On my first visit to Oceanos last July, shortly after its debut, I had high hopes for the former Peter�s Whale. But while the food was generally good, I found that the Panteleakis family, who had revamped their previously casual eatery into a swanky Mediterranean-seafood concept restaurant, were still getting their feet wet. Nearly a year later, both the kitchen and dining room are firing on all cylinders, producing dishes with a significant "wow" factor served in an atmosphere that is genuinely warm and inviting.
The two dining rooms have a vaguely nautical air, with lots of polished dark wood, grass-cloth wall coverings and black-and- white prints of vintage sailing yachts. The look is crisp, contemporary and clean, befitting a restaurant focusing on seafood.
You could easily whet your appetite with the warm bread � baked each day by owner Peter Panteleakis � vibrant green olive oil and marinated olives brought to your table; however, the large selection of appetizers prompts ordering several to share. I especially enjoyed the Mediterranean spreads � zesty feta with red pepper, roasted eggplant, hummus and salty, creamy taramosalata (with red caviar) � served with wedges of grilled pita bread. Excellent crab cakes (in my estimation, one of the benchmarks of a seafood restaurant) were meaty and mild. Beets star in an unusual appetizer worth sampling; simply roasted and cut into chunks, they are served with a thick, earthy, almond and garlic spread, which is a perfect foil for the beets' mild flavor. Oysters � Long Island Blue Points and Spinney Creeks from Maine � were ultra fresh and plump, although we were surprised to have to ask for lemon.
The fish that dominates the entr�e portion of the menu is also clearly fresh and of high quality. Fat, dayboat scallops were simply seared to crisp the exterior, and served on a bed of garlicky spinach. A generous portion of sushi-grade tuna was also quickly seared, to arrive at the table perfectly rare as requested, and was nicely matched with a tangle of gingery sesame noodles and creamy wasabi aioli. A special of soft-shell crabs was offered deep-fried, fran�aise-style, or saut�ed with olive oil and garlic. We chose the latter, and were very pleased with the crisp-tender result.
The menu does include a selection of whole fish, which can be served whole or boned for you. I particularly enjoyed the lavraki, a Mediterranean sea bass whose mild flavor was boosted by lemon, olive oil and herbs.
Very good desserts were another happy discovery. My favorite was quite possibly the galaktobourko � quivery egg custard wrapped with crisp filo, cinnamon and honey � but I also loved its cousin, ekmek, a crust of shredded filo topped with custard and soft meringue. A chocolate-lovers dream named Vesuvius sandwiches cheesecake between layers of chocolate cake and mousse. The least successful dessert offering was the tangy Greek yogurt with cherries, walnuts and honey; the dish was made with chewy, reconstituted dried cherries instead of the usual stewed fresh fruit.
All of these culinary pleasantries are enhanced by extremely friendly service, which begins with an enthusiastic welcome at the door, and � if you are especially fortunate � will continue with the witty and knowledgeable waitress Lorraine. She and her colleagues are all doing their part to put Oceanos firmly on the list of Bergen�s best restaurant experiences.