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Ocean Prime restaurant review, Buckhead

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The coolest thing about Ocean Prime? The entrance foyer, which doubles as a time portal.

Shrug off the traffic and hassle of Piedmont Road and find yourself inside a perfect recreation of a mid-century supper club — one that begs for the descriptor “swanky.”

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

A phalanx of hostesses and managers greets you from behind the kind of grand dais usually reserved for teams of TV news anchors. The burble of a water feature with undulating lights gently combines with the strains of a lounge singer crooning in the bar. There’s even a plush cloakroom.

The least cool thing? Probably the fact that the seasonal flavor of sorbet on the dessert menu is raspberry. I know “seasonal” is one of those fluffy throwaway words menu writers like, but it’s also one that people tend to take seriously these days. And, well, we’re not exactly in Chile.

If only the sorbet flavor was the sole issue with the food at this grandiose steak and seafood palace. Ocean Prime — the newest link in a small chain with outposts in Denver, Dallas and other cities — peddles the old-school luxury we rarely see anymore. It’s a destination place for couples to dress up and for business executives to flaunt their expense accounts with $40 fish entrees and $144 bottles of champagne. But despite the fizzy spirit afoot, the kitchen simply doesn’t deliver the quality to justify the extremely high menu prices.

Only one word to describe this dining room -- swanky! (all photos by Becky Stein)

Only one word to describe this dining room -- swanky! (all photos by Becky Stein)

If you go, someone at your table should start with the signature cocktail called Berries & Bubbles ($12) that arrives trailing more smoke than a DDT truck. This concoction of citrus vodka, blackberries and champagne is shaken over dry ice, enveloping your table in plumes of merriment. I find it pretty tasty, with a sour kick to mitigate the sweetness.

Bubbles & Berries, as fun as it is tasty
Berries & Bubbles, as fun as it is tasty

Follow this with a shrimp cocktail ($16), which brings three giant, nicely cooked shrimp in a footed metal cup resting on — yipes! — more dry ice. You can’t even see the cocktail sauce through the white billows that, by now, have occupied your table. You begin to wonder if David Blaine is hiding underneath it.

You’d have to be a Grinch not to have fun with all this showmanship, though I was a little relieved to see the smoke clear for the bread and butter. A half-dozen oysters ($16) plucked from the shellfish display fronting the exhibition kitchen came on a simple bed of ice — no glacio-technics here — cleanly shucked and well chilled.

Now I’ve come to the difficult point in this review where I shall struggle mightily to sound like a good-tempered, reasonable person but will surely come off like a jerk.

Everything else I try is just kind of eh. It would be eh at half the price, but it’s eh with a head scratch and a “wow, that’s expensive” as served.

The signature crab cake ($16) with a sweet corn cream (and a bit of kernel corn salad tossed in a light dressing made with rancid oil) is not one of those barely bound scoops of jumbo lumps, but one of those seared, overseasoned patties that pulls apart in more strings than lumps. A Caesar salad ($9) comes with those little hard shreds of Parmesan cheese that look like grains of rice.

The waiters do a good job talking up the food, but I’m not sure these ingredients deserve it. After a waiter compliments me on my “economical” decision to order the crab crusted blue tilapia ($27), he assures me it came from clean mountain waters in Peru. With a vision of Andean fish farms dancing in my head, I bite into a piece of fish with the near-muddy flavor and crumble-apart flakes that I know well from $2 fish tacos. Blackened snapper ($32) with wilted spinach and jalapeño corn sauce is the better choice, but both dishes seem to belong to a far cheaper, less flashy restaurant.

Blackened snapper - the best of the expensive fish entrees we try

Blackened snapper - the best of the expensive fish entrees we try

A 12-ounce bone-in filet steak ($44) seems a difficult cut to cook properly, given that lean tenderloin needs a hard sear to achieve the meltingly soft texture we love. Wouldn’t the side bone get in the way? But the menu and the waiter did such a good job talking up the “1,200-degree” oven that we decide to put the kitchen to the test. Our steak, ordered medium rare, arrives barely pink and grainy in texture.

Even Chilean sea bass ($42) comes out stringy, dry and overcooked — unusual for a fish with such a high fat content. It shares a plate with stiff mashed potatoes, crunchily raw carrot coins and a whole lot of truffled butter sauce.

See what I mean? I can’t describe this food without sounding like a jerk.

Think positive. Well, I do like some of the sides we order with our $44 steak. Jumbo asparagus ($10) with peeled stems, cooked to a fine crisp-tender, are lovely. Chophouse corn ($8) in a butter and cream sauce sweetened with sugar isn’t for me, but a twice-baked potato ($9) is the kind of creamy calorie-fest I can’t resist. As for the black truffle mac and cheese ($12), I’m afraid I’m back to Grinch mode. The yellow-orange color says processed cheese and the texture is not unlike the stuff dentists use to make molds.

The restaurant boasts a fairly lengthy wine list, but it’s also one that goes very heavily on the big-distribution wines you can find in many package stores and supermarkets — Penfolds shiraz, Beaulieu Vineyard pinot noir, Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc and all the typical California cabernet sauvignons. Because the wines are so familiar, I balk at the markups, usually between two and three times retail for the bottles and often more than three times retail for the wines by the glass. Do I want to spend $16 for a glass of Saintsbury Carneros pinot noir?

With a glass of wine here and a dessert there, it adds up quickly. You can easily spend $100 a head at Ocean Prime. Your drink will billow with smoke and your very pleasant waiter will talk of Peru, and you will end up with the kind of meal that would have been perfectly fine had you stumbled upon it on a road trip.

OCEAN PRIME
3102 Piedmont Road, Atlanta. 404-846-0505
FAIRstars5Food: Old-school American seafood and steak
Service: Extremely attentive and solicitous
Best dishes: Berries & Bubbles cocktail, raw oysters, jumbo asparagus
Vegetarian selections: A large selection of side dishes
Credit cards: All major cards accepted
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 5-9 p.m. Sundays.
Children: I’d probably consider a babysitter.
Parking: Valet
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Full
Smoking: No
Noise level: Moderate
Patio: Yes
Takeout: Yes

ratings_key_febUSE

110 comments Add your comment

Married over my head

February 2nd, 2012
7:32 am

ouch! Best dish asparagus! No Christmas card 4 u

george

February 2nd, 2012
8:19 am

another all hat and no cattle dining “experience.” no doubt the glitter will insure its sucess with people trying to impress their guests with their wallet rather than their dining sophistication.

KR

February 2nd, 2012
8:41 am

Went there Monday and the food was not good! Over priced and the silverware was dirty. It also took 2 hours for the main course!!!

fishmonger

February 2nd, 2012
9:35 am

Wow…how in the heck does one get financing to justify opening a restaurant with ridiculously high prices in this economic climate (particularly with a location on Piedmont Rd). If this was opened inside the St Regis or something…maybe, but the business people here must be really great salesmen. I’m so disappointed to hear steaks are $44 and Sea Bass is $42. Ridiculous. I’m in the 1% and I won’t be eating there… I bet they struggle and either prices will come down or the place will close within a year. Too bad…

kmb

February 2nd, 2012
9:48 am

At those prices, what’s wrong with being a jerk.

Grasshopper

February 2nd, 2012
10:26 am

He called your $27 piece of tilapia ‘economical?’

Oh no he didn’t! Haha!

sansho1

February 2nd, 2012
10:58 am

Possible response to a server calling a diner’s choice “economical” — “I know, that’s two dollars less I’ll have to tip you!”

Seriously, even if the food was prepared well, the menu sounds dull as dishwater. I don’t get the point of grafting a boring steak joint menu onto other cuisines.

KIKI

February 2nd, 2012
11:15 am

Glad I don’t work at Ocean Prime. I would be tightnening the belt a little

KIKI

February 2nd, 2012
11:19 am

Glad I don’t work at Ocean Prime. “Economical” thats funny. I suspect he will; be browsing Craigslist in the near future

Taster's Choice

February 2nd, 2012
11:28 am

If a restaurant is going to lure me into the Buckhead nightmare, it had better be worth the hassle. Sounds like this one is too big a gamble. Thanks for the warning.

Blackland

February 2nd, 2012
1:15 pm

Spot on review! Nice atmosphere, exceptional service, bad food was my experience. The wine mark-up is criminal considering the low quality options.

John Kessler

February 2nd, 2012
1:18 pm

For the record, I thought the waiter’s use of the word “economical” was kind of amusing in context (which is why I put it in the review), but he didn’t anger me in the slightest. Our service was very friendly and professional.

Mimosa, formerly from NOLA

February 2nd, 2012
1:20 pm

Love this candid review, John. I really got a good feel of the atmosphere and could smell and taste the dishes from your adept descriptions and the good photos. Basically, the menu seems a gussied up version of the Pappadeaux’s seafood restaurants.

Tilapia, indeed. Why not North Carolina farm-raised mountain trout, butterflied, pecans, lemon and brown butter sauce as a freshwater choice? Flying tilapia from the Andes is as environmentally wasteful as transporting that mucky tasting basia from the dirty ponds of Vietnam.

Restaurateurs who think local, or at least use American ingredients, demonstrate that they value freshness and sustainability.

John, you need to change wander to ‘wonder’ in one setence. ;)

Kimberly

February 2nd, 2012
1:25 pm

I have eaten at the Ocean Prime in Scottdale twice and found the service and food to be top knotch. My husband and I tried out the Buckhead outpost several weeks ago, eargerly awaiting the same experience we had in Scottsdale. Sadly, we did not have the same experience. We sat in the bar and while our server was doing her best, her backup servers didn’t refill our waters or bring our bread. She had to go ask three times for the bread. The food was just OK. We won’t be back unless we start hearing that things change for the better.

RK

February 2nd, 2012
1:38 pm

$16 for 3 precooked shrimp? That’s hilarious.

John Kessler

February 2nd, 2012
1:44 pm

Mimosa: Thanks for the catch!

Scott

February 2nd, 2012
2:08 pm

When I read this, and John mentioned the shrimp cocktail, I automatically thought of the fine dining scene from the Blues Brothers movie. “How much for the women!?”

nsk

February 2nd, 2012
2:15 pm

This is a great review because it’s helpful, candid, articulate, specific, and balanced. More like this, please.

carla roqs

February 2nd, 2012
3:03 pm

M Long

February 2nd, 2012
4:03 pm

Question John: Why would you order Chilean Sea Bass knowing this fish is not sustainable????

james

February 2nd, 2012
4:22 pm

@M Long – Because John knew it would ultimately lead to a net reduction in sea bass consumption – after all, who’s gonna order it at $42 a pop after that review? Sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war.

Either that or John just likes Chilean Sea Bass.

Eatoutatlanta

February 2nd, 2012
4:31 pm

Just what I though when spent $200 on dinner for 2. I know 10 restaurants that serve the bottom feeder Tilapia for under $16. It probably cost $1.50 lb. And yet another steak house sucking in Atlanta oy vey. I spend money if the food is worth it but it’s not easy to find a restaurant that has the value and not just ‘fair’ I cook better then fair at home. John have you tried Tantra restaurant yet? If not when you do…. Take your shoes off because its going to blow your socks off.

art

February 2nd, 2012
5:01 pm

Obviously, this is not this company’s first rodeo. Wonder if they cleared this one “safe for solo” too soon? I’ll bet someone at corporate is reading this and taking notes. Maybe we’ll see some changes in the near future. Unfortunately ‘we’re not very forgiving of high-end missteps.

A

February 2nd, 2012
7:19 pm

Why would anyone go here? Sounds overpriced for mediocre food. Thanks John for going there so we don’t have to!

Freehawk

February 2nd, 2012
7:46 pm

John, please change wonder to wander.

SteakLover

February 2nd, 2012
9:02 pm

I have had multiple great experiences at OP and think it is WELL worth another try!!!

Steven

February 2nd, 2012
9:33 pm

John enjoyed the review. Sounds like a see and be seen restaurant. I will take my money elsewhere.

jsf4545

February 3rd, 2012
6:20 am

Please tell me that I can borrow the “economical” line. That is some funny stuff. Trying to figure out how I can incorporate it without getting fired. Any suggestions other than not saying it at all?

ccan1234

February 3rd, 2012
8:14 am

Since the majority of the Tilapia on the market is farm raised, I highly doubt that fish ever sniffed Peruvian waters. OP is just another “wannabe” steakhouse in Atlanta that hasn’t figured out how to do it right. I wonder what restaurant will be in that space at the end of this year. For the best steak, service and ambiance in Atlanta, visit the Palm!

Nit picker

February 3rd, 2012
9:21 am

Since you thanked Mimosa, may I add that a hostess or manager greets you, multiples “greet” you.

PJ

February 3rd, 2012
10:29 am

Very accurate description of my reaction when I dined their last month. They better step it up or they will surely meet the fate of so many other so called “fine dining establishments” that could not met the standards of the Atlanta consumer.

Mo

February 3rd, 2012
1:52 pm

I have eaten there three times and have had great meals and great service and no i am not on an expense account and I am not rich.
It’s not cheap but then again either are any of the Buckhead Life units or Bones.
Most of you commenting here probably have never even been there. Don’t take this idiot’s word go and see for yourself.

FoodieATL

February 3rd, 2012
2:30 pm

I have been to Ocean Prime quite a few times and have always had great food and great service. The prices are very similar to most other Buckhead restaurants of this type, and I the experiences I have had are worth the money. It’s also fun to just go sit at the bar and share some sides and appetizers with friends if you don’t want to have a big dinner. The piano players they have a great!

John Kessler

February 3rd, 2012
2:45 pm

FoodieATL – Do you think it would be germane to point out that you work for the public relations firm Ocean Prime has retained locally? I can see from your name (visible to administrators) that you do. Did they know you were part of their PR team when you sat at the bar? Did you pay? Just curious!

FoodieATL

February 3rd, 2012
3:12 pm

While I am a member of Ocean Prime’s PR team, I wanted to share my personal positive experiences at the restaurant with readers. I have dined at Ocean Prime on numerous occasions in both personal and business capacities, and I have spent my own money there on many visits.

John Kessler

February 3rd, 2012
3:23 pm

Okay, so this is the private and anonymous you who just really likes the joint, as opposed to public you who gets paid to promote the place? I, um, get it…

ATLGA

February 3rd, 2012
3:25 pm

noelle

February 3rd, 2012
3:44 pm

way to go John!!!!

Jim R

February 3rd, 2012
3:53 pm

OUCH…Can’t make the boss happy being busted. Say Good-Bye expense account. Although I dislike the concept of ‘Destination restaurants’ and found this place way overpriced, the crab cakes were crunchy,tasty and moist in the middle. Had no problem with the texture. As you can see from my email address I won’t be reviewing any food served at the many ‘G-Mail’ owned restaurants.

ATL PR Girl

February 3rd, 2012
4:03 pm

Thank you John Kessler for making my day! I am also a food publicist, so this kind of thing cracks me up.

Hey, you should go to my restaurant and write a review and say how good it is because I’m going to send you a press release on how good the food is. Please?

Over Rated

February 3rd, 2012
5:18 pm

Two things funny and one thing sad:

Funny:
1. People who think that critic reviews and PR releases actually impact the long term success or failure of a restaurant. Good fun wins the day and you cant fake quality – nor can good / bad PR save bad quality.

2. High priced Tilapia

Sad:

1. High priced Tilapia

coopcat

February 3rd, 2012
7:17 pm

Wonderful, another lackluster and overpriced Atlanta restaurant. On the positive side, keeps me cooking healthy meals at home. This is supposed to be a top “eating out” city. I’ve never been able to find a place I really enjoy eating except Aria.

mj

February 3rd, 2012
7:57 pm

Wow, had reservation there on the 11th for early Valentine dinner. Maybe the great ole reliable “Hals” is where we need to be. Also, Morton’s in Buckhead closed down and what a meal they provided. Will miss them, just a funky location.

Mcocroft

February 3rd, 2012
8:07 pm

Agreed, coopcat. Why eat this garbage when Aria and Gerry Klaskala are just up the street? And no, I’m not a PR guy for Aria. :-)

Sophisticated

February 3rd, 2012
8:22 pm

@Taster’s Choice…I find this restaurant not worth the price too, but please stay out of Buckhead. We have many great restaurants here. Please stay out in Paulding County!

td

February 3rd, 2012
8:24 pm

Most entertaining restaurant review (and associated comments) I’ve read in a long time, plus a devastating exposure of a PR shill that had me laughing out loud. I don’t mind paying top dollar for a memorable dining experience, but this appears to be memorable in a completely different way. I’ll pass.

patrick

February 3rd, 2012
8:48 pm

Funny: The irony of dismissing the efficacy of reviews and PR when actively responding to a review thread and reading all the way through 50 posts in order to give said response. I guess that means you’re completely informed, not at all influenced, but unquestionably opinionated?

Bob from Accounttemps

February 3rd, 2012
9:45 pm

Concerning @FoodieATL, thanks for keeping ‘em honest John!!

Tom

February 3rd, 2012
10:00 pm

Restaurants like this are the reason I prefer to throw a steak on my own grill and fix my own cocktail. Absolutely…just can’t find the right words!!!

matt

February 3rd, 2012
10:01 pm

Regulating!

“John Kessler
February 3rd, 2012
2:45 pm

FoodieATL – Do you think it would be germane to point out that you work for the public relations firm Ocean Prime has retained locally? I can see from your name (visible to administrators) that you do. Did they know you were part of their PR team when you sat at the bar? Did you pay? Just curious!”

Chris

February 3rd, 2012
10:12 pm

Some research has revealed the Reynolds Group is this restaurant’s PR company. I’m pretty sure I recognize FoodieATL as a frequent commenter here which really makes me wonder…

Dev.thereynoldsgroupinc.com/the_clients/clients-restaurants-hospitality.asocials

Chris

February 3rd, 2012
10:15 pm

good ole boy

February 3rd, 2012
10:30 pm

There’s a new Sheriff in town…and his name is J. Kessler.

HotlantaHobo

February 3rd, 2012
10:37 pm

And this reminds us the “Best of Atlanta” selections are probably gamed by PR firms and friends. Also reminds us how sites like Yelp can have very little credibility. And it’s really nice to know there was actually some observant moderation going on.

I suspect that this place will continue to have the usual Atlanta problems based on a very limited labor pool of skilled line cooks as well as a lack of trucks making deliveries of fresh seafood from Savannah, Brunswick or Apalachicola. .

Gordon Ramsay

February 3rd, 2012
10:39 pm

There is nothing wrong with being a ‘jerk’ if a restaurant wants to commit highway robbery by charging $27 for a piece of fish that came from a farmed tank full of algae and cost them $1 to produce. Tilapia doesn’t deserve any better reputation than catfish. Window dressing and salesmanship piss me off. Deliver the goods if you’re going to charge that kind of money. $27 is not an unreasonable price for a 2 pound lobster.

M.Johnson

February 3rd, 2012
10:56 pm

Hilarious. Great review! Love the trio of smoking $16 shrimp, the muddy tilapia, the “seasonal” raspberries (a la white jeans after Labor Day), and the $44 steak that died a 1,200-degree death.

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind sipping that smoking champagne cocktail at the bar, as long as the restaurant’s PR shill isn’t around griping over these comments.

Taster's Choice

February 3rd, 2012
10:57 pm

@sophisticated 1. you flatter yourself 2. I don’t live anywhere near Paulding County 3. any reasonable person will tell you that Buckhead is a traffic and parking pain in the butt, worth it if I’m headed to Aria or any number of other fine places, but not for Ocean Prime… which was my point, but you were so busy being an a-hole, you probably overlooked it.

Taster's Choice

February 3rd, 2012
10:59 pm

and nice work Kessler “outing” the pr guy… Now if we can just fix it so that Yelpers are electrocuted when they hit the “submit” button….

RK

February 3rd, 2012
11:11 pm

Perhaps we need an education on what these PR firms do — quite a list of restaurants that Reynolds promotes. Eventually, crappy concepts fail, though.

John, I think Reynolds would love to know which one of their PR slugs is too dumb to use a different name.

Aussie transplant

February 3rd, 2012
11:53 pm

Way to call out a crook, John Kessler!!! You are officially awesome in my books, now!

TD

February 4th, 2012
12:39 am

Well it also seems you have to have a big money PR firm to get a review in the AJC. Kinda like the pot calling the kettle black here. The small locally owned restaurant, I work at, built on sweat and blood capital doesn’t get a second look from the AJC, and we offer good honest fresh food at affordable prices.

Cump Sherman

February 4th, 2012
1:23 am

Worth reading all this just to see the flack exposed as the dishonest pimp he is.

foodphotog

February 4th, 2012
1:47 am

@TD- It may seem as if big money PR firms get all the reviews but I know for a fact it is not true. I am Johns photographer also Jenny Turknett’s, Jon Watson’s, and first Look writer – Bob Townsend’s. I have been doing the food shoots since M. Ford was the critic so I feel confident in saying that you do NOT need a PR firm to be reviewed in the AJC. Looking at the current 6 reviews online… 4 are locally owned and only 2 are pr firms…Ocean Prime and Seed.
Offering good ‘honest’ (?) fresh food at affordable prices is a GREAT way to get people in your restaurant. Hang in there and maybe we shall meet. With 50 reviews a year from Kessler and another 52 from the team of Jenny, Jon W & Gene Lee… plus an additional 52 First Looks from Bob Townsend, I believe you’re bound to be discovered someday.

jim

February 4th, 2012
6:29 am

Please tell me why a high end rest. would serve a mud tasting Tilapia fish.

Tom B

February 4th, 2012
6:47 am

Every time I read about one of these high priced, style over substance places, I am thankful that I can cook well, and don’t have to fork out $27 for a dish made with ingredients that cost 1/10th of that amount!

CP

February 4th, 2012
6:53 am

Don’t know what’s more embarrassing, getting caught shilling for your job when you’re pretending you’re not ~ or using the idiotic term “Foodie” in your moniker.

elmer

February 4th, 2012
7:39 am

I doubt that – good, bad or indifferent – I would have visited the restaurant. It’s in a price range my wife and I reserve for once every decade visits. But it was such a pleasure to read the review – it’s always entertaining to watch a real professional at work. If I was writing a textbook on the difference between the sort of reviews you’d find on amateur sites and from professional restaurant critics I’d use this as an example of what a gifted professional can do. I got the same kind of enjoyment from this as I do when I read a travel story about a place I’ll never be able to visit. John took me there – well done.

Secret Diner

February 4th, 2012
7:46 am

If I want overpriced fish and to be surrounded by pretentious foodies – I’ll go to the Whole Foods Ponce like everyone else.

sansho1

February 4th, 2012
7:46 am

I hope at least that FoodieATL is learning from the “friends of Aria” hereabouts how to use a little subtlety….

buckhead benny

February 4th, 2012
8:27 am

John,

You guys should have it to where you can share these articles on facebook, etc- You guys would get a lot of shares. Just curious if AJC plans on updating soon- Good article- I see this a lot with anoymous vents in general- Its funny to actually see someone called out-

Jenny Turknett

February 4th, 2012
8:44 am

Buckhead Benny, follow the AJC Food and More facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/AJC-Food-and-More/163455587217
We share links to most of our posts and reviews there!

Jim R

February 4th, 2012
9:01 am

Wow..Tons of comments and free publicity. It couldn’t be that the lightly disguised moniker was intentional could it? Perhaps my previous post was hasty. Maybe the boss is happy. After all that’s what the ‘P’ in PR stands for. Even bad ‘P’!!!

Paul From Milton

February 4th, 2012
9:02 am

I think one of the advantages to having so many restaurant / chef shows and blogs is that it makes non-gourmet diners like me more discerning in how we view restaurants. I know that I now pay much more attention to how the food is prepared and presented and to things like balance and texture. It has made me more confident in what I order and more willing to send a dish back to the kitchen if it is not prepared properly. That has made for a better dining experience for my wife and I.

By the way, I wonder if PR people write in that ridiculous, perky, over the top manner all the time?

eastcobber

February 4th, 2012
9:11 am

Wow, I must say, my experience was completely different then the one that you describe. The snapper was fabulous, the tuna was some of the best i have ever had. All our sides were wonderful. While I agree the prices were high, Our party of 8 all raved about how good each dish was.

Intown Snob

February 4th, 2012
9:48 am

No reason to try something new in this genre if it doesn’t get excellent reviews.
We already have Oceanaire (all business, dependable food) and Atlanta Fish Market (Pano’s casual side). For family atmosphere, good service and usually good but also spotty food (and stingy pouring bartenders) we have Big Ketch. I like the patio at Big Ketch when the weather is nice, but I prefer a table as far from the live music as possible. It has the feeling of Seaside, Florida. Post-game golfers at the bar hitting on their wives’ friends and families with a sensible number of children.

Charles

February 4th, 2012
9:59 am

I’m surprised that few of the comments so far have acknowledged that “swank” is a very big part of the deal for this type of outing. It seems, though, that somewhere about the middle of the meal the diner at this place has reached the point of wondering if it is all worth it. The feeling that it is worth it should be building as the experience draws to an end, not diminishing. Seems like the restaurant has a bit of tweaking to do. Entertaining review.

thefish

February 4th, 2012
10:09 am

eastcobber must work for The Reynolds Group too!!!!!!

THE Dixie Redcoat Band

February 4th, 2012
10:09 am

And you have to tip at least…at least 20%.

PapaDoc

February 4th, 2012
10:28 am

John Kessler from the perimeter, nothing but net. What a superb review. And busting the PR bs producer it just too funny. You made my day.
Thanks for your work that helps me out in determining where to spend my food dollars.

Casey

February 4th, 2012
10:29 am

Why bother with this place? I’ve been to the Oceanaire several times, and always had a wonderful experience. Food, service, and ambience all exceptional.

Form Letter

February 4th, 2012
10:34 am

Wow, I must say, my experience was completely different then the one that you describe. The (insert fish) was fabulous, the (insert other fish) was some of the best i have ever had. All our sides were wonderful. While I agree the prices were high, Our party of 8 all raved about how good each dish was.

Sandy

February 4th, 2012
10:36 am

I think the PR guy thought the great piano player he enjoyed was Elton John.

Latecomer

February 4th, 2012
11:07 am

Now that this thread has been revised with the “PR Guy Owned” headline, I’ll add my two cents about your two cents.
This is an article about a restaurant. A nice restaurant. Some might even say a “fancy” restaurant.
The writer will remark about the food, service, ambience, etc. He will critique the value of the meal – meaning the price of the food relative to its quality. Pricing food and drinks at such a place requires consideration of the ingredients, preparation and general overhead of the business.
If there is an expensive chandelier and a pianist, expect a mark-up on the entrees. If you know the name of the chef (and it’s not the same as the name of the restaurant), expect additonal mark-ups.
But for the love of Pete, don’t comment on whether you would spend the money to eat here from a principle standpoint. This is John Kessler’s review, Not Suze Orman. No one asked you to decide whether it was appropriate for your budget to spend $150.00 on dinner. No one cares.

juice sourcer

February 4th, 2012
12:24 pm

Just looking at their by the glass wine offering…totally boring and outrageously priced. They are basically are saying…you…my customer are stupid and we are going to rip you off and you will not know the difference…I don’t think so…not with me.

Billy

February 4th, 2012
12:38 pm

LOL, just gimme a Slim Jim. Seriously, except for rich people and those that like to act like the above, what normal person eats at a place like this? Applebees and Ruby Tuesdays aren’t perfect, but I bet the food tastes as good or better. As for the rich and their pretender cousins, let them eat cake…

William, not Billy

February 4th, 2012
12:56 pm

1st: John Kessler… hat’s off to you. For a pro foodie to put the same level of thought effort and detail into a review of the Twinkie as you do here for Ocean Prime, now that’s fair and balanced reporting!

2nd: Billy… Applebees and Ruby Tuesdays? Really? How about a Twinkie to go with that Slim Jim? All the important food additive groups there.

BehindEnemyLines

February 4th, 2012
1:40 pm

Credit where it’s due – Kessler’s sharp eye may have turned this into the most amusing food article in AJC history. Well done sir, well done indeed.

reebok

February 4th, 2012
2:08 pm

FoodieATL just insured that I will not give this overpriced place a try. Nice transparency.

Scott

February 4th, 2012
2:19 pm

JOHN great review.

Sophisticated, I can live anywhere I want to. I was born in Atlanta and moved to Cobb and now Cherokee. I entertain and dine customers all over the city. I take my family into Buckhead to eat as well as other parts of the city. So spare me the intown snob act. I choose to live where I do so I dont have to put up with crazy high property taxes, Atlanta school board cheats, city council idiots, criminal water fees and high crime rates.

Is It February Already?!? |

February 4th, 2012
4:43 pm

[...] that came into town.  I won’t call it out since I’ve never been so I’ll let John do it here.  By the way, not only is he an amazing guy he’s one of my all time favorite food writers. [...]

Blackland

February 4th, 2012
6:19 pm

Well, I have dined at OP once. I eat at Chops and NY Prime fairly often, Bones once and Mortons a few times. I agree with John’s review. In this price range OP cannot compete with the food at either NY Prime or Chops. Mortons is gone and I didn’t really like the atmosphere at Bones. So for the money NY Prime and Chops win.

Old Man

February 5th, 2012
11:52 am

The major clue here is “tilapia”. No self respecting chef would serve this. It is a trash fish and one step above soylent green as a protein source. There is a reason is it relegated to $2 fish tacos.

LawDawg

February 5th, 2012
1:17 pm

Old Man – absolutely right about Tilapia. I have to question anyone who orders Tilapia at all, much less paying 5x what is reasonable for a mediocre fish.

Also, I love calling out the PR flak. Everytime I read the Best of the Big A nominations, I can see the fingerprints of restaurant owners and PR people on there. Its amazing when you see that 10 out of 15 comments are talking about how much they love some POS restaurant.

Ben Elstein

February 5th, 2012
2:47 pm

Ben Elstein

February 5th, 2012
4:59 pm

What Kessler omits from his pan is that Ocean Prime only offers fish from certified sustainable beds, meat from a boutique cut-house, shrimp the size of your hands and Peruvian blue tilapia that you ought to Google before you unloose your invective.

Although Kessler clearly caught the kitchen on an off night (probably near its late October opening), it’s a one-visit review; what journalist does that? One of the most uninformed and lazy restaurant pieces I’ve ever seen, and consistent with a city that esteems pretentious shoemakers like Doty and Blaise.

Ben Elstein

February 5th, 2012
5:15 pm

The bottom line is that Kessler does not come off sounding like a jerk at all; his tone is considered and his writing clear. Instead he comes off as someone without any understanding of restaurant economics and business models and someone who selectively withholds detail in order to add acid to his vituperation.

I recently had a phenomenal meal at Harper Station – a hipsterish destination in a post-industrial dump of a neighborhood that no-one will confuse with Buckhead – and blew over $100 on myself. At the shiny new Ocean Prime, I could indeed blow $100 too, and I would leave no less satisfied with the spend.

Ben Elstein

February 5th, 2012
5:43 pm

F0r any reader here interested in legitimate food criticism (i.e. you don’t need to worry that the photograph of an item and the listed ingredients match, as they don’t here), check out the Twin Cities’ Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl and Amy Thielen, LA’s Jonathan Gold and Patrtick Kuh, or just pick up a copy of the weirdly compelling Lucky Peach journal.

There are plenty of really good, mediocre, and craptastic restaurants in Atlanta. Ocean Prime can be any of those to any reader, and to any reviewer. It’s just a shame to read such a markedly negative review that was published without any apparent application of conventional fact-checking standards. Atlanta has enough horrid food writing – hello Cliff Bostock! – and this sort of slash-and-burn effort only serves to undermine all culinary activity in the city.

John Kessler

February 5th, 2012
5:44 pm

Ben Elstein — I always visit a restaurant at least twice before reviewing it.

Bootsy

February 5th, 2012
6:50 pm

Thank YOU Ben Elstein for YOUR clear writing and tone.

sansho1

February 5th, 2012
10:49 pm

I’ve disagreed with Kessler’s opinion sometimes, but he’s always been up-front with his methods.

Fayefan

February 6th, 2012
12:00 pm

Everyone’s a critic LOL!! Ben, could you be any more full of yourself? Pretentious much? Ben & Bootsy also work PR for OP? There have been so many PR shills on this topic commenting back and forth, I will never set foot in OP; as others have remarked, there are many excellent alternatives in the same area that are as good, or much better.
Agree with sansho1. Thank you, Jon, for keeping it real!

RK

February 6th, 2012
12:56 pm

Amazing that PR people continue to make things worse…

BTW, John K has been doing this long enough to know that you don’t judge a restaurant by its opening. In fact, he just had a column about someone else doing that…

John Kessler

February 6th, 2012
1:38 pm

Hey, folks -

A quick “thank you all” for the great, thoughtful comments I’m reading here. It really seems to be that a lot of you are sick of the feeling of getting gamed online by anonymous opinion. I certainly don’t doubt that FoodieATL likes the restaurant, but I hope she now knows how important transparency is for any discussion of opinion. I’ve got a call out to the head of the PR firm in question for a response. I’ll let you know when it comes.
I do take my role as a broadcaster of opinion very seriously, and as a former restaurant cook and chef I know both the pleasure of a good review and the sting of a poor one. A critic for the Washington Post many years ago found my pizza crust “a marvel” and my grilled pompano “inedibly salty.”

Hawkman

February 6th, 2012
2:15 pm

Although I don’t always agree with Mr. Kessler’s reviews I think he is spot on with this one. Ocean Prime as a location in Denver that I visited last summer and found the food to be just okay but the pricing, well, let’s just say they were proud of themselves. Found the new one here in Atlanta to be just what I experienced in Denver. Loved the atmosphere and some of the funky drinks but the food isn’t as good as some other seafood restaurants in town. Hope they make it but it will be a struggle.

JK – loved that you busted FoodieATL. Biased opinions are just that and don’t deserve to be allowed here.

AKA

February 6th, 2012
2:54 pm

“I can see your name (visible to administrators.” Does this mean you can see the E-mail address required or the actual address the email was sent from? Just curious.

Sarah

February 6th, 2012
4:13 pm

Quite bold of Mr. Ben Elstein to make such statements considering his role in the Atlanta Restaurant community. (a quick check on his linkedin will show you). But maybe his comments are merely a shrewd move by him to avoid a lackluster review from John Kessler. Can’t you hear him now crying that his restaurants less than stellar review is simply backlash for his comments he made on this review. . . . . .

Toni Moceri

February 6th, 2012
5:37 pm

I like Ocean Prime, I have read some of the comments, personally I never experienced bad service there. The steaks prices are not necessarily over priced they compare to NYP, Bones and Hals pricing.

John Kessler

February 7th, 2012
1:32 pm

Hey, folks —
If you’re interested, here’s a statement from The Reynolds Group about the anonymous post from its employee.

http://blogs.ajc.com/food-and-more/statement-from-the-reynolds-group-on-its-social-media-policy/

Ben Elstein

February 7th, 2012
11:35 pm

Re: Sarah
I commented without an anonymizing username because, just like Kessler, I think it’s important to identify yourself in a public forum – especially if you’re going to stake claim to a strongly worded opinion.

Yep, my resume is right there for public consumption on LinkedIn. My current hospitality venture is effectively outside the scope of what any restaurant critic might take time to evaluate, and my previous endeavours foodwise were, with one or two proud exceptions, largely crap.

Ben Elstein

February 7th, 2012
11:48 pm

Harsh reviews should be written when warranted. My response to the OP review was not proffered in specific defense of that enterprise; rather it was a thoroughly annoyed response to an ineffectively written article. In my book, disappointing restaurants are forgettable (and, sadly, legion), while bad reporting is unforgiveable.