The Dinearound – Chef O’Neil Demo’s Dinner at the Blue Ox

The namesake

There is culinary life north of Boston – Marblehead, Salem, Newburyport and Beverly are home to any number of fine restaurants. But Lynn? Not exactly a destination for the hungry and discriminating. However, The Blue Ox, opened for two years, has changed the culinary landscape of Sin City by providing a comfortable, affordable and delicious alternative to the restaurants farther north. I ate there last winter, wrote about the Ox and have been wanting to return. I was particularly interested in the cooking demonstrations given by Chef Matt O’Neil – a three course prix fixe menu with the chef demonstrating the preparation of the entree. I suggested attending one of the cooking demonstrations to my Dinearound group. They all endorsed the idea. However, a space at the demos is hard to come by – a situation of the event being too popular. Finally, after several attempts to attend and being relegated to the waiting list, we finally got the call and were in. 

Mise en Place

The evening’s menu –
1st course
English Pea Soup
ham, artichokes, almonds, goat cheese
2nd course
Olive Oil Poached Salmon
Sardinian couscous, baby zucchini,
cippolini onions, wild mushrooms
3rd course
Limoncello Cake
Chef O’Neil began by explaining the technique of poaching fish in olive oil – the best type of olive oil to use, flavoring the oil, temperature of the oil and poaching time. As the oil was coming up to temperature, he began the Sardinian couscous, which he cooked risotto-style. As he worked on the couscous, we were served the first course. At this point, the salmon went into the oil. The soup was so good it was almost a distraction from the demo. 

The finished dish

Finally, the moment of truth arrived – the salmon poached, the couscous finished, the dish composed. The verdict – excellent –  the salmon moist and flavorful, the pasta a great accompaniment to the fish. 

A fine ending to a great meal

To finish the meal, the wonderful Limoncello Cake which one of my companions, an accomplished home baker, described as the best cake ever. Our wait to attend had certainly been worth it.

Not to be patronizing or parochial, service throughout the event was excellent. The Blue Ox has a well trained staff, something I’d noticed on my first visit. Kudos to them all.
Chef O’Neil is an excellent teacher – well-spoken, giving concise and understandable directions and injecting humor throughout. Having worked in some fine Boston restaurants – Number Nine Park, The Butcher Shop, Prezza –  and extensive travels in Europe, he certainly has an impressive background. And he seems to have found a niche in Lynn. And how fortunate for us North Shore people not always wanting to travel into the Hub to dine.
The Blue Ox   191 Oxford St.   Lynn, Ma.   781-780-5722
The Blue Ox on Urbanspoon

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