The lobster bisque reflects the ooh-gimme Maine-lobster entrée on the regular menu (a trio of ravioli, poached claw, grilled tail — $50). That leaves lots of other lobster parts to make a good stock. The bisque is rich and thick but not heavy, lightly creamy with citrus hints and ample shreds of lobster meat.
A Chesapeake Bay lump crabmeat crab cake proved the lightest ever, with a subtle coating (a bare hint of crumbs). The center was almost pure crab, and wonderful. No idea how it was made or how it held together. It came with a caper aioli and a daub of something resembling home-style spicy, thin ketchup. Aces!
We were three, and there was a surprise fourth entrée option, a whole fish du jour. Skipping the option of grilled wild salmon with maple-soy glaze (and polenta, which I love), we chose the whole (beheaded, boned-out) skin-on fish: a lightly breaded red trout with a minimalist stripe of some white saucelike substance along the topside of its body. Oh, maybe the stinginess of the sauce was the molecular part! We should have gotten the salmon instead, as the trout flesh was rather dry, the flavors plain, and it came with an untamed primeval forest of stalks of Chinese broccoli, or something of that weedy ilk, badly undercooked and with no discernible interesting seasonings. (It could have used some of that maple-soy mix!) It was like chawing on tree shoots. Nobody ate much of either the fish or greenery, so I was able to reconfirm from the next night’s gently heated leftovers that it was a really unlovable plate.
Pasta-lover Teresa had her heart set on smoked pappardelle with toasted crabmeat, reggiano parmesan, roasted mushrooms, and a touch of cream. I’m unconvinced that smoking noodles has any magical effect on them. (In the late ’60s I tried smoking banana peels, and they had no magic either.) I found the pasta a bit tough, the garnishes undistinguished, lacking spark. But my friends liked it better than I did, and they’re good tasters, too.
The house’s smoker returned in full force with our third entrée, a smoked free-range pork chop. It was a huge, thick hunk from high on the hog (most likely loin), where the meat is lean, maybe too lean. (Everybody who loves shoulder butt, honk!) It tasted only slightly smoky, less so than the thin smoked center chops I sometimes buy at the grocery (good for a quick sauté and a warm bath of tarragon mustard cream sauce with chopped cornichon pickles — one of those brilliant French classics designed to quickly make the most of cheap meat). But no, this was fine meat, all the worse because after smoking there was no choice of done-ness. It looked pink but was quite dry. The accompaniments, however, were scintillating: a round of creamy bread pudding with smoked blue cheese and wild mushrooms, andouille gravy, and a small mound of gooey, sweet-sour braised balsamic cabbage. This is serious and delicious cooking, like I expect from Blue Point.
We were awfully full to address desserts, but, hey, they were free! The house-made sorbet was rich and fruity, velvety from, I believe, apricot pulp. (By now the dining room was in full roar mode, so it was hard to hear the identification of the fruit.) We liked the honey ice cream accompanying the dismissible liquid chocolate cake (yawn). The vanilla bean crème brûlée was pretty, but yawn again. The espresso is decent, and our good server did bring it with desserts, as I like.
I probably oughtn’t assign a star rating based on a Restaurant Week meal, but all nine dishes we tried are drawn from the regular menu and cost about the same as average choices (aside from that $50 Maine lobster trio of my feverish desires). I did drop the red trout from the average, a trick statisticians will recognize: any score wholly out of line with the rest is set aside. Our appetizers were excellent, and the full regular menu offers numerous chances to find fine food. (See boilerplate “Pick Hits” and then “best guesses.”) Okay, I’m a little defensive after all David Cohn’s email attacks, but I really believe this remains a three-star restaurant — maybe not quite the same as it’s been all these years, but still fine. Only — where’s Chef Daniel’s molecular razzle-dazzle? Cohn, set this man free! ■
Blue Point Coastal Cuisine
★★★ (Very Good)
565 Fifth Avenue (at Market Street), Gaslamp Quarter, 619-233-6623; cohnrestaurants.com
HOURS: Daily 5:00 p.m. to closing (about 10:00 weekdays, later on weekends).
PRICES: Soups and salads $8–$12; chilled seafood, oysters, $13–$23; starters $11–$14; Mains $28–$50. Sides average $6. “Cavi-hour” at bar (until 6:30 p.m. weeknights), roes and trimmings $15–$90, sampler plate $40.
CUISINE & BEVERAGES: Main thrust is pristine seafood, but plenty of land-based choices, too. Well-chosen wine list, heavy on whites, plenty of affordable choices and glasses. Interesting cocktails, $12.
PICK HITS: From Restaurant Week menu (all on regular menu): lobster bisque, raw oysters, crab cake, house-made sorbet. Probable good bets from regular menu: cold seafood assiette, mussels in coconut green curry sauce, clams in sambal butter broth, Alaskan black cod, scallops with white corn dumplings, Maine lobster trio, grilled lamb with house-made lamb sausage.
NEED TO KNOW: Valet parking $12. Cheaper parking at Park It on Market, Sixth and Market. Noisy when crowded (conversation, not music). Wraparound heated patio. Good professional service. Supper-club decor but locals come “dressy casual.” No vegetarian starters or entrées, but sufficient lacto-veggie sides and salads to make a meal.