Sunday, September 03, 2006

Legacy Review: Orange Oasis

I have a number of old legacy restaurant reviews sitting around, and if I post them here I won't have to keep them in random files on my computer anymore. I'll post the review as written, with updated commentary at the end.

Date of Visit: 1/15/06

I've been watching the Orange Oasis restaurant (5934 Stetson Hills Blvd.,Colorado Springs) being built out on Powers for probably about a year now. As a free standing restaurant that is apparently not part of a chain, it's something of an anomaly around here -one of the many things that piqued my interest. It opened towards the end of last year, and giving them some time to work out the inevitable opening issues, we finally got around to giving them a try tonight.

We met two friends there and were immediately surprised at how full their parking lot was - especially since the restaurant itself was quite empty. The floor is larger than expected, with not only a large amount of tables, but also a full bar with a large seating area. Granted, we did arrive at 5:30 pm, but this is also a town that eats early.

We were seated at a corner booth and immediately noticed the extremely poor lighting. I don't have "older eyes", so when I don't have enough light to read the menu, there is usually an issue. Fortunately, when we mentioned this to a server, the light in our area was brightened.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I opened the Orange Oasis' menu, since they do not have a web site that we could find, and the only mention of them on the web was a job listing where they were looking for a chef for a new
"steak and seafood restaurant". After reading the menu I wouldn't exactly call it a steak and seafood restaurant - American eclectic is as close as I could come.

Yes, they do have an assortment of steaks, and some seafood dishes, but also an entire page of sandwiches running the gamut from albacore tuna to a chipotle club to curried chicken. I also seem to recall some Asian inspired pasta dishes, too.

Our friends had arrived early and ordered some potato skins for the table. They were adequate - cooked through, with cheese, bacon, tomatoes, and green onions for the topping, along with a side of a nicely thick sour cream. But there was nothing special about them - they were just potato skins.

We were also served a basket of fried dough rounds with sugar, compliments of the house. Sadly, these were greasy, and got worse as they got colder. I tend to think of fried doughnuts like these as more of a dessert item than an

The four of us ordered from all over the menu, so we sampled bites and had a chance to evaluate each others' dishes. Three of us started with salads, one with soup. The salad was a mix of nice baby greens and underripe tomato wedges; I had the honey citrus dressing which was fairly tasty, but had someodd herb in it (oregano?) that didn't quite meld with the honey and the citrus.

The loser of the bunch was the vegetable beef soup - the friend who chose that said it was tasteless.

The entrees ran the gamut from slightly better than adequate to slightly worse than adequate. I had the roast beef ciabatta sandwich - roast beef, onions, and cheese on ciabatta bread with jus on the side. The ciabatta was the best part of the sandwich; while not artisanal, it had a nice chewyness and a good crumb. The beef was tender and tasty, although it needed salt. But the jus was completely and utterly tasteless. I dipped the sandwich in it, then tried it on a bit of the ciabatta, and then just took a spoonful - in all cases, it tasted like nothing more than warm water. Considering that jus is almost always made from a mix, this was quite disturbing.

My husband had the chipotle club - turkey, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and a chipotle mayonnaise. He said it was a nice club sandwich, but the only way he could tell there was any chipotle on it was that his lips tingled a little. He couldn't taste it.

One friend had the grilled tuna, which was obviously badly overcooked. It also came with a sweet lemon sauce, which she described as being like lemon jelly.

The other friend had a steak with what was described as "risotto rice". I had a sample of the rice, and that was not risotto - slightly sticky rice at best. The steak also came with some of the flavorless jus, and a side of horseradish he described as potent.

Our server was friendly if somewhat scattered; we had to ask several times for small plates for our potato skin appetizers. The kitchen had a bit of a timing issue, as we had not yet finished our salads and soup before the entrees came, making for a crowded table.

The restaurant is decorated in a style I can only describe as 1970's meets minimalist. The color scheme is muted orange, brown, and black, with an anomalous crystal chandelier in the entryway.

Orange Oasis bills itself on the menu as a fine family dining restaurant, and I'm afraid I can't agree. At best, it's an average family restaurant; at worst, it's overreaching its capabilities. There's nothing terribly wrong with the place, but I can't think of much that was right with it, either.

When we left around 7 pm, the restaurant was busier than when we arrived, but there were still a significant number of empty tables. At 7 pm on Saturday night at most places in town there's a wait for a table.

Another puzzling thing about the restaurant is the number of visible staff - I saw at least 5 servers, one manager, one gentleman who might have been the owner, a bartender, and two door hostesses - and that doesn't even count the back of the house. That and the size/expense of the building makes for a lot of overhead, and I don't see how they're supporting it.

I don't think Orange Oasis is going to be around for much longer unless some significant changes are made, starting with the menu and the execution thereof. It was worth going to once - I've certainly had far worse meals - but there was nothing we saw or ate that would recommend a second visit.

Update: Wow, did I call it right. Orange Oasis didn't make it to the summer; sometime in the May-June time frame it stopped being a steak and seafood house, and had a huge sign out front: Chinese Restaurant. It kept the Orange Oasis name, though.

The Chinese restaurant made it through about August. As of this writing, the place is shut down and the building has a huge For Sale sign on it, less than one year after the restaurant opened.


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