This month, Terry features Ocean Boulevard Bistro and Martini Bar, a favorite for many years in Kitty Hawk.
Every time I go, I always tell myself that I’ll just have one thing. I’ll pick something from the small plates menu or maybe an entrée, pair it with a glass of wine, and leave it at that. So far, that has proven to be impossible. My good intentions and will power evaporate as soon as I start perusing the menu, where the descriptions of the dishes alone, even ignoring the delectable aromas wafting out of the open kitchen, are enough to set my taste buds tingling.
Executive Chef Donny King purchased the building, which had once been a hardware store on the Beach Road in Kitty Hawk, in 2002, and transformed the space into a chic nightspot that would rival any metropolitan restaurant in appearance, atmosphere, and cuisine. Yet, the open Martini Bar, where bartenders whip up unique and delicious award-winning martinis and other concoctions nightly, and the open kitchen, where diners can watch the chefs preparing menu items, also create a friendly, welcoming environment. In addition to their martinis, OB Bistro is also known for their extensive wine list, and the wait staff, including Donny, is knowledgeable in suggesting appropriate parings for every dish. Upstairs, semi-private dining is available in the wine room and at other tables arranged to take advantage of ocean views. This would be the place to have a romantic dinner for a special occasion. Outside, a patio provides space for enjoying drinks, food, and music during the warmer months of the year. And, for much of the year, live music is featured in the dining room. Ocean Boulevard is the intimate kind of place to enjoy unique cocktails, fine wine, and great food and entertainment that grown-ups look for when they want to have a night out without the kids, impress a date, catch up with friends, or just relax.
Donny and his culinary team (including Michael Thomas, Tim Gard, and Angel Dobbler) have done something interesting with his menu. Essentially, there are three ways to enjoy the amazing cuisine at Ocean Boulevard. One way is to order from the Small Plate menu. These are appetizer- or tapas-size portions of dishes, many of which could easily be entrées for the complexity of flavors and preparation apparent in each small plate. The second way is to order a scaled-down version of entrees from the Simple Plates menu. This allows the diner to experience the stars of the entrees such as a rack of lamb, duck breast, and Scottish salmon, but with fewer components and a simpler preparation of accompanying side dishes. The third way is to order from the Large Plate menu. Here you will find the more upscale, gourmet dishes created with a more complex layering of ingredients and flavors and masterfully combined into one entrée. Regardless of which menu you order from, the emphasis is always on using the freshest seasonal ingredients, sourced locally as much as possible. So, theoretically, if you have more will power than I do, it is possible to order a smaller plate, or a less extravagant preparation, or to order just one thing. But, why would you? I can’t, and I bet you can’t either. It’s all just too good!
During my most recent visit to Ocean Boulevard with family, my streak of dissipated restraint was extended. Happily so, I might add. For starters, we shared the OB Skillet, the Cheese Plate, and French Onion soup. The OB Skillet happens to be my favorite small plate. Although this dish varies with the seasons, that night, it included roasted garlic, roasted sweet potato, “drunken” goat cheese, a house-made sausage, and bruschetta served in a small cast-iron skillet. The components are separate, but flavors have melded together during cooking in the most wonderful way. The roasted garlic is creamy, the sausage is spicy, the cheese is a little tangy, and the sweet potatoes are, well, sweet. It’s an absolutely fantastic dish! The cheese plate included four different types of cheese, our favorite being the blue cheese. The plate also included some tart cherries and sweet pears, along with some mild wafers, making all sorts of enjoyable combinations of flavors possible. The French Onion Soup was elegantly presented, delicious and satisfying without being heavy.
One of the entrees we selected was the Chef’s Fish Selection, which turned out to be lightly sautéed Flounder fillets served with a Twice-Baked potato stuffed with lobster, cured Salmon and Bacon, with a composition of Winter Vegetables and Lemon Jus. The fish was well-seasoned and moist, the potato contained generous amount of lobster meat, the cured Salmon and Bacon added a salty punch to the dish, the vegetables (carrots, shallots, and parsnips) were fresh and crisp, and the Lemon Jus added a wonderful citrus note which served to blend all these flavors perfectly. Another entrée we selected was the Pork Loin Cutlet “Saltimbocca”, served with House-made Duck Prosciutto, fresh sage, rosemary Mozzarella, roast Garlic Gnocchi and Marsala pan sauce with Portobello Mushrooms and Swiss Chard.
In all of these dishes, it may seem that the number of components is overwhelming, and that it would be difficult to appreciate the individual parts of the whole. However, one of the impressive aspects of the cuisine at Ocean Boulevard is that you can indeed savor each individual component of these complex dishes because they are so well-balanced and the ingredients are so fresh. In fact, it would be hard to imagine which component you might delete from a dish because each one contributes something unique to the dish as a whole. Judging from the “Wow”s and “Whoa”s and “MMMM”s escaping from the mouths of my fellow diners, I am not alone in my assessment. Yes, we did have dessert - an incredible caramel espresso cheesecake – which we shared only because we were too stuffed to order individually. The caramel and espresso flavors in that cheesecake were intense and rich. No, we did not leave with “doggie bags”.
Ocean Boulevard is open all year for dinner. If you will be in the Outer Banks for Taste of the Beach in mid-March, be sure to look for events sponsored by Ocean Boulevard; they are always among the most popular events of the weekend. You’ll need to purchase tickets ahead of time, though, because they sell out quickly. Go to www.obxtasteofthebeach.com and get your tickets soon!