Running a much-acclaimed French American fine-dining restaurant for more than twenty-five years is no feat to scoff at, but chef/owner Mark Grosz and his wife/partner Renée André aren't stopping now. Celebrating the restaurant's 25th anniversary this summer, they have recently renewed the lease on the quaint Oceanique space in the heart of Evanston, Illinois for another 10 years and plans are underway to renovate the space this summer, taking the annual 3-week vacation in July and re-opening at the end of July with new menu items and new look.
Oceanique continues garner acclaim as one of the area's best restaurants and is a popular North Shore dining destination. Since 1993, Oceanique has been ranked as the number one seafood restaurant in the Chicago metropolitan area by the prestigious Zagat Guide.
"Many of the changes will be substantial; we are going to put in place a more contemporary look without losing the intimacy and comfortable atmosphere that has made Oceanique popular with a large and loyal following," Grosz says. "In fact, we are going from 88 seats to 68 seats to provide for more room and comfort and we are adding four banquettes. Our new menu also will highlight our excellent wine program that is led by wine Ddirector (and son) Philippe André. A brand new bar will come along with new chairs and tables, as well as a new menu of artisan cocktails, craft beers and small plate dishes."
Grosz has engaged the design team headed by Paul Kozlowski and Taylor Williams of D+K Architects to oversee the design changes. Floor and ceiling treatments are planned along with a state of the art lighting system that imbues the space with warmth and charm while showcasing chef Grosz's glowing seasonal dishes. A row of banquette seating will be placed along the wall of one of the main dining rooms to accommodate large tables while still offering lavish seating.
Along with the physical changes, Chef Grosz will introduce new menus, one specifically for the bar area to appeal to those looking to enjoy a brand new seasonally focused cocktail program and lighter bites. Featured on this menu will be the signature Maine Lobster Brioche sandwich with saffron-togarashi aioli.
A rebuilt seven-course degustation menu will take Oceanique into the next era of its culinary history with dishes like Virginia Misty Point Oysters roasted with Pernod, spinach and parmesan. Also featured will be Pennsylvania's Elysian Field Farm's lamb T-bone, grilled with heirloom tomatoes. An abundance of wonderfully blended fresh local herbs and vegetables will make their way onto the Summer and Fall menus.
The renovations won't happen until Oceanique takes its annual summer break during the first half of July, but in the meantime, Grosz is not letting up, featuring his seven-course Spring degustation menu. Highlights include day boat sea scallops with house made kimchi, Spanish Turbot with lemongrass, and locally raised duck leg confit with kumquats, and Hudson Valley foie gras.
Wine director André has updated his pairings to reflect the sway of the seasons, featuring an exotic yet playful Hungarian dry Furmint and the elegant sophistication of a tenured single vineyard red burgundy.
"Over the years, our wine program has become more than an addition to the Oceanique experience but rather, a beautiful companion to our fine cuisine," says Director Andre. "Our wine cellar contains a wide spectrum of varietal offerings with an outstanding collection of rare Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux. Oceanique's cellar not only holds some 700 selections at a precise 57-degrees and 64 percent humidity, it strives to offer something special for every dish, every person, and every occasion."
Oceanique has won Wine Spectator Magazine's coveted "Best of Award of Excellence" every year since 1993. This year, Wine Spectator recognized Oceanique as having one of the 750 best wine lists in the world. Even with this acclaim, guests find the wine service at Oceanique to be very knowledgeable, yet refreshingly gracious, and down to earth.