I’m inclined to reply “none because they use platters” to the question on the title, haha!
During the last week of March, our family celebrated my younger brother’s masalamah from Riyadh (he exited a week ago) and his girlfriend Mayumi’s birthday. Yes, I no longer have in Riyadh the brother who I can force to drive me to the outskirts of Riyadh for a burger (the kaladkarin to my batang gala persona), acts as my bodyguard (though I have no idea why I would be needing one, haha), finances my local adventures by lending money to me, cooks delicious food most of the time, and drives me to wherever with no questions asked other than “ililibre mo ba ako ng pagkain?!” (Are you going to treat me with food?) He took home with him seven years of work experience in the road construction field and a lot of memories of Saudi Arabia. His foodie heart (or stomach) is beating to the direction of opening up a paresan (beef stew with tofu, beef fat and boiled egg) in Pasig but we’ll see if that happens. And if it does happen, please visit it and have his warm, comforting, delicious pares when that plan materializes. Haha! If not, then we’ll probably see him in the Middle East again. Okay, so I segued a long way already but I just want to say how grateful I am to my youngest brother (who’s actually the tallest and bigger one lol) for supporting me and The Pink Tarha errands I made him do. Haha! Thank you, Marvin! (Ilibre mo ako ng pares!)
Okay, so yeah, we had dinner at Ocean Basket because I insisted on it. I’m getting a bit tired from steaks (but who really gets tired from the juicy, mouthwatering beef?) and I asked a pause from it by going to a restaurant that serves seafood. Prawns, oysters, mussels, fish, squid… yum! Not to mention sushi and sashimi right? So off we go to Exit 6. Er what? Exit 6?! Exactly our father’s reaction when he asked where we are going because he’s the one driving haha! It’s a bit far from the city center especially if you consider the construction of roads and detours along the way. But if you’re like me who’s really forceful (because I have to discover and write about new restaurants), then you can also convince your drivers for the day, be it your husband, father, etc. to go the distance. It’s a good way to discover the newest trend in Riyadh: food plazas and strip malls. We will discuss this in full length in another entry.
Ocean Basket is located in Al Alia Plaza in the corner of Thumamah Street and Abu Bakr Al Siddiq Road. Like most of large restaurants in the city, this one is a franchise from South Africa. The first Ocean Basket opened in Menlyn Park Centre Pretoria in 1995 and it was just 60 square meters, with just six tables. The branch here in Riyadh is bigger with more tables and a really high ceiling that we thought at first they had a second floor. The mediterranean restaurant had a lot of fans in South Africa and soon it expanded to over 200 stores all around the world. Seafood is hard to resist and we’re pretty sure we’ll be under the spell of Ocean Basket too.
The interiors of Ocean Basket is calm. The blue and white walls emit that “just enjoy” vibe and I wanted to dream that just outside the doors and walls is a boardwalk leading to the beach complete with yachts and sea gulls… Nahhh. Haha! Their lighting is inviting, a mix of warm and cool lights that either make you want to eat with your hands (‘get down and dirty with it’ type of eating if you know what I mean) or use spoon and fork and go semi-formal.
Their cooking stations are divided into Grill and Sushi. Their tables are covered with paper that has text all over it; maybe going for that newspaper chic vibe on most marina restaurants in other countries. They have wooden circles used as a holder for plates although I’m not sure why it’s important. It elevates the plate but for what? I spent a minute making sure my plate stays put.
Now on to the food:
We started our meal with an Oyster Platter (SR 105 / SR 12 if ordered per piece). They served it in two bowls filled with crushed ice and six pieces of cold, huge oysters. Growing up in a Philippine province that has a staple of small oysters in our table, I was so excited to see and taste these because I seldom see this in restaurants in Riyadh. The oysters are already shucked and they lay on a bed of ice open faced. (For the life of me, I have no idea how to shuck an oyster, yes, despite living in a Philippine province that has a staple of small oysters in our table haha.)
We squeezed a few drops of lemon and put a dash of hot sauce in our oyster and ate it as a whole. It was so cold and refreshing! I want to say it’s fresh but you all know we’re in the middle of the desert and I doubt if this is really fresh but I’m sure this is the freshest it can get. The oyster is firm and slippery at the same time, much like the contrast of the soft meat against the rough, hard shell it comes from. The taste is at first salty then turns sweet in the end. I enjoyed this plate of appetizer.
And then we came to our choice of salad: Fattoush and Seared Salmon Salad. The Fattoush is okay, nothing to rave about. We enjoyed the contrast in texture of the fried crisps and the crunchy veggies. The Seared Salmon Salad is a plate of 70g thinly-sliced salmon seared with garlic and black pepper and served with slices of avocado and ponzu sauce. It has sesame seeds sprinkled on top. When my eyes settled on this dish, I knew then that I will have problems with the salmon. I can see from the color of the flesh that they’re not as fresh as I would like it. However, I gave it the benefit of the doubt because it’s seared (unlike the sashimi that will follow after). I’m anticipating an amazing taste from this dish because I like salmon and I like avocado but this one falls flat. The ponzu sauce, a mixture of soy and citrus, elevated the flavor a bit but overall, this one is plain and bland.
This was followed by an order of Salmon Sashimi. You can see from these slices of salmon that its color is muted instead of the vibrant pinkish orange color that I’m used to. Not sure if this is because it’s a farmed salmon as opposed to wild, or vice-versa. But okay let’s forget the salmon’s color because we can’t judge a salmon by its color. We should judge it with its taste and what I can tell you is it doesn’t taste fresh and fleshy and slippery. It almost tastes like it was boiled a bit? It’s not melt-in-your-mouth soft nor is it a bit sweet. It actually tastes a bit smoky and tart.
We were a group of eight persons and the first thing we zeroed on in their menu are the seafood in platters that are good for sharing. This is a good option if you want a variety of seafood in one plate. It saves money too since ordering ala carte of each seafood is more expensive. There’s a Platter for 2 which has mussels, prince prawns, fish, and calamari for SR 140. There’s a solemate Platter oncisiting of prince praws, calamari steak, mussels and village salad good for three persons for SR 179 and then there’s the Starboard Platter with prince prawns, calamari mussels and fish that can be shared among four persons. And because we were eight in our table, we settled for the Full Deck Platter which has 30 prince prawns, mussles, calamari, calamari steak strips, and fish. It says in the menu that it’s good for four but I’m pretty sure it’s good for more than four persons because were eight in our table and we had a fun time sharing the contents of the Full Deck.
I’m pretty happy with the prawns. I’m not expecting them to be big since they’re described as “prince” and they have the “Queen Prawns” which are probably medium-sized and “King Prawns” which are the huge ones that can be ordered separately. The Prince Prawns are the regular-sized ones and they’re okay. It was well-spiced and flavorful. It was just a bit hard to remove the meat from the shell because it already adhered to it, probably from over-grilling. The calamari was chewy and the fried breaded fish is no longer crispy. They’re alright for fried food I guess. We like the cheesy mussels (anything with cheese is approved!).
Last to arrive in our table is the Two-Way Platter with three pieces of Salmon Roses, four pieces Tempura Prawn Rolls, eight pieces Rainbow Rolls, and eight pieces Fried Crab California Rolls. I was excited with this because you know I love Japanese food and maki rolls are my favorite. This platter has their special rolls. However, it didn’t reach expectation. The only thing that I really liked was the Prawn Tempura Roll which has a battered and fried prawn inside with drops of a sweet spicy sauce in the middle. I thought the Salmon Rose would wow me because it looks beautiful in the photo but it was just okay (remember to not judge the book by its cover, applicable to food too). Check out their full MENU here.
Overall, Ocean Basket is a good option when you’re tired of steaks, burgers, and kebabs. Their seafood are probably not the farm-to-table kind but more of regular seafood that satisfies a craving for it. Is it worth to go to Exit 6 for this? Yes, especially when you’re wanting some seafood and you don’t want to cook them yourself. These dishes, especially the grilled and friend ones, can be re-created in your own kitchens but there are days when you just want to relax and have others cook these for you and just serve them in front of you. Ocean Basket is for those times.
Al Alia Plaza, Abu Bakr As Siddiq Road cor. Thumamah Road
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [MAP]