Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ocean Grill: a lesson in food photography

Ocean Grill (384 Columbus Ave.)

I recently sat down for dinner and a lesson in food photography with accomplished New York City fashion photographer, Daymion Mardel (Vogue, Town & Country, New York Magazine, Coach, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Estée Lauder), at one of his favorite upper west side restaurants, Ocean Grill.  As we walked in, the entire staff greeted Daymion with an enthusiastic smile (and several hugs).  As usual, he sprinted up the staircase and strolled past the host stand, turned a sharp left circumventing the side dining room, and made a beeline towards the bar.  It's a path he practically flies on autopilot.

Though the dining rooms in this den of seafood are spectacular, Daymion knows a certain secret that will keep him perched on a stool at the watering hole every single time.  After 9:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, clams, shrimp, & oysters from the cold bar are available for only $1.25 per piece if you sit at the bar.  With a selection of eight different clams and oysters, along with succulent jumbo shrimp, it's one of the best deals around.

As we pull up our stools, the bartender is all smiles at the sight of Daymion, and they rush to the side for yet another hug.  He's clearly been here a few times before, and it seems that just about everyone on staff at Ocean Grill is just as big of a fan of him as he is of them.  I, too, have discovered that Daymion is certainly easy to fall for.  

While our bartender (who just so happens to be the ridiculously talented singer, Beth Eunice, performing on Mondays at the famous Hell's Kitchen piano bar, Don't Tell Mama) closes a few checks and mixes cocktails for the other guests, Daymion shows me a couple of new tricks with my Canon PowerShot that will make my images look less like a sun-faded Chinese take-out menu, and more like an actual capture of the food I am enjoying, the way I actually see it in the natural lighting of the dining room.  I'm simply amazed that a few minor adjustments can make this big of a difference; and while Daymion catches up with Beth, I click away, snapping images of everything in sight, from wine glasses and candles, to bottles of soy sauce.

Moments later, a tray of sushi arrives, an order that I never even heard placed... because it wasn't.  Beth just knows that it's Daymion's starter every time.  A double order of lobster hamachi roll with with avocado, jalapeno, and cilantro aioli.  Though a little on the spicier side this evening, Daymion and I devour the maki, proclaiming it to be one of our favorite rolls in the entire city.

When all is said and done, we have demolished four helpings of these exceptional rolls.  There's no mystery as to why Daymion orders them along with his shrimp and oysters.

When my blue cheese crusted filet mignon arrives, I am in absolute heaven. Had I known we'd be doing sushi, I probably wouldn't have ordered this, so thank goodness I didn't know. Ocean Grill repeatedly delivers some of the most delicious cuts of steak I have ever enjoyed.  Tonight, my 8 oz. filet sits in a pool of sour cherry demi-glace, accompanied by fresh endive roasted in Serrano ham, and a salad of baby arugula.

Dessert is a cajeta banana sundae, with vanilla and banana ice creams, a goat's milk caramel that is whipped into a light zabaglione cream, spiced peanuts, all crowned with a brown sugar tuille.

Once again, Ocean Grill has completely won me over, and also secured their claim on the heart and cravings of Daymion Mardel.  Not only did I enjoy an incredible dinner, but I learned how to come a little closer to capturing my images the way more experienced amateurs do (though I think it will be quite awhile before you see my foodie pics alongside Daymion's extraordinary images in the glossies!)  Whether for the great cold bar specials or an engaging conversation with Beth (and the hope I might catch her singing to herself while she mixes spirits), you will most certainly see me at Ocean Grill's bar again soon.

Ocean Grill on Urbanspoon

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