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The Oceanaire Seafood Room Washington, D.C. The Oceanaire is a serious restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Moored off the corner of F and 12th streets in downtown Washington, D.C., The Oceanaire resembles an art deco yacht that Jay Gatsby might have christened: complete with redwood paneling, black and white tile, and hardwood floors. The art deco motif is enhanced by soothing light blue fluorescent lights creating a “blue sky” ceiling. The well-designed dining rooms feature amply spaced tables and large booths conducive to both conversation and relaxation. A large curving oyster bar is located at the front of the restaurant. The menu is structured like that of an upscale steak house. Everything’s � la carte and in oversized portions. Fresh fish is listed, along with that day’s oysters. If raw shellfish is not for you, order as your appetizer an old-time tomato juice cocktail, oysters Rockefeller, or escargots bourgogne (large, garlicky snails dripping in butter and packed in their shells). And you can also step back to an earlier era by knocking back a Harvey Wallbanger, cosmopolitan, or another of some 20 classic cocktails. No sooner had we been seated than a plate of crudit�s immediately appeared before us including raw vegetables, a dill pickle, and pickled herring — a sight rarely seen outside New York. Go ahead, try the herring. You’ll probably like it. The fish entrees come in one of three ways: “simply grilled or broiled,” as a classic dish like shrimp scampi, or as a more modern chef’s special for that day. Asparagus in hollandaise sauce (a real treat in winter), hashed brown potatoes (lacking any punch despite the addition of Tabasco), and green beans amandine, among others, are available as sides for the whole table. On our first visit we started with the “small” Grand Shellfish Platter of oysters, mussels, Alaskan king crab legs, shrimp, and a split, half lobster. (The platter cost $34; its larger sibling runs $69.) Four sauces — thick cocktail with fresh horseradish, cracked pepper vinaigrette, Dijon mustard mayonnaise, and sesame soy — are available for dipping. We also sampled that old standby of seafood restaurants, clam chowder. The Oceanaire’s chowder was a highlight, thick and creamy with large chunks of clam, the perfect item for a cold winter’s day. Other soup specials change daily. For entrees, we each ordered fresh fish “simply grilled or broiled.” The salmon (the “small” cut, mind you) and line-caught swordfish were juicy and loaded with flavor. The grouper disappointed, probably not because of its preparation but perhaps because this piece lacked a distinctive flavor. For our return visit, we started with the grilled calamari appetizer, a real standout. The squid’s long body was separated from its tentacles, lightly grilled, and placed atop a grilled pineapple salad, served cold, seasoned with cilantro, Italian parsley, and tomatoes. Next, we sampled the more modern entree specials of Pacific gray sole stuffed with blue crab, bay shrimp, and brie in a white wine lemon sauce and grilled New Zealand trevally in a sweet and sour sauce. While somewhat heavy, the sole effectively balanced the mix of rich flavors from the crab, brie, and sauce. In contrast, the trevally, a white fish, was merely ordinary. Other featured entrees included Canadian walleye in mushrooms and white wine, barbecued skate wing, and pan-seared Chilean sea bass with bacon and horseradish brown butter. A few nonseafood plates are also available. Even if you haven’t saved room for dessert, at least take a look at the menu. It is here that The Oceanaire loses any pretense of seriousness. You can order tollhouse cookies and a glass of milk, a root beer float, or a Dixie Cup of half chocolate and half vanilla ice cream that arrives with a small wooden spoon (and is a real bargain at 95 cents). Other seemingly forgotten desserts include a tin roof sundae, baked Alaska, cr�me de menthe parfait, and a chocolate turtle cake. The parfait, layered with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and cr�me de menthe, was deliciously decadent. The Oceanaire is probably the most serious seafood restaurant in Washington. But don’t let that fool you. It’s so sure of itself that it is willing to let down its guard. Restaurant: The Oceanaire Seafood Room Location: 1201 F St., N.W., Washington, D.C. Reservations: (202) 347-BASS Price Range:Appetizers run from $3.95 to $12.95. Fish dishes average about $20; other entrees can go as high as $34.95. Desserts are 95 cents to $12.95. Seth Bloom and Mark Johnson are Washington, D.C., lawyers and frequent contributors to Legal Times.

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