Thursday, November 11, 2010

Violators Will Be Persecuted…

(oops) I mean prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But more on that later.

All I knew about Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill was that it was seen on an episode (that I didn’t see) of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” But after a web search, we quickly decided that this was a “must eat.”

As described at “There’s nothing special about the building, or the dishware, or the seating. It’s a plain tan building and they serve their food on plastic plates with plastic forks and knives; and you’ll be seated in plastic chairs. But none of this even matters because Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill could serve their food on a piece of back-alley cardboard and it would still be the best seafood in San Diego.”

So one morning we bought our day pass for the San Diego trolley, boarded in Santee, transferred at Old Town, got off at Washington Avenue, and walked about a quarter of a mile up to India Avenue. Our plan was to arrive before noon, thus avoiding the lunch time rush. The joke was on us. At 11:45 a.m., almost every seat was already filled, and there was a line of about fifteen waiting to order at the counter. And there was another 15 at 12:00, another 15 at 12:15, . . . and still another 15 when we left at 1:00.

As the name suggests, this is both a fresh fish market and restaurant. There are two cases displaying the most beautiful pieces of fresh fish and seafood and two dining areas—one inside the market and the other on a small outdoor patio. Choice of seating is not an option here. You just grab whatever is available and ONLY after you have placed your order at the counter. And there are numerous signs informing you that you are to order first and sit later.

You would think that this is common sense and such admonitions would not be necessary. You would be wrong. An amazing number of clueless customers would send one of their party to snag a table while the rest waited in line. And to the restaurant’s credit, such violations were rapidly met with one of the staff informing the culprit that he/she needed to get up and stand in line. To the staff I say, “Thank you” on behalf of my fellow diners everywhere.

While the emphasis is on grilled fish, the menu does include fish tacos, clam chowder and cioppino (each made fresh daily), seafood cocktails (bay shrimp, medium shrimp, Dungeness crab, crab and medium shrimp, crab and bay shrimp, and fresh ceviche), fish and chips (grilled or fried), crab and artichoke dip, fried calamari appetizer, a tuna melt, and sashimi appetizer. And many of the seafood cocktail items, minus the cocktail sauce, can be ordered on either a sandwich or salad.

But most people (but not us on this occasion) come for the items cooked “On the Grill.” First you choose your fish from a list that can include red snapper, yellowtail, shark (thresher or mako), calamari steak, swordfish, seared ahi, Alaskan halibut, Norwegian salmon, Hawaiian albacore, mahi mahi, grilled shrimp, or Hawaiian wahoo.

Next you choose your seasoning from lemon butter, garlic butter, lemon garlic butter, teriyaki blackened, or chipotle. And then you decide how you want your fish served—as a platter with salad and steamed rice, as a sandwich, or as a salad.

Chuck started with a bowl of Blue Water’s clam chowder which was thick and creamy and full of sweet tender clams. To me, it needed salt, but I tend to think that most cream based soups are under salted.

From the chowder, he went on to order the Dungeness Crab Blue Water Sandwich on sourdough bread with romaine lettuce, tomato, red onion, and tartar sauce. Dungeness crab is quickly finding in a place on our list of favorite foods. The sandwich contained a copious amount of large crab pieces and a light schemer of tartar sauce. He was a happy eater.

And to round out his meal (and mine), he added an order of fries. We suspect, given the irregular size of the fries and the presence of skin, that these waffle fries were cut in house. They were wonderfully crisp and the size of the order was huge.

I started with the bay shrimp cocktail. The small shrimp (Who has to peel these things?) sat on top of a cocktail sauce that was heavy on the catsup and light on the horseradish. A squirt of the sriracha sitting on our table gave the sauce some punch. The shrimp were sweet and crisp and probably should have been eaten with just a squeeze of lemon.

It was with my main course that I made a mistake – albeit not a major one. One of the day’s specials was a soft shell crab sandwich, and I hadn’t eaten a soft shell in over three years. I didn’t stop to think that these are not indigenous to the Pacific waters, have only a three or four day “shelf life,” and were most likely frozen and shipped to San Diego. My sandwich was served on a soft roll that contained, in addition to the standard lettuce, tomato, onion, and tartar sauce, two good size deep fried crabs.

The crabs had obviously been processed shortly after molting since there was no evidence of paper shelling or the starting phase of the crab’s regrowing its shell. The sandwich was good, but came nowhere near the wonderful soft shell sandwiches we eat at the Cove Restaurant on Smith Island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Why didn’t I choose one of the gorgeously fresh looking fish from the cases?

I’ve told Chuck that a return visit to Blue Water Seafood is in order. For now, I’ll give them a 4.0 Addie rating while the reserving the option of elevating this score if we get back.

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