If you were lucky enough to take in its luster—all those cruise-ship curves, glistening piles of shellfish on crushed ice, and flaming domes of baked Alaska—when this upmarket chain first opened downtown in the fall of 2003, it was hard not to get caught up in the net of its charms. Finally, respectable seafood had landed in Indiana. While the Oceanaire’s downtown dining competitors have upped their game impressively, and the chain was purchased by the Houston restaurant conglomerate Landry’s, Inc. in 2010, little of the rigor and polish of the early days has worn off. The staff still seems genuinely excited about the ultra-fresh Hamachi that arrived that morning, or executive chef Neil Andrews’s particularly impressive daily presentation of John Dory or ruby trout, when it’s in season. They still make those half-loaves of fresh-baked sourdough bread, and relish trays seem delivered especially for you. Andrews’s creativity excelled in recent dishes such as Hawaiian Monchong with braised pork and mole, and grilled branzini with slices of Spanish chorizo tucked into slashes of nicely crisped skin—not to mention all of those simple but elegant touches like golden-brown discs of hash browns and one of Indy’s best cups of clam chowder.
TIP: Don’t save this place for special occasions. Hot appetizers such as the generous crab cake or the rich and savory shrimp and grits make for a great weeknight meal with a salad and a glass of wine.
DON’T MISS: The showstopping whole arctic char filleted tableside, especially when it comes with a tangy-sweet chili soy sauce.
PREVIOUS MENTIONS: Best Restaurants 2004–2008, 2010–2011, 2013, 2014
30 S. Meridian St., 955-2277, theoceanaire.com
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