Ocean Prime Preview Dinner

Tastemakers and influentials got an early taste of 15th and Sansom's majestic new seafood restaurant.

Over the weekend, the much anticipated Ocean Prime restaurant at 15th and Sansom streets held preview dinners for tastemakers in the Philadelphia area. Nearly 500 people dined on delicious seafood, steaks and the most amazing desserts in what felt like an elegant supper club tucked into the most luxurious ocean liner, complete with warm woods, bright, intriguing lighting, a dramatic two-story bar, wall fixtures that mimicked portholes and a gorgeous red coral installation that separated the reservation desk from the main dining room.

Cameron Mitchell (below), here with his wife Molly, founded the first of his now 18 restaurants under eight different concepts in Columbus, Ohio, 20 years ago. His motto is, “We take care of our people, our people take care of our guests, and our guests take care of our company.” Ocean Prime has one of the friendliest waitstaffs in the city. They were very attentive and courteous, and all of the servers work as a team. Most impressive is how they all know the menu, everyone from the bartenders to the kitchen staff to the servers have tasted everything on the menu.

Many of Philly’s scenesters were invited to enjoy the preview dinner at Ocean Prime, including Fox29’s Kacie McDonnell (below, center), with her family including (from left) sister Isabelle, mom Michele, brother Lochlan and dad Ken. The McDonnell clan was also celebrating Michele’s birthday; they brought a cake along, but I hope they tried out the peanut butter torte I recommended to everyone. Congratulations to Kacie who, beginning Sept. 15, and for every Eagles home game, will be doing pre-game interviews on Fox 29 with players as well as fans tailgating at the Linc.

Power Couple: (Below) Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, and Joe Weiss, Electronic Ink chairman. Sharon tells me that the film office is busy and excited. Not only is Richard Gere coming to film Franny, but there are also several other independent films and TV shows coming up that will employ local crew members, actors and production-support companies.

Below, from left: Stuart and Tracy Lundy with Mitchell and Sharon Kaplan. Mitchell tells me that his law firm, Zarwin Baum, will be having their second annual celebrity casino night, benefiting Easter Seals of Southeastern Pennsylvania at the Crystal Tea Room, on Wed., Oct. 9, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. It’s open to the public, too.

In each of the Ocean Prime restaurants around the country you will find a “Wall of Fame” featuring guests who have eaten at the restaurant. The photos are black and white, and can be found in the hallway near the expo kitchen. There you will find Larry Cohen (below, left) of Cuba Libre and Guest Counts Hospitality and Geno Vento of Geno’s Steaks in South Philly adorning the wall. On Tuesday, Geno’s will be celebrating 47 years in South Philly, and from noon till 2 p.m. you can buy a cheesesteak for only 50 cents (one per person).

Mom-to-be Hally Bayer (below), owner of Thrive With Hally, was looking forward to a seafood dinner, while husband Nick Bayer (not pictured) of Saxby’s coffee shops was planning to have steak. Nick tells me that Saxby’s and Thrive are partnering on selling bottled water at their respective companies, with a portion of the proceeds going to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Speaking of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania I ran into the new executive director, Marcus Allen (below, right) dining with friends (from left) Ray Pennacchia, senior vice president at NovaCare Rehabilitation, Eden Kratchman, vice president of global corporative giving, ACE Group (who was celebrating her birthday) and Mary Pat Kessler, vice president of human capital at Willis of Pennsylvania.

Below, from left: Michael Muffley, Sean Tobin, communications manager at The Franklin Institute, Marie Williamson and Eric Allen, assistant director of catering at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Tobin later tweeted about the night: “Outstanding service and incredible food #impressed”

Below, from left: Luke and Kayce Thomas with Lindsay and Michael Church. For an appetizer, they enjoyed the jumbo lump crab cake, with the sweet corn cream. The only complaint: It was so large and filling. They highly recommend it.

There’s a fairly extensive wine selection at Ocean Prime, with bottles displayed on an entire wall in the upstairs private meeting room, and near the expo kitchen on the first floor. Drew, Brett and Lauren Milstein with bff Steve Tutelman. I sat down with them for a bit, which is when I had my first encounter with the life-changing chocolate peanut butter pie.

CBS3’s Chris May and wife, Lea (below) will soon adorn the Ocean Prime “Wall of Fame.” Chris tells me that the new anchor at CBS3, Jessica Dean, starts in the coming weeks and Philadelphia is going to love her. Dean will co-anchor with Chris on Eyewitness News at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. on CBS 3 and on The CW Philly’s 10 p.m. newscast.

Frank F. Herz, Dan Spitzen, Randall T. Cook and David Grasso finish up dinner. Behind them is the one-of-a-kind, gorgeous red coral art piece that separates the lobby from the dining area.

Below: Julia Bateman, advertising manager and account executive at Miles Marketing Destinations and Todd Tewksbury, mechanical engineer at Bala Consulting Engineers. Even though the restaurant seems very large, it is very romantic with its dark wood and orange glow.

Below, from left: Ed and Betsy Grose (left) with Erin and Pete Howey, started their meal with the create-your-own-shrimp/crab/oyster “smoking” shellfish tower. Dry ice is strategically placed, creating a magical dish bubbling over with “smoke.” It’s fun to watch the servers navigate the dining room carrying one of these before placing it on a table to the diners’s delight.

Below: Nigel Richards and Nicole Cashman. Nicole assisted the folks at Ocean Prime in coming up with just the right mix of influencers and tastemakers for the weekend of dinners.

Below, from left: Charles Kincaid, Erika von Tiehl of CBS3, with Jenny and Ray Batish. Ocean Prime features two bars: The Blu Lounge bar area has soaring ceilings and 60 seats for guests; a smaller bar on the second floor seats about 10 people and serves drinks to the tables on the mezzanine.

Below: Sam Romanoff and Tanner Dalton.

Below, from left: Jason Bock, ‎broker at Michael Salove Company (he brokered the sale of the building where Ocean Prime is located) Colin Crawford, Marc Leone and Jason Early.

Below, from left: Tempa Berish, Eric Robbins and Chelsea Berish. Chelsea, a budding blogger, brought her camera along and captured all the delicious food.

Below, from left: Kristen Cirelli, Chad Stowe, Aimee Alexander, Alison Carr, Elaine Battaglia, Courtney Tiffany and Jamie Roth.

Saturday night I enjoyed dinner with Craig Spitzer, Erin Elmore, Stephanie Rybczyk and Tommy Chiacchio. The two couples were seated for a late dinner on Saturday night, and had high praise their meals. Unfortunately, when it came time for dessert and they asked for the chocolate peanut butter pie, which I had, of course, been praising all night, there was none left. Apparently, all of photo subjects took my advice! Monday night Ocean Prime opened to the public. Bon appétit.