per se: New York
Left-over steak? (yeah, it happens)

Oceanos: Fair Lawn, NJ: first impressions

Oceanos_sign_1 For months now, I've been going out of my way to drive past what was soon to be a new restaurant in Fairlawn:  Oceanos.  Peter's Whale, which closed on that site last year, was never one of my favorites, although it was certainly a favorite with a lot of people.  So i wasn't that upset to see it dark.  In a few months the sign for Oceanos showed up, and I started getting excited.  The sign, you see, is very sexy.  I have gone as far as to proclaim that this will be my new favorite restaurant, even before trying it.  Very wishful thinking.  The doors opened for the first time this week on wednesday.  It was my duty to check out my new favorite restaurant by thursday, which I did. 

Oceanos is owned by the same family who owned Peter's Whale.  I didn't talk to the owners, but the bartender told me that their son is now involved in the place. 

It's quite an attractive restaurant:  white tablecloths, nice stemware, dark wood tones, an outdoor patio - shielded from the parking lot that will hold 40 diners, an attractive bar area. 

Oceanos seems to have one foot in an estiatorio a la Milos and Avra in NYC, and Varka in Ramsey, and the other in an upscale not-necessarily-greek fish restaurant. Along with their whole fish offerings, they've got 3 kinds of steak, oysters, shrimp cocktail, scallops, mussels, etc.  So "oyster bar and fish house," which is part of their description, seems quite fitting. 

At avra and milos and varka, you'll primarily find whole fish served simply on a plate with some olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and maybe some herbs.  That's about it.  At Oceanos, the plate is busier in general, with a "vegetable of the day" (julliene of squash on my visit), garnish, and a ramekin of olive oil and lemon juice-based dressing.  The black sea bass underneath, however, was wonderful.   The busy-ness also shows through on their grilled octopus.  I'm used to a very minimalistic preparation.  This one had lots of onion and diced red pepper and some greens and whatnot.  almost a salad, more than a pure expression of grilled octopus.  But, it was done quite well, with plenty of charred and tender octopus.

We sat at the bar and were very pleased with our bartender Kara (Cara?).  The rest of the wait staff seemed efficient and pleasant.   Cara was quite good at knowing when to be entertaining, and when to look busy doing something else.  An art especially important since we were the only two at the bar.

The wine list probably holds about 100 or so bottles, with at least 20 greek selections.  Offerings by the glass could be a bit better.  I counted 6 or so chardonnays out of about white 10 offerings, 1 of which was wine zinfandel, and only one greek.  There's no need for 6 different flavors of chardonnay, especially considering most taste the same.

They have valet parking for some reason.  I suppose people like that. I really can't be bothered with valet parking, as i find it's more often than not an affectation, rather than a necessity.  But i have to admit, i'm becoming more tolerant of it.

Oceanos will be open for lunch at some point.  The lunch menu has lots of seafood, with the addition of some sandwiches and salads.  The bartender told me that they plan on having the best burger in the area.  So you can only imagine how jazzed i am.

So, the first impression was a good one.  Good food.  Friendly service. Nice atmosphere.  It's not a cheap place.  A restaurant serving high-quality fresh fish shouldn't be.  But, it's a place I'll very likely return to, and it's a great addition to the area.

Update:  more recent thoughts on Oceanos can be found here.

Oceanos Oyster Bar and Sea Grill - 2-27 Saddle River Road - Fair Lawn - NJ - 201.796.0546