A Canadian restaurant group that owns eight well-regarded restaurants throughout British Columbia is officially opening its first U.S. restaurant today: a seafood spot in Gramercy Park called Oceans.
Toptable Group, which has restaurants including Blue Water Café, Araxi, Elisa and West, takes over the building at 233 Park Avenue South at 19th Street — the large space that once housed Canastel’s, the sceney ‘80s and‘90s Italian restaurant where Sandra Bullock worked and put Tao Group’s Marc Packer on the map. (It most recently housed Morton’s Grille.)
Oceans will be focused on international seafood, from Japanese Madai to Mediterranean scarlet prawns, including sushi and whole market fish sold by the pound. Executive chef Andy Kitko previously was chef at Greek seafood restaurant Milos and regional corporate executive chef at northeast locations of STK, the steakhouse.
There is a raw bar serving up torched himachi and toro tartare with caviar and crème fraiche, plus small plates including wild mushroom soup, an oyster pan roast, and peekytoe crab and shrimp salad. Bigger dishes include a halibut with celery root, braised celery heart, and walnut bagna cauda. Non-seafood dishes will range from raw Wagyu beef to braised lamb belly pasta.
The Rockwell Group designed the 220- seat room with an open kitchen, sushi bar, seafood display, and plenty of banquettes.
Toptable has been in Canada for nearly 38 years, with a range of restaurants across Vancouver and Whistler. Its restaurants have been recognized by Canada’s 100 Best, an independent awards list that recognizes excellence in fine dining.
The company’s president Michael Doyle says they started looking at spaces in New York three years ago, and this opening is the first step in bigger growth plans. If things go well, there will be more Toptable restaurants here. “I love this area; it borders Union Square, Gramercy and Flatiron. If we are going to expand it will likely be right here.’’
The restaurant will be open daily for dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, with lunch and brunch to follow.