Before fishermen discovered the edibility of fish, they used each catch as bait for larger species, hoping in the end to hook the biggest fish of all—friendship. Satisfy cravings for companionship and freshly caught fare with today’s Groupon: for $40, you get the chef's five-course seafood tasting menu at Oceanique (an $80 value), located in Evanston. This Groupon does not include tax, gratuity, or drinks.
Chef Mark Grosz selects the very best of Oceanique's French and American cuisine for his five-course tasting menu, pairing fresh seafood with local produce and decadent sides. Epicurean adventures begin with a surprise dish served on an unsurprisingly solid plate, followed by a choice of the day boat scallops with cabbage, kimchi and a lobster-soy broth, the calamari shrimp with Meyer lemon, ginger, daikon, and sake, or the venison pâte, spread atop poilane toast. After a seasonal sorbet palate-cleanser and rousing rendition of "Be Our Guest," diners select a favorite entree. Select from savory options of Icelandic arctic char, slow-roasted and flanked by haricot verts, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, and poblano, wild Hawaiian big-eye tuna, prepared rare and snuggled next to bacon, turnip, chanterelles, and tarragon, or wild Maine skatefish, a recklessly mobile East Coast sea-dweller rolling with meyer lemon, leeks, heirloom carrots, and lemongrass. Post-poisson devouring performances, an array of pastries provides an elegant encore.
Oceanique's wine cellar is remarkably devoid of cobwebs and houses nearly 900 carefully selected, pair-friendly wines. Wash down your gourmet harvest of the land and sea with wines by the glass ($10+) and half bottles of red ($34+) or white delights ($26+). Inside Oceanique's charming 1920s Spanish-style location, warm linens swoop from the ceiling, brightly-tiled floors supply stylish treading, and rustic chandeliers tempt high-society acrobats to swing onto a pillow of caviar.
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Oceanique's culinary history sparkles with the brilliance of a reef. The restaurant, after all, celebrated 25 years of fine dining history in February 2014 after gifting itself an interior renovation in July 2013. Now the space boasts cream walls, rectangular tables, and modern light fixtures to juxtapose the classic French cuisine that gave the restaurant its swagger. While the ambiance may have changed, Chef Mark Grosz still peppers his menu with the evidence of a culinary education acquired in France and under Jean Banchet at Le Francais. The eclectic dishes, which change daily, might pair butternut squash with salmon or drizzle rhubarb-mango chutney on foie gras. Beyond the signature seasonal fish dishes, they can devote full plate space to organic, ultrafresh produce, such as butternut squash and fiddleheads.
Even with its complex array of ingredients and tastes, the menu strives to remain approachable. Time Out Chicago writes that "while the multi-ingredient preparations border on overwhelming, Grosz somehow manages to balance flavors while completely flipping off subtlety." What results is a laid-back dining atmosphere lubricated by a choice of more than 800 wines and several vintage seawaters.