Sunday, May 8, 2016

Having a humdinger of a hummer at Ocean's First in Holzgerlingen...

Ocean's First is now permanently closed.  :(

I am always grateful when someone who reads this blog passes along restaurant suggestions to me.  A couple of weeks ago, someone in the Stuttgart Friends 2.0 Facebook group left me a comment on one of my more recent reviews.  They had visited Ocean's First, a seafood restaurant in Holzgerlingen, and highly recommended it.  I checked out the restaurant's Web site and saved the link, making a mental note to try it out.  

I grew up in the Tidewater region of Virginia and I love good seafood.  But now I live in a country that is mostly landlocked.  The one part of Germany that is near the sea is way up north and I live way down south, where finding a decent seafood restaurant is difficult.  So I was definitely ready for last night's adventure, which we planned on the spur of the moment Friday night.  Bill said calling there was an exercise in humor.  After Bill made the reservation in his passable German, the guy at the restaurant confirmed it in perfect English.  


You can't miss the sign.

We arrived a little bit early for our 7:00pm reservation.  I quickly noticed the sign for Ocean's First, but was a little puzzled by the location.  There were two parking spots specifically marked for restaurant patrons, but we were obviously at a corporate building of some sort.  We went into the building, where there was another sign for the restaurant advertising specials.  Then I saw that Ocean's First was located on the third floor. We took the elevator up.  Voila!

Ocean's First is a pretty cool little place.  The interior is decorated to sort of resemble an aquarium.  A couple of the walls have rippled textures that could be waves or fish, depending on your perspective.  Blue green lights make them look more like water.  The candle holders look like sea creatures.  I want to say they resemble anemones or maybe sponges.  There's a bar without any stools that serves as a centerpiece at the front of the restaurant.  Outside, is a very large, wraparound terrace that offers nice views of the admittedly industrial looking surroundings.  Festive Latin flavored music was playing.  I immediately recognized the first songs as being by Zucchero, an Italian singer who recently put out an album he made during a series of live concerts in Cuba.  The Cuban album is what was playing last night.

There was one small group at the restaurant when we arrived.  They were sitting outside.  Bill and I were shown to a two top table by the window.  It happened to be right in the sun, but we decided to stay there because we knew the sun would eventually go down.

The waiter was a very friendly guy who had a good sense of humor and spoke excellent English.  He's probably the one Bill spoke to on the phone.  Dressed in jeans and a denim shirt, our waiter was the very picture of understated style.  I wore a dress and Bill wore slacks and a button down shirt, but it would have been perfectly okay to dress casually.  That's what I will do next time.


Clipboards!  How novel!

Our menus came to us on little clipboards and we didn't have the chance to look at them before we were asked if we wanted aperitifs.  I ordered a glass of bubbly-- turned out to be a nice Crémant.  Bill had a Campari on the rocks.  We checked out the menu, which features fish dishes as well as a few choices for those who don't like seafood.  There was also a list of specials on a chalkboard across the room.


The sun was in my face, but we were later rewarded with a lovely sunset.

The waiter explained what was available last night which, to be honest, is mostly fish that isn't hard to find in this part of Germany.  He made a point of telling us that the fish is fresh, not frozen.  So don't go to Ocean's First expecting to have halibut or sea bass or any other fish that you wouldn't normally see in these parts.  Because they don't freeze their fish, Ocean's First doesn't actually have a whole lot of fish that can survive a long journey from the ocean.  Last night, they had dorade, zander, salmon, tuna, shrimp and hummer (lobster).

I started with a tuna tartar with avocado creme and sesame seeds.  Bill decided to have the Serrano ham and Manchego cheese tapas.  For our main courses, Bill had a tuna steak special with horseradish flavored mashed potatoes.  I went with the hummer, mainly because that's not something I see that often in Germany.  I had to laugh when I ordered the lobster as hummer, mainly because the slang term "hummer" means something rather obscene in English.  Bill ordered a nice bottle of Italian white wine and sparkling water to go with our meals.

As we were waiting, another server brought us a small paper bag with slices of black olive bread a tray of olive oil and Kosher salt.  A few more people came in and were seated.  Bill went to the men's room and came back with the picture below...


Yet another funny brand name that means something different and possibly inappropriate to English speakers...


Bread and oil.


And a lovely white from Italy that was just slightly effervescent.


This was my tuna tartar with avocado creme.  It was very good, though I wish the fish had been a little more chilled.  The avocado creme matched the fish very well, though I was kind of reminded of La Cocina Mexicana's guacamole.  However, since this was not supposed to be guacamole, it was fine!    


Bill loved his Serrano ham and Manchego cheese tapas.  There are several kinds of tapas offered and they come in several sizes.  When we come back to Ocean's First, we will have to order a few of them instead of doing the traditional main courses.  Tapas are fun!

Our dinner proceeded at a leisurely pace.  This was a good thing, since I had no idea what I was about to be faced with when my hummer finally arrived...


Behold!  A very large crustacean!  It's a little disconcerting to be served a trough of food, especially when you're supposed to be ladylike.  Fortunately, I never claimed to be a lady.  I was pretty nervous about eating this, but it actually wasn't as huge as it seemed.  I was given special tools to break into the lobster and did my best to eat it without making a huge mess.  I did comment to Bill that a bib might have come in handy.  This dish came with a side of drawn butter and salted new potatoes!  I certainly couldn't eat everything, but I did manage most of the lobster and a bit of the salad and potatoes.  Our funny waiter explained that in Germany, a lobster is small, while a hummer is large.  I will keep that in mind for the future.


Bill's tuna looked rather plain in comparison to my lobster, but he really enjoyed his dish.  The tuna was perfectly seared and not overcooked.  The potatoes, which were flavored with horseradish, were also a hit.  The waiter had suggested them, pronouncing them "awesome".  I think Bill agrees.


The sun finally went down at about 8:30 or so...


Post dinner digestion.

Next came dessert, which I was surprised I could even consider.  


I had warm chocolate cake with cherry sorbet.  We thought maybe this would end up being the dreaded lava cake, but it wasn't.  It tasted like it might have been a flourless chocolate cake with the lava smeared on top of it.  This was very nice, though I think I liked Bill's choice more...


Bill had an almond cake that came with an "orange carpaccio".  Although the cake tasted kind of like something that would be offered in the autumn, Bill really enjoyed it.  The cake was light, not too sweet, and moist.  


Finally, it was time for the bill.  It was presented to us in a cute little treasure chest, along with a business card and a couple of Milka chocolates.


I was actually expecting the bill to be higher than this, though the price of the lobster was more than I was expecting.  There is no printed price of the lobster in the menu; you get charged the market price.  Yesterday, that was 64,90.  Ouch!

Bill paid our friendly server and we got up to leave.  I made a stop in the ladies room and realized that in order to use the mirror, I'd need a step stool.  Whoever installed it must have been about six feet tall!  No matter.  At least I could see the top of my head and my eyes, right?  And for those who are wondering, there was no Happy End in the ladies room.  ;-)


I stopped to rummage through my purse and a man who looked like a chef came out of what was probably a break room.  He smiled broadly at us and asked it we enjoyed our meal.  I was happy to say we did.  Chefs rarely get to see the reactions people have to their creations, so it was nice to be able to thank him for a job well done.

We had a great time at Ocean's First and I'm sure we'll be back.  Next time, I will not be as extravagant, unless I'm really craving lobster!  But it's nice to know that if I ever do want a hummer while we're living here, I can get it in Holzgerlingen!  Aside from that, it's not so often that dinner out involves both a hummer and a "Happy End".  ;-)  

ETA:  Just updated my "Good Eats" guide with this listing.

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