Surf and Turf War: A Review of Ocean Prime
Minutes later, she sat down a sugar-rimmed martini glass filled with a hot-pink liquid that was actually hissing at the surface, like a witches’ cauldron.
On a recent chilly night, a ruddy-cheeked mix of date-nighting hipsters, ethnic foodies, and Spanish-speaking expats filled the 10 tables inside Mama Irma Restaurant. Twinkle lights in the windows gave the storefront a Thomas Kinkade glow. And yet, even as the owner greeted diners with a motherly “Hi guys!” as if they had just come in from band practice, this snug Peruvian eatery in Fountain Square seemed blissfully unaware of its own preciousness.
If you had followed Ryan Nelson’s career from the beginning, you might have predicted the scene: Just 10 days after he opened Late Harvest Kitchen in the former Smith & Hawken storefront near The Fashion Mall, Nelson strolled from table to table in the packed, candlelit dining room of his first solo enterprise, talking to customers with the ease of a seasoned restaurant professional. But in many ways, he was still the guy from Minneapolis, the onetime English major and avid hockey fan a tad uncomfortable in his chef’s whites, humbly hoping you enjoyed the food he had cooked for you. Only now he was not answering to the corporate offices of The Oceanaire Seafood Room, where he established himself as both team player and rising star, garnering an invitation to cook at the revered James Beard House in New York City at age 26.
The well-behaved kids coloring on butcher paper at the next table didn’t clue us in to the culinary aspirations of chef Craig Baker’s kitchen. Nor did the plasma screens streaming basketball scores—though one TV in the bar was tuned to Rachael Ray perkily whipping up another quick weeknight supper. Mixed messages aside, we’d been tipped off to the ambitions of Baker, who honed his skills in several Portland restaurants before heading up the kitchen at Casler’s in Geist and working the pizza station at Napolese. We hadn’t driven out to Westfield to a restaurant called The Local just to nosh on humdrum pub grub, after all.