Cafe Society

Wyland's Ocean Blue celebrates its grand opening

The grand opening of Wyland's Ocean Blue restaurant/gallery in the Shops at Northfield Stapleton appeared to be a swimming success, with artist Wyland (he doesn't use his first name, Robert) himself in attendance last night, cutting the ribbon, plugging his gallery of artwork and flagrantly sipping at his own branded wine.

The dolphin handles on the doors were a harbinger of the decor inside; the space is a veritable cathedral of marine mammals, from the whale-tail insignias to the dolphin water fountain planted in the dining room. Everything was lit with cool, oceanic blue lighting, and the falling-water panel behind the bar added to the general maritime ambience.

Guests were treated to an assortment of seafood starters by chef Lucas Zoumas, many of which are on the menu of the restaurant, which opened to the public last month. Oysters on the half shell, lobster spring rolls, tiny minced tuna tacos topped with caviar, chilled jumbo shrimp and lobster tails, spicy tuna sushi rolls, and sashimi: salmon, yellowtail and halibut. The Bahamian-style conch fritters were superb -- flavorful, supple sea meat with garlic and peppers, fried to a gentle golden brown. And to wash everything down? Buckets of cocktail sauce and cases of champagne.

Wyland's first Ocean Blue opened this past summer in Dallas (a second Texas store will celebrate its grand opening next week), and with the restaurants, Wyland hopes to extend his brand beyond the current crew of marine-art enthusiasts. For his Colorado followers, he joked about switching his muse to bears, and announced that the night of the party, all of his art at this location was half off the sticker price.

"It's my stimulus package," quipped Wyland.

But even when this spot isn't celebrating a grand opening, all of the fish on the menu is sustainable and all of the artwork in the restaurant is for sale. Wyland's Ocean Blue is shoring up to be another Wyland venture with sea legs.