The chopped salad was a favorite: loaded with morsels of fried shrimp, which tied together the satisfying mashup of tomato, egg, cucumber, prosciutto and avocado, all tossed with a tarragon dressing.
Everything is brown. With a concept as bright and fresh as Océano’s, it’s curious why the design and decor feel like the drab old belowdecks in a galleon. Food-wise, I was excited to try the tuna burger, which you can order rare. It had great texture, but ended up being bland. Don’t think rare ahi tuna, think tuna fish – which was a disappointment.
44 N. Brentwood Blvd., Clayton, 314.721.9400, oceanobistro.com
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