Cajun seafood specials make West Fargo's Oasis Restaurant and Bar worth a visit
Food critic Eric Daeuber writes, "While you can’t beat a crawfish boil in the deep South, Oasis brings something close to the frozen plains."
WEST FARGO — Oasis Restaurant and Bar is, above all, a bar and grill, and so it has its limitations. But it does offer something unique to the Fargo-Moorhead area: Crawfish, lobster and crab.
They may not be right-out-of-the-Louisiana-rice-fields-tail-flipping-fresh, but we are 1,500 miles away from New Orleans and who knows how much of the taste of live-boiled crawfish in the deep South comes from the smell of Spanish moss and the sound of cicadas?
While you can’t beat a crawfish boil in the deep South, Oasis brings something close to the frozen plains. So, while you can get yet one more “our special take on the California burger” in most bars and grills in the Fargo metro, this one gives you lobster at a decent price and crawfish at an even better price. For that alone, it’s worth a visit.
There is a joke that goes something like this: How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? Two. One to change the lightbulb and one to fill the bathtub with brightly colored bicycles. It may be that Oasis has a bathtub someplace, but the rest certainly fits.
It’s brightly lit with neon and LEDs both inside and out and, yes, there are brightly colored bicycles hanging from the ceiling. The bar is inviting and the space, thanks to lofted ceilings in the bar area, feels open. The outdoor summer space looks appealing, too, although it was closed and cold when I visited.
The dining area, even with a fireplace, feels like another bar space. It’s plainly furnished and there isn't much wall space that isn’t covered with TV screens. The music is pop, but the dining area is comfortable, not too loud, and roomy.
The service is what you’d expect – casual, friendly and fast. So it has the feel of a fusion sports bar diner, if you can imagine that.
But, once again, what matters is the food, and not so much the food itself but that you can even find such food in this part of the country, nicely prepared and presented, and for a reasonable price. There is a lot on the menu. And most seafood dishes will come close to $30 which, in today’s market, is about right.
For those not interested in seafood, there are some Asian options such as Korean barbecue chicken ($22). It's notable for avoiding the tendency for Korean barbecue to dry out by exchanging that potential for dry meat for some serious sauce. The sides don’t quite meet the level of the chicken when it comes to flavor and texture, but overall it’s a pleasant non-seafood option.
What stands out are the Cajun seafood specials. The menu doesn’t tell you up front that the $37 crawfish platter is designed for two, but it is. It’s an education in Cajun cuisine with boiled corn, whole potatoes, shrimp, sausage, mussels and, of course, a solid pound of crawfish, although ours seemed more generous than that. It’s not served as a clean boil as it might be down south, but the Cajun au jus style sauce that comes on the platter is welcome. It’s a little overdone but, again, the resources of an outdoor boil aren’t available. There are plastic gloves available but use your fingers. If it bothers your partner at the platter, you need better friends.
A really nice surprise, given the casual sports-bar atmosphere, was the lava cake desert. Transported right out of a $20 cupcake fine dining establishment, it came beautifully presented with ice-cream and fresh berries. A real treat.
Oasis is a mix of different feels and foods and especially nice for those who have considered a good Cajun boil out of their reach because of money or distance.
WHAT: Oasis Asian Fusion Restaurant
WHERE: 3147 Bluestem Drive, West Fargo
CUISINE: Cajun and then some
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday though Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
RESERVATIONS ACCEPTED: yes
ALCOHOL: full bar
Ratings: (out of 4)
FOOD: 2.5 stars
SERVICE: 3 stars
AMBIANCE: 2.5 stars
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.