Restaurants Now: Oceana, Beaker and Flask, First Food and Bar

This week, we cruise through the new Oceana in New York City, sample the wares of an inventive Portland bar, and check out what Sam DeMarco is up to in Vegas.

New York City: Oceana

If the old Oceana was like a luxurious little yacht whose small but devoted staff hovered lovingly while you indulged in elegant food, the new one is much closer to a stately liner. You almost expect to look up and find the captain entertaining privileged passengers in that glassed-in private room that sits smack in the middle of the vast restaurant. But while the ambiance may be different, the chef (and his food) remains the same: Ben Pollinger’s seafood-focused menu offers clear flavors and innovative ideas. The fish at the entrance sparkles on its bed of ice. The raw bar lures you to one of the stools. You can have all this pristine fish plain, but you could also opt for a gorgeous tartare of fluke spangled with bits of mango and strips of young coconut. Side dishes range far beyond the usual suspects, offering okra, eggplant, and the like. In a clear bid to appeal to both lunchtime and pre-theater diners, there is even a choice of burgers (salmon or beef). Portions are large, but it’s hard to resist dessert when it includes a doughnut platter whose starring player is a little number filled with salted caramel. 1221 Avenue of the Americas (212-759-5941; —Ruth Reichl

Portland: Beaker and Flask

“I’ve been wanting to combine Riesling and cachaça,” said our intense bartender, mixing wine and liquor after a request for an on-the-spot invention. He added grapefruit and lime, tasted the concoction, and scribbled in his notebook before presenting it to the customer, who seemed very happy with the result. I was equally pleased with my Broken Shark (gin, Averna amaro, grapefruit, and absinthe). The food, frequently smoky, tart, and salty, is very cocktail-friendly: An appetizer of grilled romaine was sprinkled with smoked feta; pickled baby octopus (made in-house, of course) and tasso ham flavored a plate of sautéed green beans. The place is not as laboratory-chic as the name would imply, and when we asked the bartender to make us his favorite cocktail, it was nothing beakery or flasky: simply a classic daiquiri made with 15-year-old Guyanese rum. 720 S.E. Sandy Blvd., Portland, OR (503-235-8180; —Matthew Amster-Burton

Las Vegas: First Food and Bar

Sam DeMarco practically invented the playful small plate genre, but he’s refined the concept and taken it to new heights at his 10,000 square-foot Vegas outpost, a chic loft space with graffiti-strewn walls and a postmodern, almost Gothic decor. What’s especially noteworthy about this Strip-facing restaurant and bar is the fact that it is open 23 hours a day, possibly the only venue in the city offering an after-club alternative as well as a first-quality breakfast. Innovations like the breakfast Martini and spreadable danish, served with a four-schmear sampler, give way during the day to clever conceits such as pastrami Reuben tacos, mojito lamb chops, and Croque-Monsieur pops, but there is both method and technique in this madness. The joke is that almost everything shows the chef’s good taste, down to the Peet’s coffee that slaps you in the face like a Vegas sunrise. Inside the Palazzo, 3327 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas (702-607-3478; —Max Jacobson

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