Blueacre, the newest restaurant opened by Kevin and Terresa Davis, who also own Steelhead Diner, offers a variety of well-prepared seafood at varying price points.
When Steelhead Diner owners Kevin and Terresa Davis brainstormed ideas for their new seafood restaurant, Blueacre, one concern was paramount: to separate it from the previous occupant of this downtown corner, Oceanaire Seafood Room, where Kevin Davis spent five years as executive chef before the couple launched their own venture.
Hence the magnified butterfly wings superimposed on Blueacre’s’ tabletops, symbolizing transformation.
Too subtle a metaphor, I think, for this in-your-face era of oversharing. What they need is a YouTube video: Waves crashing in the background, the couple in waders clutching fishing poles, warbling like Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor, “Bluuuuuuuueacre is the place to be! Fine food that tastes right from the sea!”
But probably they don’t have time for that, what with two restaurants to run, Terresa finishing law school, and 6-week-old twin boys born a month after Blueacre’s debut. So allow me to state unequivocally: Blueacre is so not Oceanaire.
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First of all, the sprawling, 260-seat space has a whole different look. Gone is the air of ocean-liner elegance. Less formal Blueacre glows in ocean shades of blue and green; with its swirled ceiling and windows on two sides, if feels like the inside of an aquarium.
Whereas Oceanaire trolled for expense-account diners and free-spending conventioneers, Davis and chef de cuisine Brian O’Conner devised a creative menu where prices converge with today’s reduced budgets. Sure you can splurge on steamed lobster, Dungeness or king crab, but the average office worker or condo-dweller can order a bowl of chowder or gumbo for under $10, or eat “a nice piece of fish and some vegetables” at lunch for less than $20.
That exceptionally nice piece of grilled fish was line-caught Hawaiian swordfish, reflective of the restaurant’s commitment to viable and sustainable American fisheries. It’s a few dollars more at dinner, gussied up with sautéed spinach, puréed potato and applewood-smoked bacon bits. As with several dinner entrees there is the option of a 5- or 8-ounce portion.
Could a crab cake be iconic in this town if it’s not Dungeness? This one is, packed solid with fresh lumps of Louisiana blue crab, ruddy with Old Bay seasoning. Topped with shredded mirliton (chayote) tangy with mustard and lime, the dish draws on Davis’ Big Easy background.
There’s a Southern flair to buttermilk-battered fried oysters and smelts, too. Iceberg lettuce, tomato and lots of dill pickle join the bivalves, tucked po’boyishly into a toasted triangular bolo roll spread with Tabasco aioli.
The spectacular smelts were crisp down to the bottom of the heap where a sharp, spicy mustard sauce lay in wait. Have them with the lemony endive Caesar: Belgian, Treviso and frisee with fennel croutons and aged Sonoma Jack cheese.
Davis tips his baseball cap to Japan with kasu-marinated king salmon collars, a succulent pair of bones whose nooks and crannies harbor plenty of sweet, rich, coral flesh agreeably countered by gingery soy dipping sauce and green papaya salad.
From Peru comes simply amazing tuna tiradito. Yellow flames of aji amarillo sauce lick petals of pale-pink, lime-marinated St. Jude albacore beneath a cool celery leaf salad. Two different Peruvian corn kernels garnish the plate; spicy, toasted cancha, and large, white choclo, as creamy and nutty as roasted chestnut.
Tamer but no less terrific is artichoke-crusted Alaskan halibut on roasted fingerlings and fennel. Parmesan, basil and garlic in the crust recall breadcrumb-stuffed artichokes, and play beautiful harmony with oil-cured olive purée and creamy nettle pesto.
A bountiful fin and shellfish stew comes close to bouillabaisse in spirit. The garlicky rouille whispers of saffron; so does the orange- and anise-tinged broth in which shell-shaped macaroni bob among clams, mussels, shrimp and assorted fin fish, salmon and tuna among them.
At lunch I encountered some service slip-ups — most notably failure to mention the $48 price of the Copper River salmon special until asked. But overall, this team is beginning to come together.
On my last visit, the hostess asked if I’d enjoyed my meal. It was all I could do not to launch into a rousing chorus of “Bluuuuuuuueacre is the place for me!”
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