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At most power surf & turf restaurants, the customer comes first. The idea being that if you’re paying $56 for a slab of meat sans sides, it should come with your every whim. Ocean Prime opening downtown on Thursday takes a different stance. “The associate comes first,” explains general manager Alex Schultz. “Associates” is the term the Ocean Prime team uses to describe employees.
“Rather than saying the guest is always right, it’s a different approach. Give them the tools, training, uniform to do their job, they come to work happy and the guest sees they’re happy and it’s a trickle down effect.”
The idea comes from Restaurateur’s Cameron Mitchell playbook of philosophies governing how his restaurants should do business. In addition to many other concepts, Mitchell operates twelve Ocean Prime restaurants in the U.S. The D.C. location replacing Ceiba at 1341 G St. NW will be the 13th.
Manning the kitchen is Executive Chef Jason Shelley, a twelve-year Ocean Prime veteran who has the perfect last name for cooking seafood. He says the dining room menu is similar to the other locations, but the bar is where they’ll add local flare in form of mumbo shrimp and Maryland crab cake sliders. Slapping a Maryland crab cake on the menu is a common move made by out-of-town chefs to “localize.” Remember when Daniel Boulud briefly adorned a burger with a crab cake when DBGB Kitchen + Bar opened?
Shelley’s menu (see full menu below) spans raw bar selections ($18+), soups and salads ($11-$20), appetizers ($12-$19), sushi rolls ($17-$22), seafood ($38-$59), steaks ($42-$51), and more. Shelley says sushi is new to the Ocean Prime family restaurants after a successful launch at the Beverly Hills, California location.
Surf & turf is a common theme including an appetizer that marries sea scallops with slow braised short ribs and then there’s the “Prime Roll,” which would make sushi purists leap with its tempura shrimp, cream cheese, scallion, and beef carpaccio filling.
Shelley expects the tuna tartare, Chilean sea bass with champagne truffle sauce, and blacked snapper atop corn spoon bread to be the biggest sellers. The restaurant is sourcing seafood from Philadelphia-based Samuels and Son Seafood, plus Congressional Seafood Co. locally. They’re also in talks with Profish. “Once we get our feet under us we’ll work with as many local people as possible,” Shelley says.
Wine drinkers will find a list with 300-400 bottles, Coravin pours of rare wines, and 60 by-the-glass selections. There are also a handful of cocktails ($12-$15) made from fresh ingredients like the “Berries & Bubbles” with vodka, marinated berries, house made sour, and Domaine Chandon Brut.
The space received a mega-makeover, Ceiba loyalists won’t recognize it. The floor has been raised and the ceiling lowered to create a “more intimate” atmosphere. Warm woods dominate, but there are a couple reminders of the ocean including a coral sculpture. The art found in the dining room is from local artists, and the bar area will feature live music Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Ocean Prime will serve dinner seven days a week and lunch Mondays-Fridays. Those interested in friendlier prices can visit on Sundays for a three-course “Surf & Turf” menu priced at $55. Sundays are also half-price wine night (on bottles $99 or less). Reservations are accepted through OpenTable.
Ocean Prime, 1341 G St. NW; (202) 393-0313; ocean-prime.com/locations-menus/washington-dc