Second Helpings

New Ocean City Restaurant

Four years ago, I had one of the greatest, strangest, most affecting meals of my life at Ocean City. It was during the Chinese lunar festival, and the party went on for hours with more courses than I can remember. I ate cold pig's-ear salad, whole abalone in oyster gravy, sweet black-bean sauce over dessert cakes and the eye out of a fish, then washed all of it down with bottle after bottle of ice-cold wine drunk in good company, in a stark, bare-bones dining room where I was one of only four or five people speaking English. But I hadn't been back in a while -- not since a change in ownership also resulted in a name change. And while New Ocean City looks exactly like old Ocean City, the menu is indeed new: The food is now straight Hong Kong-style, heavy on the seafood and with much of that (the crabs, lobsters, tilapia, clams) alive until the moment a dish is ordered. Never one to shy away from complicity in the death of my dinner, I ordered a whole lobster, basically bargained for its life -- weights and prices bandied back and forth among me, my waitress and a manager hiding somewhere in the back -- and got a two-and-a-half-pounder for thirty-odd dollars, hacked rudely into pieces and sautéed in a sauce rich with butter, crumbs and oil. It was a vivisectionist's delight, mounted with the head at the top of the plate, meat bulging out of the shattered shell. I picked it clean in about ten minutes, ruining my shirt cuffs in the process. While it wasn't as magical as my lunar festival dinner, it was as rough and simple and satisfying as the room where it was served, proof once again that what's on the menu is always going to be more important than what is (or isn't) on the walls.
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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan