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Status Symbol

BY Lauren Swanson-Tyda | February 21, 2019 | Feature Features

Fresh seafood and impeccable steaks in a dusky atmosphere—the formula never fails to impress.
New England lobster bake

A father dines quietly with his two teenage sons in a dim nook of Ocean 44. The youngest plunges his fork into a perfect cut of New York strip and tucks it into his cheek. “Good, isn’t it?” says the dad. The boy smiles and widens his eyes. (That’s a yes.) Perhaps he is aware he is consuming a $59 hunk of flesh. Perhaps not. But one thing is for sure—money is no object when dining at a Mastro-owned restaurant.

A chef walks past tables with a skillet of garlic, wafting the plumes through the air like an altar boy swinging a thurible of incense during mass. Women dressed in ostentatious, skimpy attire follow handsome fellas in suits, stopping periodically for a selfie. A man sits alone at the bar with his fingers wrapped unabashedly around a glass of $200 pinot noir. There is no shortage of restaurants like this in the Valley—these bodegas of beefsteak, these odes to lobster lust. Wherever there are shrimp cocktails, crab legs and magnums of cab, you will find throngs of wealthy locals, slurping oysters, tipping Champagne and gallantly asking for black truffle toppers for their entrees.

Jeff Mastro opened Ocean 44 as a seafood-driven sister to Steak 44 in Phoenix. They can almost pass for twins... almost. You will see plenty of menu imports, with one caveat—no chicken, pork chops or lamb. It’s all about fresh seafood and red meat in various iterations, from main dishes to fancy add-ons and decadent sides. Indeed, New Bedford sea scallop gnocchi and Alaskan king crab and shrimp risotto hardly seem like mere accessories.

The wine list is itself a bible of top-shelf tipples. Judging by the comparatively smaller selection of wines by the glass, ordering a bottle is encouraged. If the handsome choices on the main list do not suffice, a reserve list of more than 200 bottles—including a 1999 Château Lafite Rothschild ($2,506)—beckons a glance. Everything about this restaurant is excess, from the tufted blue velvet chairs, white tablecloths and gold spiked light fixtures, down to the generous use of butter in most dishes. This is not a place for blending in—it is a place to be seen, to indulge.

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