Alvin Thomas dives into some scrummy seafood that proves to be a good catch at a fair price.
There’s nothing quite as inviting as the aroma of freshly- grilled prawns and batter-fried tuna lingering in the air. If anything, it calls out to all seafood lovers strolling along the empty verandas of the first-floor in the Muscat City Centre (MCC) at Seeb – leading them to the open-front Ocean Basket restaurant.
We must confess: Y’s experiences with mall restaurants haven’t been the best of late; the Buffalo Wild Wings outlet, which we reviewed a fortnight ago, is the perfect testament to our longstanding disappointments with mall eateries.
Still, call it the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ – because as seafood enthusiasts we couldn’t stop ourselves from walking into the newly-opened seafood restaurant – not even if we wanted to.
Meanwhile, peering at us through an open quarter was the Buffalo Wild Wings outlet – screaming at us about our recent letdown at the mall and imploring us to give our selection another thought.
But the choice had been made – seafood it was.
The waiter – a welcoming Filipino man – was quick to hand us our menus, which we briskly glanced through. The colourful nautically-themed menu is a bit gaudy but it’s neatly laid out and easy to understand.
We soon marked down a plate of crumbled prawn tails, sizzling tuna, and a carafe of pink lemonade to set the ball rolling for the night.
It didn’t take longer than 10 minutes for the first of the dishes – the sizzling tuna – to arrive. Laid out in precise sashimi-style cuts, the seared cuboids of meaty tuna were then doused to perfection in ponzu sauce, and drizzled with pickled red onions and red chillies.
We judged the creamy consistency of the tuna to be luscious, while the ponzu sauce and red onion absorbed by the meat delivered the dish its much-needed flavour.
But even before we could munch down all the tuna, the waiter brought us our crumbled prawn tails – and boy, we couldn’t take our eyes off them. They looked splendid.
A whiff of the golden-brown batter cocooning what can only be described as freshly-caught prawns was enough for us to realise what was in store for us.
A couple of bites in – and we were completely sold. The juicy prawn meat, coupled with the crunchy bread coating and the herb mayo, made for a delightful – if slightly heavy – start to our supper.
We were still confident that we could down more food, though. So, after cleaning our plates – and by clean, I mean ready-to-hang-on-the-rack spotless – we ordered two seafood platters.
The heaviest selection on the menu (for one person) is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, as I was told by the waiter. So, our 15-minute-long wait was filled with anticipation, if also a bit of anxiety, as to whether we could gobble it all.
Once placed on our table, we realised the slip-up we had just made. The crammed platter is unquestionably meant for those looking to share a meal: Loaded with deep-fried calamari, six grilled prince prawns, golden-fried crumbled cod, and three mussels, all laid atop a sizeable portion of seasoned rice.
We proclaimed the grilled prawns to be the star of the night – offering just the right mix of flavour and consistency to every bite. However, we were let down by the chef’s decision not to de-vein the prawn.
It didn’t stop us from enjoying our meal – but we’d rather our prawns had been de-veined.
On the other hand, the crispy calamari and the accompanying herb mayo went well with the seasoned rice. Our only concerns were that the cod was a bit overdone, and the mussels were a bit chewier than what I’d have liked.
Nevertheless, the sea-brine flavour of the mussels was inviting, and the crusty cod made up for its overdone crust with its well-cooked and soft-to-the-touch meat. After a long sitting, I could wipe it all clean from my plate.
There’s a lot to like about the Ocean Basket – and thankfully, much of it has to do with the delectable seafood that is on offer than the overall ambience of the restaurant. It’s hard to find good restaurants that serve up palatable seafood in the Sultanate, but as far as our search has gone, this mall restaurant tops the charts.
So, here’s the big question: Would we go back to Ocean Basket? Yes, and in a heartbeat.
Do you have a favourite restaurant that you’d like to see reviewed? Let Y know at email@example.com