Restaurant Review

Blue2O

Is Cherry Hill’s swank new seafood house part of a (gasp) chain? Let’s see.

Courtesy of blue20.com

There is another location, the original in Toledo, Ohio. The owner is Quality Dining Inc., which operates some 46 Chili’s and 116 Burger Kings. BluebO shares a building with a Chili’s, though each has its own entrance. The interior—with its waterfall, fireplace, stacked-stone walls, and steel accents—suggests deep corporate pockets. Yet Quality Dining is run by the third generation of a Toledo restaurant family, the Mancys. “BluebO has the weight and backing of a chain,” chef Jasper Alivia demurs, “but it is not one.”

A French Culinary Institute grad and former sous-chef of Savoy in New York, Alivia has studded the menu with just enough creative flourishes and ethnic influences to separate BluebO from the big-box feedlots of Route 70.

Sriracha shrimp, for example, are lightly floured, flash-fried, and served over crunchy napa slaw with a fiery Indonesian red chili sauce. Delicious, and blistering. Born in the Philippines and raised in American Samoa, Alivia knows his seafood. “Growing up, we caught and ate our own fish every day,” he says. BluebO’s Peking calamari—fried rings and tentacles tossed with sweet chili coconut sauce—put a fresh spin on this ubiquitous appetizer. Shrimp Alivia—jumbos surfing a wave of roasted garlic cream with a hint of lime alongside a fluffy house-made tamale showered with corn-poblano relish—nods to a love affair with Latin cuisine nurtured while cooking at Cuba Libre in Philly and AC. “These are definitely the flavors I like most,” says the chef.

Shrimp Alivia had flavor in spades, yet was a touch too rich for its own good. Wood-grilled Atlantic salmon fillet with butternut squash ravioli and crushed pecans drowned in a treacly maple-bourbon reduction. Like chains, Blueb0 subscribes to the ethos of more is more: Big portions, free extras (fresh-baked pesto-Romano knots; salads with entrées).

The menu’s Simply Grilled section showcases fresh catches cooked over hardwood. Mahi-mahi was sublime one night, bone-dry another. Grilled ahi tuna was preferable to Alivia’s pan-seared version with ponzu sauce and stir-fried bok choy, shiitakes, snow peas, and baby shrimp. The latter came off clichéd—and at $26, a bit steep, considering the five paper-thin slices of fish.

A couple other dishes seemed like leftovers from the ’90s: crabcakes topped with mango-and-pineapple salsa; soy-citrus-splashed tuna tartare with avocado salad. Yet classic oysters Rockefeller were among the best I’ve had—sweet Long Island blue points with bacon, spinach, nutmeggy béchamel, and an irresistible topcoat of melted Romano.

A classic that cannot be improved was the sparkling fresh shellfish platter on crushed ice. Four each of littleneck clams, Cape May salt oysters, and jumbo shrimp, plus lobster claws and tail and a half-pound of Prince Edward Island mussels—at $45, a square deal.

Ordinary seafood bisque, Caesar salad, crab-stuffed shrimp, and limp iceberg lettuce hold Blueb0 back. Beef tenderloin Oscar was almost a winner. No complaint with the two expertly broiled four-ounce medallions, the Jersey asparagus, or the silky Hollandaise. But the cap of butter-poached Alaskan  King crabmeat, though generous, was so full of shell bits I had to scrape it off—at $35 unforgivable.

That memory was dispelled by wonderful mango cheesecake with minted strawberry salad and hot-fudge sundae with addictive candied walnuts and brandied cherries. Flourless chocolate cake gilded in gooey peanut-butter ganache with bruléed bananas was fittingly decadent, while Key lime pie, flecked with zest, was properly and proudly tart.

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Restaurant Details

  • Cuisine Type:
    American - Seafood
  • Price Range:
    Expensive
  • Blue2O
    1906 Marlton Pike West
    Cherry Hill, NJ 08002
  • Hours:
    Monday through Thursday, 11 am to 11 pm; Friday and Saturday, 11 am to midnight; Sunday, 11 am to 10 pm

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