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WHEN DINING IN RIVER OAKS, LOOK AROUND. Attractive people dominate the room, and that room is typically extravagantly designed, punctuated by the right lighting scheme, statement-making pieces like grapevines hanging from the ceiling, and a soundtrack that never distracts, but still demands attention.
With that, say hello to Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar, which come from Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group. This is the second Ouzo Bay, joining the original in Baltimore. As for Loch Bar, this is No. 3 after Baltimore and Boca Raton, Florida. The latter is a stately bar and fresh seafood eatery with a raw bar, modeled after the kind of tavern you’d find in Maine, Massachusetts, or of course, Maryland. The former takes its cues from Greece, with a food and drink menu that spans the mainland and islands, and a vibe that recalls the neon energy of Mykonos.
Which is why Ouzo Bay seems to fit in with the rest of River Oaks District. While booming house music plays at just the right level, smartly dressed guests pick from mezzes like lamb meatballs and calamari. The grilled, deeply savory Portuguese octopus paired with sweet onions, red peppers, and red wine-caper vinaigrette is a standout, as is the saganaki with graviera cheese that comes to table flaming.
Ouzo Bay also does Greek cuisine justice, lightly seasoning a mild branzino and presenting it without a whole bunch of fireworks. Not every fish is sourced from the Mediterranean—there’s Gulf snapper and Dover sole from the Netherlands—but care seems to have been taken with exactly where the fish comes from.
There’s also a terrific wine list here, highlighting acidic whites from across Greece. The Santorini selection is pretty outstanding (and there’s even a vinsanto dessert wine available), and you can also find bottles from Crete and Mantinia.
Over at Loch Bar, which is much more Eastern Seaboard, look for a wide range of whiskeys, including Japanese bottles and a stout scotch selection. Cocktails run the gamut, including a well-balanced take on a Bee’s Knees and a fall-forward rum drink called Cool Rummings. That one obviously includes rum. Loch Bar has a big menu—probably too big—but focus in on the raw bar. East Coast oysters come from across New England, which is a welcome sight. Shellfish towers and fried and grilled oysters are also out there for the taking.
Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar should maintain some buzz, considering the care taken to bring a relatively on-point Greek and East Coast experiences while keeping a see-and-be-seen vibe at both concepts. Most places at River Oaks District can be flashy, but it’s the food and drink here that may rise it above the rest.
By Timothy Malcolm | July 25, 2019