Raw and Polished

The cooking at Blupointe is often first rate, yet the new multilevel seafood restaurant doesn't quite seduce

The crispy calamari rings came with the intriguing addition of fried salsify (also called oyster plant because of its supposed oyster taste, not particularly noticeable in this incarnation but a witty choice) and a cup of tasty bell pepper rouille. We went on to pan-seared sea scallops for Peter, the best dish of the evening: The fat, sweet scallops were carefully cooked, golden outside, soft within, and came with a crunchy, well-flavored risotto cake, toothy anisette-scented braised greens, more of the spicy rouille, and just a hint of lemon oil. I was less happy with my bowl of clams in a buttery white wine and roasted garlic sauce, brightened with plenty of chopped parsley and lemon juice; I blame myself -- it was just too many clams after the unexpectedly huge helping of raw ones I'd already consumed. I should have chosen the alternative, mussels (you can order either of the two, cooked with your choice of four sauces; another server said his favorite was the red Thai curry, with coconut milk, onions, and galangal. All come with a side of excellent crisp fries).

Over a shared fresh fruit cobbler (blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, under a good crust, with vanilla bean gelato), Peter and I agreed that the cooking was of quite a high order, and yet we weren't in love with the place. The tables were a little too close together, the music was a little too loud.

For my next dinner I asked for a table outside, on Claude Lane, and waited for Tommy and Matt. In the event, only Tommy showed up, Matt having fallen prey to a cold, and I had to revise my food expectations downward (I'd thought one of the boys would order the tarragon chicken or sea-salt-crusted filet mignon put on the menu to appease nonpescatarians). Still, we managed to sample quite a bit: We shared a dozen oysters, two each of the six varieties on offer (Hood Canal, Kumamoto, Hog Island, Malaspina, Sunset, and Beau Soleil; no Blue Points that night), and they were all tasty and properly displayed on crushed ice (though briefly, because they were warmish). We washed them down with Chimay for Tommy and a glass of Fresh Oyster sauvignon blanc for me, which seemed appropriate. We then went on to a plate of delicious white pickled anchovy fillets (boquerones), sea-tangy and meaty, with purple potato chips, a contrast in color and a different kind of crispness that didn't quite make sense together, and a cup of clam chowder that turned out to be a big bowl of creamy soup containing potatoes, clams, a bit of grit, and a big jolt of acid, probably lemon juice, but elusive in flavor. Not a bad chowder, but not the best.

Although it looks like a regular bar, the 
downstairs area of Blupointe serves up 
sushi, just one of the items on a menu that 
includes Italianate, fusion, and California 
cuisine.
James Sanders
Although it looks like a regular bar, the downstairs area of Blupointe serves up sushi, just one of the items on a menu that includes Italianate, fusion, and California cuisine.

Details

Fruits de mer platter $25-75

Crispy calamari $9.95

Boquerones $9.95

Mussels or clams in choice of four sauces $14.95/ mussels, $18.95/clams

Seared scallops $25.95

Soft-shell crab $19.95

Fruit cobbler $6.50

986-4450

Open Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday until 2 a.m. Closed Sunday

Reservations accepted

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: difficult

Muni: 2, 3, 4, 15, 30, 45

Noise level: low to high

239 Kearny (at Sutter)

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Tommy abandoned his choice of seafood bouillabaisse (tiger prawns, sea scallops, clams, mussels, fish) as soon as he heard the night's special of sautéed soft-shell crab on a bed of fresh corn ragout (charmingly pronounced with the final "t" by our server); a pale-and-emerald-green baby bok choy came alongside the crab, and this night again my companion had chosen the best dish of the evening. I kept on stealing bites of the corn stew, and tasted more of the crab than strictly needed to appreciate its sweet meat and crunchy exterior. Tommy cleaned his plate, and then went on to clean mine: I had lost interest in the two fat slabs of an uncommon fish, hebi from Hawaii (also known as spearfish), and accurately described as being almost like sashimi by the helpful server. Barely cooked for a millimeter under its crust of crushed fennel, coriander, and mustard, the soft, pale fish picked up most of its flavor from the dark ponzu sauce underneath it. The plate needed a bit more help than the carefully stacked logs of delicate (and delicately flavored) baby zucchini that came alongside the fish.

We lingered over coffee, another cobbler, and two big chocolate truffles, coated with macadamia nuts, quite dear, I thought, at $8.50 (a couple of bucks more than the other desserts), and dauntingly firm, having just been removed from the refrigerator (and thus losing the soft, creamy, yielding appeal of fancy truffles). Was it brave, I thought, to open a seafood restaurant and not offer crab cakes or cracked crab or lobster, or was it just because of costs? The fish main courses were already quite pricey (between $23.95 for halibut and $29.95 for sea bass); what would they have to charge for wild salmon, also not on the current menu, if a plate of spearfish and zucchini costs $26.95? I liked Blupointe more tonight, but I wasn't entirely seduced. Still, as we were finishing, two guys came out the back door and one said to the other, "Let's eat out here next time, this looks nice." They were happy regulars already.

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