Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. Prices: Dinner for two with appetizers, drinks and desserts costs $40 to $50, including tax and tip. Cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Diners Club, Carte Blanche.
After a while all the Chinese restaurants we've visited begin to blur in our memories. Their entire menus could be swapped and hardly anyone would notice, they're that interchangeable -- from the same old moo shi pork and chicken with cashews to pork in garlic sauce and orange beef.
But here at last is a Chinese restaurant that's really different -- in fact, Ocean Seafood has one of the most interesting and intriguing-sounding menus we've seen. The dishes don't always taste as good as they sound, but we've had enough fine meals here that we look forward to going back.
The cooking focuses, obviously, on seafood, and there's a wonderful variety -- trouts and soles and yellow fish, lobsters and conch and crabs, squids and shrimps and scallops, and even some eel and Chinese snails in season -- although we confess we didn't ask if they were.
There are also more than 20 chicken and meat dishes, so you can even come here with friends who hate fish, which we recently did.
Next time we eat here, we'll start with unusually good spareribs, meaty and moist and simply cooked, and Gold Coins, big, round, golden, crisp saucers stuffed with shrimp and crab paste. Skip the fried oysters and shrimp toasts (greasy), the egg rolls and boiled clams (nothing special).
Next, our small banquet would include Crabs in Spicy Black Bean Sauce -- a terrific dish, small crabs all cut up, so fragile you can munch the shells, lightly tossed in a sparse but spicy sauce with black beans, green peppers and onions.
Then, one of the best fish dishes we've ever had in a Chinese restaurant, Gray Sole Kew on Crisp Bones. The chef serves the whole large, flat skeleton, fried so crisp you can eat the bones, its tail thrust up in the air as if the fish is leaping from the ocean; he tops the fish with its own meat sliced in fat curls, tossed with broccoli, snow peas, carrots and bamboo in a subtle, garlicky glaze.
We'll order a slightly more spicy dish, too, perhaps Sizzling Five Spice Shrimp -- shrimp in their shells, briskly cooked with a hiss on a scorching platter, dressed in a sour vinegar sauce with lots of onions. Then one of the lobster dishes, perhaps Imperial Lobster, this time in a sweet vinegar sauce -- a whole lobster, neatly prepared so you can scoop out the meat with a fork, with lots of crumbled pork, onions and broccoli.
If you'd rather eat meat, order something like Sizzling Steak Strip, tender beef in a similar vinegar sauce with a hint of caramel.
These thickened vinegar sauces, though, touch on one of the problems at Ocean Seafood. The chef seems to have a special affection for them -- sometimes they're slightly sour, sometimes slightly sweet -- and any one of them on its own is pretty good.
But if a waiter doesn't warn you, you can inadvertently order a whole dinner full of dishes in these sauces, and by the end of the meal you'll swear everything was flavored with the same monotonous bottled barbecue goo.
And for a restaurant that prides itself on seafood, Ocean Seafood occasionally serves some pretty unfresh-tasting fish. Ask the friendly waiters what's best, and they'll tell you which fish arrived that day and which has been sitting in the refrigerator all week.
For dessert, order a few scoops of refreshing, perfumed lychee ice cream and a couple of almond cookies.
The prices at this restaurant look high -- $10 or more for many dishes, more than $14 for lobsters. But when you see the enormous portions, you won't be disappointed. There's no way four people could finish four platters (unless they had monstrous appetites).
On the other hand, go ahead and order an extra dish or two. You can always take a bagful home and eat it for lunch.