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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Uncommon Film Fare

Bayshore receives Ovation

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Thenew IPic complex at Bayshore Town Center offers something for everyone. The core of the complex is its six movie theaters, but the entertainment doesn’t stop there. When you enter the upper level of the expanded original mall, the first thing you’ll notice is the sleek-looking Sequel Bar. And what is that noise? It’s the sound of falling bowling pins—there are a few lanes that have proved very popular with families. But if you’re looking for a full meal instead of a cocktail or another round of bowling, look between the lanes and the bar: You’ll find a reception stand for the Ovation restaurant.

When you check in, you’re led behind glass doors to a quieter area. The contemporary art on the walls contrasts with carpeting that shows off a hint of retro, a sea of multicolored circular patterns. Each table comes with hand grinders of sea salt and peppercorns.

The tables themselves are made of dark wood, and the best ones overlook the heart of the new retail center. One could question whether the Bayshore Town Center needs another restaurant. There are already plenty of choices, and Cameron’s Steakhouse recently closed. Ovation offers elegant touches, with prices that are lower than those at Cameron’s. The menu is family-friendly, but there is also a wine and beer list. In addition, diners will find appetizers, salads, pizzas, sandwiches and entrees after 5 p.m. There is a daily special as well, which tends to be homey fare such as pot roast, turkey potpie or beef short ribs. Fridays feature a fish fry of cod or walleye. The specials seem a bit pricey ($16-plus), but portions are generous and include soup or salad and a dessert.

The appetizers are the most ambitious section of the menu. Be sure to try the grilled asparagus with serrano ham ($10). Serrano ham is the Spanish equivalent of Italian prosciutto and has only been available in this country in recent years. Six spears of asparagus, wrapped with thin slices of the salty ham, tower over a chopped salad of tomato and red onion, with fresh basil that sits in a pool of olive oil—not your typical movie theater fare.

Be aware that the Caesar salad ($7) is a large one. What the menu describes as romaine filets is actually chopped hearts of the lettuce tossed in a lemony dressing with subtle hints of mustard and not-so-subtle touches of garlic. Other ingredients (anchovies, grape tomatoes, black olives and grated Parmesan) arrive on the side, allowing diners to customize the salad to their own preferences. Try ordering the salad minus the garlic, which is pre-chopped and harsher in flavor than freshly chopped garlic. However, that’s the only flaw in this otherwise good salad.

In addition to the Friday fish fry, Ovation takes another bow to Wisconsin in their bratwurst po’ boy ($10). Po’ boys are New Orleans-style sandwiches of French bread that can be made with an infinite number of fillings. Here two brats are split and grilled and served with a sauce of tomato with green pepper and onion—more of an Italian sausage treatment. Everything is then topped with creamy coleslaw and bits of grated cheddar.

Unfortunately, the sausages seem lost in the competing flavors. It would have been better to keep it simple. Entrees include beef, chicken, duck and seafood. You can also select the self-titled almost-famous barbecue baby back ribs ($17). This is one of the menu’s better values, with a full rack of Danish pork ribs split in half (as it is too large for the plate). I really dislike barbecue sauces that are too sweet, but this honey bourbon version has a good balance of piquancy. The ribs are accompanied by horseradish mashed potatoes and a seasonal vegetable—in this case, fresh stalks of baby asparagus.

After a meal here, you may be more inclined for a nap than a movie or a game of bowling. Ovation’s menu is slanted toward conservative family fare. Only a few items, like the asparagus with serrano ham and the solid beer list, go beyond G-rated options. The IPic is a very nice facility, unique in this area. Ovation, however, has a lot of competition within easy walking distance.

Photos by Tate Bunker

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