SEA: Oceanaire or Chandler's
so my wife and i are getting a baby-sitter for our ultra-rambunctious toddler twins and going out to an expensive dinner and i want seafood, namely blue crab which isn't so easy to find. but lo and behold both chandler's and oceanaire have blue (at least as crabcakes.) i see a lot of mixed comments on oceanaire around and virtually no comments on any websites about chandler's. what do you guys think? as far as poo-pooing both places please remember i want a flat out seafood place (like with a raw bar) and i don't want that typical seattle alder plank salmon stuff. personally i don't care if i never eat the stuff again. i'm also a little sick of those bland, insincere faux asian preparations you see on fish around here. not to be obnoxious.
thanks to everyone for the tips. we went to oceanaire last night and it was pretty much exactly what we were looking for: as cocktailhour said a steakhouse, a very fancy, old style steakhouse, but with seafood as it's main focus. we had the 'small' tower of chilled seafood: prawns, oysters (kumomoto i think) clams, mussels (mussels steamed but i think the clams were raw) alaskan king crab leg, and a half a dungeness (or so) all good with multiple dipping sauces: cocktail, mignonette, a sort of ponzu, and a too creamy mustard concoction. a huge and somewhat daunting appetizer, made more daunting for being placed on one of those wire stands. my wife was sitting across from me but i couldn't see her. pretty funny actually. and that grand heft to the plate is what you come for right? before i forget the relish plate they bring you to start had what i think was house pickled herring that was fantastic, more delicate than any pickled herring i've had before.
we also had that steakhouse classic salad that was just lettuce, tomato, bacon and a buttermilk dressing. i swear to god i think the bacon was cooked to order for the salad.
for entrees my wife had a piece of tuna (sashimi grade, fijian maybe?) cooked super rare, very simple and good. but what i had knocked my socks off: the blue crab jumbo lump crab cake. the crab was according to our waiter from back east, but he demurred on specifying where. that's fine. the chesapeake fishery's overfished and has such name cachet that i wouldn't be surprised if that stuff only went straight to fancy restaraunts in nyc, philly, baltimore and washington. the blue crab from many other places is great too, like pamlico sound in north carolina. but these crab cakes were beaufiful. huge heaping, real lump meat too from the body and the flavor was that blue crab funkiness you don't get from deep ocean crabs. honestly i can't remember having a better crabcake in baltimore, seriously.
the service was fantastic, not pretentious and very informative , all the details were hit.
and then the bill came...wow! that was an eyepopper. but i expected it so my angina didn't kick in. and it was kind of worth it, once a decade or so.
my final word though is: while i'm not trying to slag dungeness, it's great, many people out here haven't had the oppurtunity to try real fresh blue crab that's in a preparation that shows it off. it's just different than dungeness or alaskan king, funkier, tasting more of the sea. and oceanaire did right by it. it's not cheap, but people who love crab should give it a shot.
i have been pleased with both chandler's (though it's been a long time...) and oceanaire, which i consider a delight - not a replacement for ray's (my fave) but easily the best seafood house downtown. if you are particular about blue crab (we can argue another time...) please make sure that they are not using the less-expensive (out here) and tastier (ready to fight?) dungeness. the raw bar at oceanaire is superb but the view at chandler's is hard to beat. bon appetit!