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From crest to trough 

An up-and-down experience at Oceans at Arthur's.

click to enlarge HOW OCEANS ROLLS: A little too much batter on the Firecracker, but the Red Dragon was just right.
  • HOW OCEANS ROLLS: A little too much batter on the Firecracker, but the Red Dragon was just right.

We've never eaten at Arthur's Steakhouse. Not that we're opposed to it, we've just never made the plans. But we can see it in our mind: white tablecloths, low light, thin-rimmed wine glasses, dapper staff, sophisticated cocktails and outstanding food.

We made some of the same assumptions about the cuisine and atmosphere of Arthur's sister seafood establishment, Oceans at Arthur's. That was perhaps unfair and certainly unfortunate. Though we had a good dish or two, they won't be what we remember.

When you walk into Oceans at Arthur's you're greeted by a huge Arkansas Razorbacks logo over the sushi bar that says "Woo Pig Soo-shi!" It's bustling, tables are packed into the space, big-screen televisions dot the walls and hang above the bar, and the smell of fried fish lingers. We'd rank the atmosphere a notch above Red Lobster.

If you're hungry and looking for something on the pub-grubby side of things, start with the fried cheese sticks ($11). They were about the size of a stick of butter, rolled in a heavy layer of panko break crumbs and deep-fried. They were hot, too. You can see the pepper flakes in the batter. We like things spicy, but those with more sensitive palates might find them a little too hot. They were super-oozy, the cheese was good, the bread crumb batter added a great crunch. It was everything you want in a big ol' cheese stick.

Instead of rushing into dinner, we thought we'd have another appetizer. The Chargrilled NOLA Oysters were an insult to commerce at $16. We've been fortunate enough to have chargrilled oysters at a couple of places in the Big Easy, including Royal House and Acme Oyster Co. Typically, they come big, plump and juicy, swimming in hot, melted butter, dusted lightly with bread crumbs, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

click to enlarge SUPER OOZY: The cheese sticks, deep fried and spicy.
  • SUPER OOZY: The cheese sticks, deep fried and spicy.

With a decent oyster and some heat, they're very difficult to screw up. Or so we thought. These abominations came hidden in a literal slab of melted Parmesan cheese, and we think that might have been about it, though it was difficult to determine. Once excavated, the oysters were so burned they stuck to the shells. Scraping them out created a shredded consistency that was extremely unappetizing.

They also gave off quite a funky odor, a pungent fog of overdone oyster slathered in cheap cheese. Our waitress picked up on what was happening and took the plate away. To Oceans' credit, a manager swiftly apologized and offered to send out another. We politely passed.

We had better luck with the sushi, opting for one traditional roll and one "lightly fried." The Red Dragon ($14) included blue crab, shrimp and cucumber, with thinly sliced tuna and avocado on top, drizzled with a sweet and spicy sauce. The rice was nice and sticky, the fish was fresh and the presentation was beautiful. This roll is light, clean, delicate and satisfying. It was easy to eat and tasted wonderful with a bit of soy, wasabi and ginger.

When we think of a roll that is "lightly fried," we think of a thin tempura batter or perhaps a dusting of panko crumbs and a quick roll in shallow, hot oil. The Firecracker roll ($19) was battered in a very heavy panko crumb mix — much like the cheese sticks — and apparently deep-fried. The roll housed tempura shrimp, spicy crab and cream cheese. It was topped with spicy crab and blue crab and a mixture of three sauces. It was good, but the batter was a bit too heavy for our taste and left us feeling a bit weighed down.   

Oceans gave us a very up-and-down experience. The cheese sticks were very good. The oysters were very bad. The sushi was made with fresh seafood that tasted incredible. The "lightly fried" roll was too fried. Will we go back? Maybe one day. At the end of dinner, we were pondering dessert when a table halfway across the room received their sentence of oysters. The smell sent us out to our car.

Oceans at Arthur's
27 Rahling Circle
Little Rock
501-821-1838
oceanslittlerock.com

Quick bite

Stick with the non-fried for the main course. Any fried item we ordered was coated in the same heavy batter. The fresh fish is delicious and the presentation at Oceans is downright stunning.

Hours

5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Other info

Full bar. Credit cards accepted.


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