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Rated: E · Critique · Entertainment · #1179260
Norwalk’s stylish SoNo district sparkles with Mario Fontana’s, Ocean Drive.
Ocean Drive.

Among the jewels that glitter throughout Norwalk’s stylish and historic SoNo district, little sparkle with the intensity of Mario Fontana’s, Ocean Drive.

Fontana, owner of the wildly successful and critically acclaimed SoNo eatery, Habana, brings the same creative panache to his newest presentation in both ambiance and menu. As part of Starwood Properties successful restoration of Connecticut’s third largest tourist attraction, this seafood-driven restaurant offers a unique multi-sensory, inter-active dining experience, which weaves free-spirit artistry with fish-so-fresh-you-have-to-spank-‘em.

Once inside, behind the façade of tradition, you step into a celebration-in-progress. Exuberant staff, the urgent and infectious beat of Reggae music, and especially the delightful aromas of sumptuous food, erupt in a festival of form and color, warmly inviting all to come together, to dine together, to revel together.

“Ocean Drive. is not a serious place. Our rules about eating are that we have no rules. It’s all about celebration here. We celebrate surfers, fish, Bob Marley, and each other.”

On the other hand, they are very serious about their fish. “We deal directly with the fishermen to guarantee an unending supply of the world’s freshest and most interesting fish, shellfish and crustaceans.”

A Fire and Ice theme menu, including briny clam chowder, steamed Thai Mussels, Sashimi, Seviche, Tuna Tar-Tar, and a colorful display of the freshest clams, oysters, lobsters and shrimp command the Oyster Bar. Nearby, exotic drinks with names like Rip Tide and Maui Waui are presented in the lounge.

The main dining area is punctuated by an active and open kitchen where Chefs prepare entrees divided into sections titled: FISH - all the daily fresh selections with eight FISH specialties including Seared & Spicy Wasabi Tuna and San Francisco Cioppiono: DISH - fantastic pasta dishes mostly prepared with seafood such as Black Fettucini with Swordfish, capers, tomato and artichoke: SHISH - meat or fish grilled while speared with a two foot sword. Free range chicken, top sirloin steak, marinated lamb, jumbo shrimp: WISH - Beefy Prime Steaks, Chops, and Burgers: LOBSTER - a listing of Lobster sizes and preparation. All lobsters at Ocean Drive. (“The only place to go for lobsters!”) are two, three, and four pounds.

“The menu is printed daily to reflect what’s fresh so we have no specials.”

Upstairs, a separate lounge, and a wrap-around balcony dominate the multi-tiered seating, offering Ocean Drive. diners a commanding view of the action down below, and unique perspectives each and every visit.

But the “Oh, my Gosh!” arrhythmia-inducing, point-of-focus is the $300,000 Chihuly glass chandelier that hovers above the dining area, designed especially for Ocean Drive. by glass artiste, Dale Chihuly.

Chihuly, world-renowned for his innovative and impressive installations, “has almost single-handedly revolutionized American attitudes towards glass.” His works have hung over the canals of Venice, and in October, 1999, the largest and most extensive display ever of Chihuly glass sculpture was exhibited at the Tower of David Museum in Jersusalem’s Old City. The centerpiece of the Chihuly spectacle was a 12 ft. high wall of “ice so pure you can read a newspaper through it” whose meltdown symbolized thawing of tensions in the Middle East.

And the Chihuly blue-green glass canopy provides the perfect visual finishing touch to the restaurant’s omnipresent Endless Summer theme.

It all makes you just want to yell, “Surf’s up at Ocean Drive.”

©2006 a DouglasFordeSimmsprofile
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