Cheat Sheet: Mastro's Ocean Club
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The Gist: Mastro's Ocean Club, the seafood concept from the Mastro's chain, is similar to the steakhouse just with more sea bass, chilled oysters and crab legs. Taking over the former Chart House along the PCH in Malibu, it's a huge step up from the mediocre fare served here before. Do expect to drop some cash, though. Nothing about the experience is cheap. But no matter your cash flow, all those guys in dark suits with ear pieces, the sexy hostesses and white-jacketed servers (all male, fwiw) make you feel like a million bucks.
The Vibe: If they aren't at Nobu, they're here. This is the see-and-be-seen spot for the Malibu set, especially for fans of Mastro's Steakhouse in Beverly Hills, but including the locals, celebs and entertainment bigwigs who frequent such places (we think we spotted Mr. Silver Spoons/NYPD Bluester himself, Rick Schroeder). The room was completely gutted and opened up, with wood beams along the ceilings, a larger bar and pretty much a great view from every table. When you hear Coldplay's "Magic" moving through the air, it's not a playlist; it's the band in the lounge. There's live music here every night.
Eat This: Pretend money isn't an option and order the chilled seafood tower. If you do it right (like above), it will come tiered with oysters, huge poached shrimp, a whole split lobster, a bowl of Dungeness crab cocktail and lots of dry ice. The dry-ice comes with any of the chilled seafood selections, so even a three-shrimp cocktail gets the dramatic flair. Definitely enjoy the nasal-clearing horseradish with any of that. A small sushi menu seems out of place, but the lightly seared albacore tuna with black summer truffles does not. Side dishes like obscenely rich and creamy gorgonzola mac and cheese or lobster mashed potatoes cost as much as en entree just about anywhere else, but they're worth every penny. The butter cake is a Mastro's classic, a huge vanilla cake with a cream cheese bottom, giant scoop of ice cream, and a bowl of whipped cream that's practically dessert on its own.
Drink This: Martinis, please. The servers shake them at your table and leave the leftovers so you can pour the rest later. Even if it's a little watered down from all that shaking, it's somehow perfect.
Skip This: We wouldn't say skip it per se, but for a place that specializes in seafood, something like the seabass coated in a lightly herbed breading sadly lacks seasoning. The bone-in Kansas City steak, which gets a dry rub before hitting the grill, could also use a few more shakes.
The Tab: If you're poor, be prepared to spend at least half a month's rent here. If you're rich, you're not even looking at the prices. Let's just say this: no one's getting out of there paying less than $150 per person, unless you're just dropping in for drinks.
The Verdict: The Chart House was not a good restaurant, but it had prime real estate so people went and ate what they were given simply because the waves crashed below the windows. Mastro's Ocean Club is a huge step up from that, from the decor to the service, which is excellent, the better-than-Chart House food, the seafood tower, icy cold martinis, and, of course, the view. If you're out for a true splurge along the water, this is a good choice. Something more homegrown? The Hungry Cat isn't too far away.
1521 Griffith Park Blvd.; 323-668-1128