Ribbiz Ocean Lounge

Thursday, October 11, 2018

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Sometimes food writers get caught up in the details of a restaurant. It's as if a Pavlovian bell is ringing in the distance and they are unable to resist feeling the texture of leather-clad chairs, closely examining the paint colour and oscillating the head as the eyes fixate on design detail to design detail. Thursday Food had such an experience at the newly opened Ribbiz Ocean Lounge located at Victoria Pier.

Kamal Bankay and his partners have become seasoned restaurant operators and know how to create an ambience. To be clear, Ribbiz Ocean Lounge is by no means Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. The space is not luxe, but the minimalist approach enlisted in its design has created an environment that, unlike so many restaurants these days, allows you to breathe and really relax. Bravo. The décor, created by interior designer Alicia Aleong, is modern, chic and restrained. Dove-grey walls and black and slate marble tiles are accented by pops of teal that play into the restaurant's ocean-side location. The slightly Scandinavian dining room chairs are sleek and very comfortable. Bar stools have high backs and plush seats. A note about bar stools: those with high backs are more inviting to female patrons and encourages them to stay longer. Clearly, Bankay and his partners have studied bar design and understand how psychodynamics can feed the bottom line. This, or they've watched countless episodes of Bar Rescue. Either way, we're loving it.

Stepping off busy Ocean Boulevard into Ribbiz Ocean Lounge is like coming home and slipping into your favourite PJs. The friendly and attentive servers greet guests with sincere smiles and immediately present large menus that are easy to read. Kerning (the spacing between letters in proportion to the font) is extremely important and it was a relief not to have to bring the menu to our nose in order to read it.

The bartenders are very eager for guests to try a few of the restaurant's signature cocktails. And so we did. The Blue Ocean View combines Blue Curaçao, J Wray & Nephew white overproof rum, orange juice and Moscato to create a strong and well-balanced cocktail that's the equivalent of sipping, well, an ocean view. Kamal's Famous Rum Punch is comprised of Appleton Estate rum, J Wray & Nephew white overproof rum, orange and pineapple juices, bitters and fresh lime juice. Forget all other rum punches that you've had and go have this one. It's a revelation. Not to be outshone is the Mayday that, depending on your tolerance, may have you ready to transmit an SOS signal. As bar supervisor St Aublyn “Captain” Kidd puts it, “It starts off sweet and creamy and ends up strong!” The Mayday is a combination of piña colada mix, Blue Curaçao, Campari, coconut rum and pineapple juice. Fresh on the mouth.

On to the food. It must be illegal (somewhere) to have salmon this good. The sear on the Signature Ocean Salmon was, in a word, perfect. The kind of sear that would soothe Gordon Ramsey and have him say “Well done, Chef!” It also tasted amazing. As one patron put it: “Dat salmon nuh normal!” And we agree; it's out of this world. Kamal's Famous Fried Chicken (sidebar: Bankay puts his name on items that are clear standouts, are expertly executed and are just darn delicious) sees chicken marinated overnight in a secret spice blend (watch out, Colonel), coated in flour and perfectly fried. Thursday Food took a doggy bag back to the office and, hours later, the chicken was still crispy. What kind of sorcery is this? One bite of the seafood tortellini resulted in an excess of adjectives and superlatives so, simply put, it's incredible.

Excellent food can be had at a number of places across the city. And Thursday Food has been to those places. However, there's a certain alchemy that creates a delightful dining experience and Ribbiz's second location has found the secret formula and soon the spell will be cast across the city. Welcome to Ribbiz Ocean Lounge.


Ribbiz Ocean Lounge opens at noon seven days a week and closes at midnight on weekdays and 2:00 am on weekends.

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