There are two kinds of restaurant-goers. One group finds a few favorite restaurants to which they always return and a second group prefers to keep trying new restaurants and so rarely patronize a restaurant more than once. I’m usually in the second group, but I make an exception for Blue Ocean, which is my favorite Japanese restaurant in the area (not that there is much competition). I’ve been going to Blue Ocean for years, and I recently returned after a long absence caused by an assignment in Europe. While the food and atmosphere were still good, some of its delightful idiosyncrasies were no longer in evidence.
I’ve heard the owner hails from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, where I also spent my childhood. The restaurant used to offer Orion beer, which is from Okinawa, but it no longer does so. Okinawan cuisine also favors pork, including pigs feet soup, and bitter melon (goya). I recall that the menu included some Okinawan dishes, but no longer. The dishes might have appeared on a chalk board, no longer in evidence, on which daily specials were posted. Very much on the plus side, however, the menu provides the possibility of dining on kamameshi, okonomiyaki, and shabu shabu, including chanko nabe (which sumo wrestlers eat to fatten up), with enough advance notice. All of these typically Japanese dishes are extremely uncommon in the U.S.
I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the combo set that I ordered, with beef teriyaki and tempura. The beef was tender and had a nice grilled flavor, but the teriyaki sauce had not been thickened as is done in most restaurants. It was authentic, a combination of soy sauce and brown sugar, just like in Japan. Interestingly, the dish came with a side of nicely prepared broccoli and French fries. I thought that was a real indicator that a Japanese operates the restaurant, because a side of French fries would not be unexpected in Japan with a youshoku (Western) dish like beef, but rarely shows up as part of the meal at a Japanese restaurant in the U.S. I also thought the oil for the tempura was not fresh, so that it affected the flavor of the tempura crust. Our gyoza appetizer was also good, but it probably came out of a good package of frozen prepared ones. My daughter liked her gyudon.
My guess is that the yakisoba and ramen must be very good, and I’ll definitely be back to give them a try, as well as some of the fancier dishes. Our tab came to $74 with tip for the three of us.