Troy's Ocean Prime puts hospitality first
The seafood-centric restaurant opened in 2008 and was the first of many Ocean Prime locations
There are not many obvious things in common between the dining scenes in Chicago, New York City, Beverly Hills, Boston, Naples, Washington, D.C., and that of Metro Detroit.
One exception is that all these world class cities have an Ocean Prime, and we had it first.
The upscale, hospitality-focused chain opened in Troy in 2008, and according to founder and nationally recognized restaurateur Cameron Mitchell, it was the success of the restaurant in this market that helped launch Ocean Prime as a national brand.
"We love Detroit," Mitchell said in an e-mail to The Detroit News. "I consider it our second home market. We have opened ten restaurants in Detroit over the years."
Mitchell — who developed the hospitality motto of, "yes is the answer, what is the question?" — is based in Columbus, Ohio and has Ocean Primes and other restaurants in a dozen states, but that doesn't mean the Troy restaurant is a carbon copy of the others.
Recently the restaurant group promoted two longtime employees. Kip Donlon started as a server more than a decade ago when it opened, and graduated from assistant general manager to GM in January.
Last year Chris Mayer was named the restaurant's new executive chef. He had worked at other Cameron Mitchell properties, but the mustachioed Michigan native joined Troy's Ocean Prime in 2013 as a line cook.
One of the main differences between Troy's Ocean Prime and others in different cities, Donlon says, is that this is one of the few that isn't in a downtown city center.
"This one is, compared to our other stores ... is across from one of the biggest malls in the state. This location has been fantastic," he said.
As Metro Detroit's restaurant market swells in general, Troy's dining scene has become flooded with national chains similar to Ocean Prime, including Seasons 52, Eddie V's Prime Seafood and Ruth's Chris Steak House.
Still, Donlon says the last three years have been the busiest Ocean Prime has seen since the year it debuted.
"We want to keep the momentum going" said Donlon. "I think we pretty much solidified our reputation for having consistently the best food and consistently the best service. People know what they're going to get here."
Donlon credits their success with having "perfected the culture" of hospitality.
"A lot of restaurants have rules ... they won't seat you until your whole party is here, or they'll charge you to cut a cake, or they won't let you modify things or taste things," said Donlon. "I think what makes us stand out is we are trying to accommodate no matter what. We think outside the box."
They also kept things interesting by getting a face lift a few years ago and morphing from a "modern American supper club" to more of a luxury brand.
"Before it was like Rat Pack meets 'Sex and the City,'" he said.
Much of the menu at Ocean Prime are dishes that can be found at other locations. Executive chefs like Mayer can create their own dishes, however, especially for lunch and happy hour menus. He serves a "chef's plate daily catch" that includes fish like halibut or snapper served with sautéed wild mushrooms, roasted carrots, Brussels sprout leaves, fingerling potatoes and a garlic butter sauce
The menu includes things you'd expect from such a restaurant, including crab cakes, a $15 lobster bisque, crab legs, lobster and steaks. Some interesting signature dishes are the savory goat cheese ravioli with golden oak mushrooms and the Somerset roll, a tempura shrimp sushi roll with cream cheese and scallion and topped with beef carpaccio.
Those who create the seafood-heavy menu, including chefs from the home office as well as each Ocean Prime's executive chef, take into consideration the ethical issues that come with serving fish.
"With the oceans as stressed as they are, as a company we're focused trying to make sure all of our species coming in are from a sustainable provider," said Mayer.
"As we grow as a company, the bigger we get the spotlight gets bigger and obviously we want to make sure that we're doing the right things and going about it the right way and trying to be eco-friendly and green."
Ocean Prime will be one of nearly two dozen area restaurants participating in Troy Restaurant Week Sunday through March 15. Visit troyrestaurantweek.com for details.
2915 Coolidge, Troy
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri., 4-11 p.m. Sat. and 4-9 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Lunch entrees, $15-$32; soups and salads, $12-$23; seafood entrees, $39-$65; steaks, $41-$52; sides, $11-$19.
Happy Hour: $5 off small plates, sushi and specialty cocktails 2-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 2-6 p.m. Sat.
Reservations: Suggested. Call or use the OpenTable app or website.
Noise level: Muted in the dining area; a little louder in the lounge
Accessibility: No barriers
Parking: Lot on site; valet available
Troy Restaurant Week
23 Troy restaurants offering multi-course meals at a fixed price