2008-11-26 / Restaurant of the Week

OCEAN SEAFOOD

35-03 Broadway, Astoria 718.777.3707

This brand new restaurant opened just three weeks ago and boasts a beautiful interior and an inspired, Mediterranean menu that emphasizes the freshest fish and seafood in town. Ocean Seafood has a unique, aquatic interior, featuring walls washed in sea green, coral stone accents and a sky lit dining room that lends a sunny note to this watercolor restaurant. Even the tables in the rear of the dining room resemble something found in a coral reef. A clever sculpture of a tree grows out of the ground in the front dining room and into the cerulean blue sky.

In addition to the inviting interior, the Mediterranean menu will tempt you with a fine selection of appetizers, fish and seafood, meats and vegetable dishes. Chef Damianos Bouziotas executes each dish on the spot and plates them on beautiful dishes. Start with Ocean Seafood's steamed mussels ($10). These fresh, clean mussels are steamed with shallots, garlic and white wine, then finished with basil tomato sauce made with a touch of ouzo and feta cheese. I couldn't get enough of this delectable sauce and spooned it on pieces of bread after the mussels were polished off. A selection of house made spreads, including yogurt tzatziki dip, roasted red pepper and feta spread and taramasalata is perfect for sharing, scooped up with triangles of warm pita bread ($10). Delicately fried calamari are tender and crispy, just perfect with a squeeze of lemon or a dunk in tomato basil sauce. Maryland crab cakes are made from sweet lump crab meat and delicate herbs, then finished with citrus remoulade. Next time I'll try the grilled octopus with shallot, mint and balsamic vinegar reduction. The steamed clams also sound great, prepared with white wine and saffron.

The Ocean signature salad tosses field greens with grilled shrimp, roasted eggplant, tomatoes, toasted almonds

and balsamic vinaigrette ($8). Even the classic Greek salad gets a new twist from the chef's skilled hand. Until the liquor license is approved, you may bring your own bottle, or enjoy a soft drink with your meal.

As the name suggests, Ocean Seafood emphasizes the freshest fish and seafood available, all expertly prepared and beautifully presented. My dining companion and I shared a whole bronzini, a white, flaky Mediterranean fish, which was prepared simply on the charcoal grill with lemon, fine olive oil and herbs. Cooked to perfection, I was able to filet this fish myself and enjoyed the flavorful flesh with just a squeeze of lemon. Swordfish, striped bass and red snapper are prepared in similar fashion and priced according to market. Live for the day

and have your whole fish, shrimp or sardines

fried to a crisp, golden finish. All fish dishes come with your choice of side dish. The house specialty is called Iman Baldi, which is a half eggplant filled with diced eggplant sautéed with sweet onion, tomato and herbs, then topped with feta cheese and baked till bubbly. The lemon potatoes are golden on the outside and creamy in the center. Mushrooms sautéed in red wine, hand cut French fries and grilled vegetables round out the menu.

Ocean spaghetti is topped with shrimp, mussels, clams and calamari in a light marinara sauce, while the lobster ravioli are pillows of tender pasta stuffed with sweet lobster meat in zesty tomato vodka sauce ($12). If you prefer meat to fish, try the grilled rib-eye steak, lamb chop or tender filet mignon.

For dessert, enjoy a steaming cup of espresso, cappuccino, and Egyptian or Moroccan tea along with a slice of chocolate mousse cake, cheese cake or other dessert of the day.

Ocean Seafood is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week and there's free delivery to your home or office for your convenience. Lunch specials are served from noon until 4pm and include grilled or fried shrimp, fish and chips, salmon, swordfish kebabs and crab cake burgers. All are served with Greek salad, bread and a choice of baked potato or rice.

Take the chill out of winter and visit Ocean Seafood, whose interior feels warm and Mediterranean. For now, bring your own bottle and an appetite for finely prepared fish, seafood and vegetable dishes.

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