On the top tier are clams and small blue mussels in a seductive saffron champagne sauce that again begs you to swab your bread in it. The shellfish didn't fare as well that evening. "You know how we South Americans overcook our seafood?" Francisco said, plucking a shriveled mussel-meat from its shell. "The cooks here must be Ecuadorian, like me."
Perhaps we should have ordered the jumbo lump crab cakes, instead -- the chef's pride and joy, I learned. They're done East Coast style, with lots of crab and fresh herbs and no bready filler.
When we ordered our entrées, this time we remembered the magic words: "We're not Yuman!" we cried. "We're not Zonies! We live here and we don't want dried-out fish." The result: Everything was cooked perfectly.
Pan-seared dayboat scallops were sweet, tender, and translucent at the center, bathed in a caramelized shallot-herb sauce bedecked with copious shallot shreds, whole shallot cloves, and delicious micro pea-shoots, as slim and crisp as alfalfa sprouts. These were the clear, vivid flavors I'd been hoping for from this restaurant. Underneath were a few ravioli made of thick, slightly gummy spinach pasta, thinly stuffed with herbed goat cheese. (Lynne liked them, I didn't.) Horseradish-crusted salmon were Atlantic-farmed fish. (Its milder flavor is actually preferred by the Midwestern conventioneers who form so much of the patronage here.) The flesh was moist and flaky, topped with a pouf of flour and mild horseradish, and lightly dressed in a lemon-dill sauce. It came with one sawed-off crab claw and a succotash of corn, diced zucchini, new potato, ripe and sugary red bell pepper, and crab shreds, a combination that won the coveted Lynnester seal of approval.
The evening's special was a thick fillet of white sea bass from the Sea of Cortez, heavily salted on the surface, topped with refreshing julienne lemon rind and more of those wonderful fetal pea-shoots. It rode on a bed of white rice pilaf that everyone ignored. Alongside was a single butter-poached shelled Maine lobster claw ("oohs" and "aahs" all around) and slim, crisp-tender flageolet green beans.
As you'd expect, the please-all-comers menu includes numerous meat dishes. The steaks are USDA Prime, and the current crop (from primo purveyor Newport Meat) are dry-aged 28 days. Not yet aware of this marvel (had I known, I'd probably have ordered the rib-eye), we chose a roast rack of lamb, cooked to our order to a beautiful dark-rose medium-rare and surrounded by a superb red-wine reduction sauce sweetened by invisible carrots. (It's one of those three-day production numbers with everything strained out after the final reduction.) "I've never eaten lamb this good," said Francisco. "And the sauce is really wonderful." It came with a mini-cassoulet of white beans, carrots, greens, and merguez, earthy Tunisian-style lamb sausage -- a mixture as marvelous as the meat. The rack was my partner's favorite dish of the evening. Ditto Francisco. For the female side of the table, the scallops were a strong contender.
The wine list runs rather steep (for instance, a mere half-bottle of Trimbaugh Gewürz is $46!) and is oddly short on whites by the glass. It does include a bottle of Matua Valley Marlborough (New Zealand) sauvignon blanc at just $24 -- a crisp, citrusy quaff that flatters all but the most richly sauced seafood.
All desserts are housemade, with all the chefs in the house collaborating on ideas for the ever-changing array and a recent CCA grad executing them. A butterscotch pot de crème features a dark chocolate pudding with a layer of caramel on top. Plunge in your spoon, and the center turns into a butterscotch-chocolate swirl. You also get a fudgy dark chocolate biscotto (I guess that's the singular of biscotti) and a profiterole filled with vanilla whipped cream that tastes exactly like the filling of a Twinkie or Ding Dong. Of the evening's trio of housemade sorbets, one was an austere lemon-flavored ice. The others were creamy, more like sherbets, in flavors of coconut and mango, both intense and distinctive. (If they could talk, they'd probably say, "I yam what I yam.") The coconut vanished in mere seconds under the assault of four simultaneous spoons, and the mango was thoroughly appreciated. Even the decaf espresso was potable.
"You know, I've eaten at all of the Cohn restaurants except the pub-grub joint up in San Marcos," said the Lynnester. "Normally I'm not that crazy about them, but this is the best of them. The ingredients seem as though they're higher quality here, and the dishes really work. Instead of just throwing on one thing after another, everything on the plate goes together." QED: Theory confirmed.
ABOUT THE CHEF
Jonathan Hale is executive chef of Blue Point. "My mom was a really good cook," he says. "She is an editor and she did a lot of cookbooks, so I got the passion from her. I grew up in London, and around when I was 17 I moved to New York, where my best friend's mother was a restaurant critic. She'd take us out and say, 'You can't order all the same thing. You've got to try everything.' It was fun. During college, I was a history major, but I worked during the summers as a waiter on Cape Cod. I really enjoyed that, so I decided to go into the restaurant business. I worked at the Hyatt, and then I went to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America). After I got out in '92, I worked in restaurants in Aspen, Colorado, for three years, including a neat little French place. The chef-owner there had worked for Daniel Boulud [in Manhattan], and as his sous chef, I learned lots from him. Then I moved to Hawaii and worked for seven years for Jean-Marie Josselin at the A Pacific Cafe restaurant group in Maui and Kauai. When my wife and I had our first child, we came back to the mainland.
"We were on a plane to New York with our one-year-old, and when we looked at the United Airlines map, I pointed to San Diego and asked my wife, 'Have you ever been?' I'd never been here either. We decided to move, as random as that -- we made our plans on the plane with the baby in our laps. We didn't know a soul here, but it turned out that a friend of mine from Hawaii was really good friends with people who work at the Prado, and they got me an introduction to David Cohn. Now I've been at Blue Point for four years."