Past the Old Orchard Beach summer pier crowd is the half-mile enclave of Ocean Park. With Baptist roots still firm more than 100 years after its dedication, Ocean Park is the alcohol-free home to Yellowfin’s Restaurant.

Let’s start with what Yellowfin’s does right. The building itself stands at the end of a quiet street, far from the rowdier Old Orchard Beach throngs, but close enough to the shore — almost in anticipation of a pre- or post-dinner stroll.

With a white tapestry-draped ceiling, white linens and a zen-like saltwater aquarium filled with unusual fish, the medium-sized dining room at Yellowfin’s is perfect for all manner of special occasion parties, and the website encourages these gatherings. For a wedding shower or birthday party, Yellowfin’s offers a pleasant ambience. Advertised as fine dining in a casual atmosphere, Yellowfin’s also seems like the perfect pedestrian-friendly neighborhood secret.

Permit me to digress into the methods of a restaurant reviewer: By gauging a restaurant on what it advertises, I play fair with my commentary. (Note: It is also why a hot dog stand might receive the same five-star designation as a high-end eatery.) I study comparable price points, comparable menus and differentiating characteristics to make a determination: Would I recommend this place to my friends and family, and if so, why? If the restaurant is expensive, I ask myself, if I could only afford one dinner in this price range, would this locale be my choice?

While I cannot heartily recommend Yellowfin’s, I don’t suggest completely avoiding it either. In an area rich with unique dining options, Yellowfin’s is as neutral as its creamy yellow wall paint.

Having researched the menu in advance along with the restaurant’s history, I was excited to treat a visiting friend to a high-quality casual dining experience at a price point comparable with some of the state’s best. Yellowfin’s suggests reservations, and the man answering the telephone explained Ocean Park’s BYOB policy. Not a problem; I pulled a bottle of red from my kitchen rack.

Upon arrival, the first thing I noticed was a smeared dry-erase board in the foyer. Its presentation, more in keeping with a diner or similar family-style establishment, seemed an incongruous welcome.

The second thing I noticed was the volume: Yellowfin’s is loud. Even though just two-thirds of the tables were filled, the sound was all-encompassing, and I found myself talking louder and louder with little opportunity for intimate conversation. The server, super-friendly, opened our bottle (with no corkage fee) and relayed the specials above the noise.

Crab Cakes ($9.49), advertised as tarragon-seasoned with remoulade sauce, and Prince Edward Island Mussels ($8.99), served with garlic and tomatoes in a white wine broth, arrived promptly.

The mussels were tasty, but there was nothing especially distinct about them, and the crab cakes were not the lump variety, instead relying on ample breading and a remoulade of mostly mayonnaise for flavor. I tasted no tarragon, but, that noted, I have tasted worse. However, “tasted worse” is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

House salads, priced as part of the entree, also arrived in a timely manner. But as with the mussels and crab cakes, the salad — field greens with hard grape tomatoes, feta cheese, walnuts and a jarred-tasting raspberry vinaigrette — tasted like a salad I often make at home, not one I would seek out at a restaurant.

Almond-Crusted Haddock ($18.99) receives kitchen bonus points because haddock is an easy fish to overcook, but mine arrived fresh and flaked despite what seemed like an excessive wait (7:30 p.m. reservation, post-9 p.m. entree arrival). Although not dry at all, the haddock also was not crusted 360 degrees, but instead was topped with soggy Panko breading and a few burned slivered almonds.

The blackened swordfish, advertised as one-half of the Surf ‘n Turf (Market Price, $31.99) prompted my friend Ralph to ask if he might order the surf without the turf. “Today’s swordfish preparation is not blackened,” explained the server. Ralph, not in the least bit provocative, said ,”Unless it comes with the steak?” Yes, she clarified, still pleasant, but with zero ironic appreciation.

The Surf ‘n Turf’s blackened swordfish was indeed delicious — evenly seasoned and cooked to savory, moist perfection. The same could not be said for the large nugget of beef, requested medium but burnt on the exterior and chewy dry inside.

Yellowfin Ahi Tuna ($24.99) is grilled rare and served with a wasabi soy glaze. The glaze was tasty, but instead of warm or even pleasantly room temperature, the five slim pieces of tuna were served cold.

Vegetables for all entrees were carrots, and I could have eaten a plateful — they were unusually enormous and tender-crisp. Garlic mashed potatoes tasted creamy and substantial.

I love a homestyle food experience, but Yellowfin’s presents itself as casual high-end. As I contemplated incongruity, the $8.99 chocolate brownie dessert arrived in the same brand of mini Pyrex mixing bowl I use at home, still warm from the microwave. Ralph, a softer heart than me, picked at the dessert and noted that it didn’t taste bad.

And that, dear readers, is my impression of Yellowfin’s. It’s not bad.

Whatever the quality of restaurant, it represents a person’s livelihood, and my words affect perception, so I take my writing responsibility seriously. Was Yellowfin’s the worst meal I’ve ever eaten? Absolutely not. The blackened swordfish was delicious. The carrots tasted super-fresh.

Would I return? Maybe, if my plans put me in the general area, or if I was local and wanted a pedestrian-friendly experience with an elegant interior and did not mind the loud volume or toting my own alcohol in exchange for a pricey menu that delivers an uneven dining experience.

But — and this is the part that matters — in the vast collection of high-quality, casual Maine seafood dining experiences with a $20-and-up price range, I asked my friend if, on his next trip to Maine, he’d make a point to bring his lady to Yellowfin’s.

“No,” Ralph said, summing up the experience. “I guess I wouldn’t make a special trip.”

 

Shonna Milliken Humphrey is a Maine freelance writer and author of the novel “Show Me Good Land.”