First Taste: Duke Ocean Grill in Tappan

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Duke Ocean Grill, formerly a supermarket, is supermammoth. It seats almost 400 people and has a banquet room for 200 more. But somehow — probably because of the sushi bar and its cozy, low-hanging, boat-shaped chandelier — it doesn’t feel cavernous.

Because of the waterfall wall in the grand entryway, the display cases of aging meat and aged wines, and the novelty of a sushi conveyor-belt, Duke is the kind of place that will draw curious diners from around the region.

With a five-page menu, it’s also the sort of place where you can take people with disparate tastes and, if you order right, everyone will go home happy, from the steak lover to the sushi fan.

We sat next to the conveyor belt and grabbed this shrimp and seaweed salad as it went motoring by:

Nice, light start to our meal.

Here is the light above the sushi bar. Bringing the ceiling lower around this area makes the large room feel more cozy.

The owners put millions into the renovations, and there are details like this wood pattern on glass all around.

It really is a sight. It is like the Epcot Center of restaurants.

When you’ve got everything from pork chops to pizza on your menu, you’ve got to except curious eaters to order as such. We tried the brick-oven pizza, which comes with smoked chicken, fontina, roasted peppers and cilantro. Except it was parsley:

The cheese slid off the crust onto the plate and the chicken was so salty it was inedible:

I try to be kind on this blog. But the following dish is just plain bizzare:

It’s tuna tartare with strawberry sauce. It was filled with tiny pieces of raw onion that crunched in my mouth. Sort of like a too-literal take on beef tartare. The tuna was shredded into tiny pieces with a lot of the sinew still attached, which made it very difficult to chew. And the sauce was so sweet! This definitely falls into the what-on-earth-were-you-thinking category. Doesn’t it look like oatmeal?

Same goes for the American cheese on this sushi roll. (See the sauce again?) It’s spicy tuna, asparagus, cucumber, cheese and strawberry sauce:

Why, you may ask, would I order such a thing? Because that is my job. If somebody is putting out a sushi roll with slices of Land O Lakes on top, you better believe I’m going to try it for all of you. What if it’s fabulous? (It’s not.)

Here’s another unusual combination: Firefighter roll — cinnamon, eel, avocado, topped with spicy tuna and special sauce. It was harmless. A little big. If you’re going to go for sushi, I’d say stick with traditional.

The tuna and the salmon were more my speed:

I asked about shichimi, which is used in a crusted salmon dish. The waitress was kind enough to bring it over for me.

It’s a spice blend of pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds and ginger. It was quite good on the crusted salmon —

— but the fish came out cold. Also it was served with a side dish of those tiny, chopped-up onions and had the same texture as the tartare. Close, but still needs work.

The mussels were plump and fresh:

The broth was a little watery.

The aged sirloin steak was my very favorite dish of the night. It has a nice crust and was cooked medium rare as requested. The red wine butter was a little unappetizing looking, but it tasted fine. The green beans were al dente and the mashed were smooth and truffle-y.

Here are a few more snaps of the interior:

Aging beef:

We had dessert, too, and it was delicious. My camera battery died, so I don’t have photos.

This was a very early trip to the restaurant and some of the combinations were a little out there. I except the kitchen will make some changes as they work the kinks out. Service was a little green, but a delight. The ingredients were fresh and good.  So far, stick with the traditional at Duke and you should do just fine. Plus, you’ll be busy marveling at the decor.

Click here for a PDF of Duke’s appetizer menu.

Click here for a PDF of Duke’s raw bar, salads, soups and pastas menu.

Click here for a PDF of Duke’s entrees.

Click her for a PDF of Duke’s sushi and sashimi a la carte menu.

Click here for a PDF of Duke’s special rolls menu.

The 411 on Duke Ocean Grill.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

8 Comments

  1. WOW! What a change – from grocery store to a top notch restaurant. Impressive is the word to describe the new atmosphere to this building. The food was great, the service was top notch, employees pleasant & friendly and prices reasonable. Such a great meal. Food and wine selections were quite amazing and turned out to be wonderful. I would definitely recommend this restaurant to everyone.

  2. I visited Duke’s Ocean Grill back on their opening weekend in November and I’m pretty sure I won’t be coming back. Our party of 4 consisted of my parents, my fiancé and I. Our first impression was that it was a fancy seafood grill but that moldy/fishy Asian supermarket smell was still in the air and caught us off guard. After checking out the limited and somewhat strange menu, three of us ordered the Mahi-Mahi of which only mine came out cooked. One plate was blood red the other was half cooked and jello-like, so two of the fish were sent back to the kitchen one to be recooked and the other exchanged for a diner quality pork dish. My Mahi-Mahi was just OK, with little to no side dish provided. Overall for an average of $40+ per meal with a drink, served by a new-hire high school student, nobody was impressed. The decor of the place is impressive but the quality of food and service was embarrassing. There is no way a restaurant of this size and price can survive without excellent dishes and a professional staff.

  3. We dined at Duke’s Ocean Grill, our first and last…awful service and it was so empty that I felt as if we were dining alone…reality check…cant fill a restaurant that seats 400 people in this economy…..poor timing and food was awful…steak tasted like rubber and the seafood, not fresh

  4. We love this restaurant.
    The steaks are superb and lobsters perfect.
    Love the pot pies and all the soups.
    We keep going back and it seems there is something new every time. The service has been top notch.
    The sushi bar also has a wonderful menu with several of our favorite appetizers.

  5. This was by far the WORST dining experience I have ever had in my adult life. It was Easter Sunday and my grandmother’s birthday. My entire family (a large party of 16) decided to have brunch at Duke Ocean Grill. The disaster started when the unfriendly seating hostess neglected to give us a kid’s menu for the four children in our party. We had to order for them from the adults menu. And apparently, this caused some severe confusion in the kitchen and thus delayed service of our food for an hour. The waiters were incompetent and not attentive. The next disaster was the lobster bisque which the majority of the adults ordered as it sounded appetizing. Much to our disgust the lobster bisque was absolutle inedible and tasted burnt and salty. It was by far the most detestable item I’v ever tasted in a restaurant. It goes without saying that we all did not touch it beyond the initial spoonful. The food was overpriced. Bland or too salty. And to top it off the service from the waiters to the manager left much to be desired. We will NEVER go back to this establishment and will make sure to spread the word.

  6. we ate there last night excited to have an alternative to going to NYC. What a waste of money. o ambience. terrible service. I didnt finish my salad, my fish dish covered in sauce, my hard rice (probably made hours before) . I looked around at eaters picking at their food as if forced to eat it! Even my husband who will et most anything left most of his food on his plate. yuck go to boston market up the road before eating at dukes.

  7. I had sushi here tonight. I ordered green tea first and that was a big mistake. The tea was lukewarm and tasted like tab water. Then came sushi. What a disappointment! The rice was hard and the fish dry. Thank god it was not rotten! For sushi, this is not the place to come, for sure.

  8. Kerry Parker on

    I must say.. I’ve been a skeptic for a long time.
    It’s been about 3 years since I’ve walked into dine at Duke Oean Grill.
    My grilfriend from New City has decided it’s been a while and we give it another try for Duke Ocena Grill.
    Very surprisingly, it turned out to be one of the nicest dining experiences in a long while.
    As I walked in, the hostess was very friendly and wait staff was quite nice.
    Bread basket that came out when I placed an order for the anticipated steamed lobster special was just tasty! Pumpkin bread was just right. Was a good start to my dinner.
    We ordered a vanilla martini and few other drinks. They were decent, I liked it more than the last place I’ve been to around this area.
    Dinner came out.. Sushi delux, steamed lobster special with steamed clams and sides were beautiful!!! I can’t belive how much I’ve been missing out with these dishes.
    Also, the pricing on the Steamed lobster special was only $25 even with all the other items came out. I guess it took some time for the Duke restuarant to settle. But since this night, I will be more than willing to go back for more dinning at Duke.

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