Blue Point Coastal Cuisine - Restaurant Week Winter 2012

>> Friday, January 20, 2012

Date of Dining: 1/19/2012
Price: $30 for 3 course Restaurant Week Menu
Location: 565 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA

The Quick Bit:
+ Strong slate of diverse flavor combinations
+ Aggressive seasoning packed full of flavor
+ Great value with full menu (and $30 wine bottles) available during restaurant week
+ Great location in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter
Δ Loud dining room could have been more conducive to conversation
Δ Dessert courses could have matched the caliber of savory courses
Note: Chef Daniel Barron has left Blue Point Coastal Cuisine as of 1/24/2012
When I last visited Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, I was treated to my first complete meal of molecular gastronomy. While Executive Chef Daniel Barron has a great background with molecular gastronomy, his everyday food is still fundamentally rooted in providing intensely flavored entrees with perhaps a small modern technique twist. Since the last visit, Chef Barron was awarded "Chef of the Fest" for the San Diego Bay Food and Wine festival, adding to his already impressive award cabinet.
Following Chef Barron's twitter account, I found that Blue Point was offering the full menu as part of Restaurant Week. Unfortunately, the same twitter account showed that he would not be in for service when I visited. Undeterred, I set out to see what the regular menu at Blue Point was about.
Note: While I dined with a party of six, I limited the review to courses for two people to provide the best information on items I got to taste.
In addition to the restaurant week menu, there was a selection of about 10 bottles of wine priced for $30 per bottle. We got two of the bottles form that list:
2009 P-L&J-F Bersan Saint Bris, Sauvignon, Burgundy
2009 Martin Codax Albarino, Rias Baixas
 While I didn't have enormous expectations for $30 bottles of wine, the Saint-Bris was more old world white with an even flavor throughout while the Albarino was more of a new world fruit bomb.
salmon tartare - creme fraiche, lemon, chive
 This cold smoked salmon had a large component of oil to carry forth the flavor of the salmon. Creme fraiche added a textural element to smooth out the mouth feel and add an extra element of richness to the dish. The lemon came in the form of the aftertaste where the core sweetness and flavor of the lemon (zest) came through without the sourness. Overall, the complimentary amuse was not bad, but I would have preferred a touch more acid to round out the dish.

Appetizer A:
spicy yuzu oyster spoons - shaved serrano, ponzu air
I recognized this dish as the sixth course of The Experience and wanted to see how it had evolved in the intervening time. While this plating lacked the olfactory element to the pile of foam in the previous incarnation, I enjoyed this plating far more.
This was the second best dish of the night. The oyster was succulent and packed full of flavor. The yuzu foam was still delightful and added the citric acidity needed to balance the richness of the oyster, while the shaved serrano gave the spicy kick to assault the senses. The round out the plating, the spoons were placed on a bed of what I want to say was the tsume (from course five of The Experience). This added bit of sweetness and depth of flavor really added more to the oyster courses. Additionally, having the oysters plated on the spoons made the dish much easier to eat that the previous bowl.

Appetizer B:
pan roasted Mediterranean mussels - coconut, ginger, green curry
The mussels were cooked to an absolute tender perfection. The flavor of the coconut and current were prevalent throughout the dish, but the broth was still the clear, rich seafood broth associated with mussel dishes. This dish also had a nice spicy kick to open the eyes. Overall, the flavors were well integrated and incorporated with each other.

Entree A:
pan seared dayboat Maine scallops - white corn and bacon dumpling, arugula, proscuitto glass
I thought this dish was the best dish of the night. The scallops were cooked perfectly, but the secret to the dish was the large bacon and corn dumpling. The dumpling served as a vessel to deliver sauce to the scallops while adding sweetness and texture from the corn and smokiness from the bacon. The arugula added some bitterness and acid to balance out the rest of the dish.
While it is always a little dangerous to add an additional element of sweetness to a dish containing scallops, the sweetness of the corn really complemented the sweetness of the scallop and didn't overshadow its flavor.

Entree B:
pan seared Hawaiian ono - pineapple fried brown rice, spicy sausage stew, aioli
This dish seemed to be a battle of the surf and the turf. The seared Hawaiian ono represented the elegant restrained austere approach to cuisine while the sausage represented more of the big, bold, rustic aspect of cooking. The pineapple brown fried rice served as the vessel to unite the two juxtaposed elements as the sweetness of the cooked pineapple was highlighted against the spicy bold flavors of the sausage while the sour savory notes of the grilled pineapple were highlighted against the pure flavors of the ono.
Overall this was a very fun dish and it was a nice play to the tastes.

Dessert A:
creme brulee - seasonal fruit
The creme brulee was one of the better creme brulees I've had. While there was enough sugar to formulate the crust for the brulee, the sugar in the cream was restrained, which allowed the flavor of the cream to shine. The texture of the cream was also the correct consistency.

Dessert B:
elephant ear - fried sweet dough, swiss chocolate, salted caramel, whipped cream
While I really wanted to like this dish, the donut lacked the airiness and seemed to be a really heavy ball of dough. Additionally, all of the elements of the dish seemed to just scream of sugar. Overall the dish seems to be what an eight-year old child would think of as an ideal dessert instead of what an adult would find to be enjoyable.

I've been pretty outspoken against Cohn Group restaurants in the past, but my two experiences at Blue Point have completely altered that perception. At the very least, I have full confidence in recommending Blue Point to any diner that visits San Diego and is looking for a restaurant downtown. Chef Barron is really pushing the envelope in terms of combining and balancing various flavor combinations in his food. He also aggressively highlights those flavors with kicks with spice. Additionally, when Chef Barron has already found a winning flavor combination, he doesn't seem to be passive as he is continuing to adapt and improve on dishes on the menu.
While I would love to bump Blue Point to the gigabyte (and it certainly does deserve it on the strength of the savory courses), some other elements did slightly mar the experience. First and foremost, the restaurant truly deserves a great pastry chef to complement the savory menu; this appears to be missing at this time. The ambiance of the restaurant also left a little to be desired as we were unable to have conversations across the table with the loudness of the restaurant. The tables also seemed to be extremely crowded as many people kept bumping against the back of my chair throughout the meal. While the ambiance is probably out of the control of what can be fixed, I hope to have better desserts during my next visit, which will allow me to justify bumping Blue Point up in the awards category.


Rodzilla January 20, 2012 at 9:27 PM  

I know you say the scallops were the winner, but if that Ono is still on the menu in 2 weeks, I'm getting it.

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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