I'm one of those crazy people who insist on being at the airport two hours before my flight leaves. I have a pretty good reason for this policy, having once missed a flight because of delays checking in my baggage and getting through airport security. This is why I found myself with an hour and a half to kill in John Wayne International airport before my flight up to San Jose was due to depart.
Since I'm used to being quite early for my flights, I've developed a very simple strategy for effectively using my time; I try different dishes at airport restaurants. As a child, I was airsick on almost every flight I took. My treacherous body seems to have compensated for that period of gastrointestinal embarrassment by becoming practically impervious to airsickness now. So, I'm usually pretty free to stuff myself before a flight. It's tasty and usually quite affordable as long as I'm careful about what I order.
I've been curious about the Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge ever since I read this press release in October. The company that owns the new restaurant, Culinary Adventures, also owns a number of respected, high-end dining establishments throughout South Orange County, including French 75, Chat Noir, Chimayo at the Beach, French 75 Brasserie, Sorrento Grille, and Savannah Steak and Chop House. To those of you out there who are fond of some of these restaurants, welcome to the world of corporate food whoring. The name's "CP". I'm not only the club president, I'm also a client.
The decor at Oasis is billed as "Jetsons-themed", although it seemed more like a blend of Tex-Mex diner and cafeteria chic to me. Not trusting my large frame to one of those undoubtedly high-tech chairs made from cutting-edge, space-age materials, I elected to sit in a booth.
The service at Oasis was passable. My server was friendly, but lacked the polish of waiters from even mid-range dining establishments. He took my order, brought me my food, and pretty much left me to my own devices unless I flagged him down like a hobo trying to hitch a ride.
Since the corporation that owns Oasis has such an illustrious pedigree, I had fairly high hopes for the food, although I tempered my hopes with the knowledge that this was an airport restaurant. After seeing the decor, I further scaled back my expectations.
For my starter, I ordered a bowl of Bacon, Corn, and Clam Chowder. This soup was a pleasant surprise. Served piping hot, it was rich and creamy, with generous chunks of potato and the three billed ingredients. The portion size was just about right. By the time I was done with the soup, I wasn't sure I wanted my entree any more. It was about the quality I'd expect from a mid-range restaurant, although the price suffered from the standard airport markup.
Ever since I watched Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, I've had an almost constant craving for White Castle "Slyders", which I can't get fresh on the West Coast. Which is why, when I saw All-American Sliders on the menu at Oasis, I ordered them right away. What arrived on my plate were not sliders, they were charcoal briquettes with fried onions and a pickle wedge.
This was the most disgraceful burger display I'd ever encountered. The rolls were toasted black and completely soaked in butter. The beef patties were overcooked and had shrunk to about the size of a quarter. They were also slathered with some vaguely salty and tasteless white sauce that made me remember schoolyard rumors about the real secret ingredient in McDonald's special sauce. I was unable to shake this thought for the rest of my meal.
I had been given a choice between fries and coleslaw as my side. Coleslaw seemed like a healthier accompaniment to burgers than fries, so I'd ordered that, and it turned out to be the only redeeming portion of my entree.
The coleslaw was crisp and fresh, slightly sweet from the carrots, not astringent at all from the cabbage, and not overdressed as coleslaws often are. It was quite good.
Since the sliders were uneatable in their original form, I decided to steal a page from the playbook of San Diego Restaurant Reviews' Cap'n Jack and mod my burgers with coleslaw and deli mustard. It helped, but not much. Even the tasty coleslaw and tangy mustard were unable to mask the taste of the char and the greasiness of the bread. I considered sending my plate back, then realized that I needed to board my plane soon. The sliders were a thoroughly disappointing experience.
As a side note, I've long been dubious of either the Transportation Security Administration or the Department of Homeland Security's ability to keep me safe while flying. The utensils I was given confirmed my doubts. Anyone see what's wrong with this picture? Although the normally harmless and ineffectual butter knife has been replaced with an even less effective plastic one, they've also seen fit to provide me with an infinitely more usable, sturdy, and pointy metal fork. Honestly, if you were threatening a flight attendant, would you rather have a butter knife or fork held to her throat? The entire exercise is also fairly pointless since a razor-sharp, Kyocera Ceramic Chef's Knife could easily be smuggled past the half-assed metal detectors and scanning machines they have at the security checkpoints.
Give me back my goddamn butter knife!
Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge - I'd stick to the soup and avoid their sliders or burgers. Hell, I'll probably just hit the Starbucks next time.
Bill (for one)
Soda - 3.00
Bacon, Corn, & Clam Chowder - 6.00
All-American Sliders - 11.00
Tax - 1.55
Tip - 3.00
Total - 24.55
Oasis Grill & Sky Lounge
(Inside John Wayne International Airport)
18601 Airport Way
Santa Ana, CA 92707