Ugh, the dreaded office lunch out. (OK, I know, offices are lucky to be able to afford lunch out these days, and if you have a job at all, you’re happy. But work with me here.)
The boss dreads it because of the expense, the hassle and the excruciating need to make small talk. The staff dreads it because they don’t get to pick the restaurant, or sometimes even the food; they wonder about the etiquette (Can I order a glass of wine? Can I poach food from my usual lunch buddy?) and the time card (Is this work?).
Fortunately for me, my annual office lunch is always a convivial affair. We all really, really like our boss – and we all really, really like the place we go. We eat at the same spot every year, which you might think would be boring, but because it’s Oceanview Bistro, a modest little spot in Montrose, there’s always plenty of variety, the food is delicious and generously served, and there’s even, if anybody dared, adult beverages.
At first glance, the menu seems ho-hum, the items prosaic. But there’s virtue in offering crowd-pleasing classics, and clearly the chef insists on good ingredients, solid cooking, subtle twists and beautiful plates.
Twelve of us ordered a wide spectrum of lunch dishes, from Mississippi mud pie to sandwiches to Cobb salad with steak. Every time an entree was set down the whole group oohed and ahhed – the presentation of each was show-stopping. Then we all began angling for a taste of the crunchy sweet potato fries or the perfectly poached salmon. Nothing cost more than $15, and the portions were ample enough to provide a second meal for light eaters. It was so good that I sent around an e-mail later to everybody who went and asked them for their reviews.
Ms. M gushed, “I had grilled shrimp tacos that were divine. It was nice that there was plenty of meat and that the sauce on the meat and white cabbage was light. The red taco sauce complemented the tacos; not too hot, but with bite. Also enjoyed the apple dessert with ice cream. I’m sort of a connoisseur of ice cream and this was very good… not soft and melty, but hard and flavorful. In addition, the apple fritter, or whatever it was, wasn’t full of hard apples and tons of syrupy sauce, which is so often the case; just enough of both to complement the crust. Ms. C and I both really enjoyed slurping it up!”
Ms. J ordered the meatball sandwich; she had to use a knife and fork to eat the sauce-covered, cheese-crusted, busting-out-of-the-French-roll meal. The next day our own (excellent) cafeteria had the same dish, so she compared the two. “The presentation was fabulous, and the fries were the best; the meatballs were really flavorful. But the sandwich was humongous! It was hard to eat, but it was really good, and I took half of it home.” That’s a lot of meatball sandwiches in one week, Ms. J! Thanks for going above and beyond!
Ms. C knows her way around a plate of salad like nobody’s business. “I want to see OV Bistro succeed! I had the shrimp salad, which was delicious and, as you saw, almost too artfully displayed to eat.” Ms. B, our sveltest colleague, who is often heard extolling the virtues of wheat germ, splurged on the tuna melt and fries. She probably eats this at most once a year, and she raved, “Very decadent, but both were yummy indeed!”
I was the only one to order two courses—the soup of the day, followed by a half sandwich. The gazpacho was a lovely, intensely pink-red color, a touch sweet from the blend of watermelons and tomatoes with a subtle jalapeño bite and garnished with fresh cilantro. The toasted Verdura Grigiliata with roasted veggies and goat cheese was a great mix of flavors and textures and the right dish—rich, warm and crunchy—to contrast with the gazpacho.
Oceanview is a gem—reasonable, consistent, inventive, warm and eager to please. A full bar with happy hour, weekend brunch, entertainment in the evenings, a tiny outdoor patio and a late-night menu on Friday and Saturday mean I’ll be back. And I might even bring the office.
3826 Ocean View Blvd., Montrose, 818.248.2722, ovbistro.com. L Tues.-Fri., brunch Sat.-Sun. D Tues.-Sun. Full bar (happy hour Tues.-Fri.). AE, MC, V. $$ – $$$