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Dining Review: Ocean Prime in Naples

Ocean Prime has found its niche in Naples with seafood and steak and finishes nicely with some pretty spectacular desserts.



Wild-caught halibut

Erik Kellar

 

With all the fine dining on Fifth Avenue South, a new restaurant must be truly exceptional to claim its place among so many other outstanding venues. Luckily for diners in Southwest Florida, Ocean Prime is up to the task.

Though part of a national chain—“We’re restaurant No. 14,” our waiter told us during a recent dinner—Ocean Prime feels particularly suited to our area and therefore commanded our attention. The décor is upscale, sleek and modern with glass accents and well-placed lighting, and the menu’s core focus is fresh seafood, along with USDA prime steaks. Though the offerings are standardized across the country, the wine list varies slightly among locations, and each restaurant’s chef creates off-menu specials that are specific to his or her establishment. Plus, everything is made on the premises.

On this particular evening—my birthday, I have to admit—we chose our drinks from the craft cocktail list. My friend had a Cucumber Gimlet ($13, at right) made with vodka instead of gin on the waiter’s recommendation.

“If you don’t love it,” our waiter said, “I’ll drink it myself.”

I ordered a vodka and sparkling wine concoction titled Berries & Bubbles ($14) poured over dry ice in a martini glass. It bubbled and steamed festively throughout the meal. We began dinner with a cup of creamy lobster bisque dotted with bites of sweet corn fritter ($12) and the chef’s off-menu appetizer, a ball of fresh burrata on toast with heirloom tomatoes and arugula ($14). Both the bisque and the burrata were excellent versions of familiar dishes, made with a deft hand that understands the value of subtle flavors.

That subtlety carried to our main courses, the Chilean sea bass ($44, at left) and another chef’s special, the wild-caught halibut ($42). The sea bass, served with glazed carrots, was firm and moist, delicately flavored and accompanied by only a light champagne truffle sauce. Similarly, the halibut was broiled and served over whipped cauliflower with rainbow carrots, also sans heavy sauce. The simple preparation of both dishes allowed the excellent quality of the fish to shine through.

Now, I must confess: All through this fabulous meal, I’d been thinking about dessert. Ocean Prime reputedly will prepare anything a customer requests, including items not on the menu. At the Tampa location, a secret butter cake ($13, at bottom right) ordered by in-the-know diners has become the top-selling dessert. When our entrée plates had been cleared and we were taking a pause between courses, I steeled myself to ask for the not-on-the-menu cake—and prepared to be laughed at for my wild request. But before I could say a word, the cake appeared on its own, complete with a birthday candle.

“Is this the secret cake?” I asked the waiter, astonished.

He smiled. “The butter cake’s not so secret anymore. We just added it to the menu.”

Secret or not, it was outrageously good. A vanilla pound cake made with buttermilk and butter, it was a delightfully decadent end to this celebratory meal.

Read more of Gulfshore Life's restaurant reviews here.

Ocean Prime: 699 Fifth Ave. S., Naples, 239-430-0404, ocean-prime.com. Open Monday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5-11 p.m.; and Sunday, 5-9 p.m. (Lunch served in season.) Wheelchair-accessible. Reservations recommended.

 

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