Restaurant Review

The Blue Point Grill

At the four-seat raw bar facing the open kitchen, you can slurp down briny oysters and bask in the aroma of the grill, the clatter of cookware, and the flash of flames from the stove. The frenetic atmosphere pairs surprisingly well with the refinement of oysters. Good thing, too, because the raw bar is often the only seat in the house.

Though the Blue Point has doubled in size since it opened in 1999, the crowds haven’t thinned a bit. On a recent Saturday night, the wait for a table for four was two hours; no reservations are taken.
 
Blame it on the town and its dearth of excellent restaurants. But credit the Blue Point for being astonishingly consistent and enjoyable—if you’re in the mood for seafood.  The oysters are a leading indicator of what you can expect: exceedingly fresh seafood, minimally adorned.

An appetizer of three plump, fresh Portuguese sardines, grilled with heads on, seasoned with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and served with fresh lemon were dense, meaty, satisfying. At $8, they’re a bargain, too.

One oft-heard complaint is that you shell out $18 to $36 for fish that is simply marinated and grilled. But it’s an irrelevant criticism when a restaurant serves fish this fresh and flavorful.

Blue Point’s source is right next door. Nassau Street Seafood, a retail market, is connected to the restaurant’s kitchen by a door and a common owner, Jack Morrison. Morrison opened the market in 1982, and today owns Witherspoon Grill, Tillie’s Nassau Street Caterers (where, full disclosure, I worked briefly as a college student), and the Blue Point.

Blue Point chef Edgar Urias gets his pick, which is why on a typical day over 25 fish are on the menu. Whole fish are offered either “crispy” (lightly panfried) or grilled. Each bite of my crispy red snapper seemed more moist and flavorful than the last. A side of ginger-soy dipping sauce spiked with sugar, pepper, and garlic was respectable, but the fish was better bare.
   
Urias, who started as a line cook seven years ago and took over in July, has added a few semi-elaborate appetizers to the menu. A shrimp and crawfish cake derives a delightful sweetness from kernels of corn and a balancing spark from a hint of Sriracha hot sauce and a touch of lime.

An appetizer of honey-lime tequila shrimp had a nice char under the sweet and tangy glaze. An entrée of luscious grouper medallions came with an enticing scampi sauce seasoned with garlic, butter, and lemon juice, and thickened with breadcrumbs to a gravy-like consistency.

But what keeps me coming back is the grilled fish. Chilean sea bass? (The restaurant swears theirs is sustainably sourced.) Glistening with natural oils that give the fish an almost tropical flavor. Swordfish? Uncommonly delicate and moist. Halibut? Rich and dense, with earthy undertones I had never noticed before.

Of course, Blue Point has its weaknesses, principally a disregard for everything but seafood. Entrées come with humdrum slaw and a choice of rice pilaf or potato (best bet, the garlic smashed). Vegetable sides are fresh but uninspired.

Rice pudding offered no improvement on store brands, and banana crepes were soaked in so much rum I thought I would need a cab to drive me home. Fortunately, Blue Point serves the justly-lauded ice creams and sorbets from the Bent Spoon a few blocks away on Palmer Square. 

It’s hard to stay angry with the Blue Point. The staff is friendly and unafraid to steer you toward their favorite dishes; the charming hostess holds the door for you. And there are at least a dozen fish you’ll want to try on future visits.

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