My dad had a saying that has stuck with me through the years that went, “Well that’s a high-class problem to have.” I used it recently myself when I was describing to a friend that I have a problem buying seafood at the grocery store or some restaurants because of my relationship with Captain Mark Mihelich and Boundless Boat Charters and the freezer full of amazing halibut, tuna, yellowtail, mahi-mahi and more that I have as a regular basis as a result.
There are certain characteristics that a seafood focused restaurant has to have for me to even consider eating there and Bluewater Grill in Carlsbad met all those going in, so I was looking forward to the experience. I also had Captain Mark join me for this Lick the Plate dinner as who better to give an educated opinion than a man of the sea who makes his living catching many of the fish on their menu.
So let’s start off with a bit about Bluewater Grill and their philosophy. Bluewater is known for serving up to 40 kinds of seasonal and sustainable seafood, with lunch and dinner menus that change frequently to highlight the day’s fresh catch. And the really cool part is that they operate their own swordfish harpoon boat, the Pilikia, and serve the finest quality locally harpooned swordfish when it’s in season. They have relationships with and purchase directly from fisherman, in season, at the peak of quality and freshness.
Like some other favorite seafood-centric restaurants in the area, having fishermen and watermen running the show is a big plus. They get it and that knowledge and respect for the ocean and fish populations shows in how they operate and today’s consumers respect that and reward it with their patronage. The Carlsbad Village location is the latest location for a restaurant company founded 20 years ago in Newport Beach by longtime friends and fishermen Richard Staunton and Jimmy Ulcickas.
Bluewater Grill in Carlsbad also has a full-service seafood market with quarts of their award-winning clam chowder, ready-to-eat side dishes and house-made sauces to take out with your order. The chowder to go sounds like something I may take them up on as I started my meal with a bowl of it and it was splendid.
Speaking of the space, the Bluewater team spent nearly a year renovating the Carlsbad location, which was the former home of the Fish House Vera Cruz that I never made it to so really had nothing to compare. The fully remodeled interior is crisp and clean with the feel of an East Coast beachfront seafood joint but with some West Coast style.
We started with oysters and ceviche as our server said they were medium size, which I prefer, and we were presented with a dozen of the largest oysters I’ve had in a while. A “high-class problem” as dad would say but next time, I will ask for a definition of medium. We slurped them down and the flavor was fabulous as was the ceviche. Oyster Shooters and Oysters Rockefeller are also part of an extensive shellfish section of the menu.
The seasonal special pairs France against Italy in a fun seafood culinary competition that has France’s Bouillabaisse against Italy’s Cioppino. These are both filled with a similar mix of seafood with the Bouillabaisse having a saffron infused broth and the Cioppino a zesty marinara sauce.
I have a big thing for a classic shrimp cocktail and the Jumbo Prawn Cocktail at Bluewater did not disappoint. From there we moved on to entrees and decided to mix it up a bit and create our own surf and turf by ordering up an Angus New York Steak with blue cheese butter, wilted spinach and scalloped potatoes. For the surf portion we went with the Scottish Salmon over green rice and an extra side of fingerling potatoes with Applewood bacon and Italian parsley. The steak was cooked perfect medium rare and the salmon had a crispy crust and moist and delicious inside.
I was also really appreciative of the extensive, but not overwhelming, wine list and the fact that they list a suggested glass next to the specials. There is also a full cocktail bar full of a list of delicious sounding options. I had early travel the next day so was not able to indulge in my usual Lick the Plate style.
And being in San Diego where craft beer is king, of course they have a relationship with local brewer Dan Selis who has created High Spot beer, which is exclusively brewed for them. Varieties include High Spot Blonde, Pale Ale and IPA, all named as a tribute to Bluewater’s rich fishing tradition as the beers feature names inspired by Southern California fishing spots where the restaurant sustainably harvests much of the fresh seafood and shellfish it serves.
At the risk of overindulging we skipped dessert though that list that included Mud Pie, Key Lime Pie, Crème Brulee and Chocolate Lava Cake — all would have worked for me.
I should mention that the experience was given a big thumbs up by Captain Mark for not only the quality of our food, but the sheer volume of dinners being served on a bustling Wednesday night.
Bluewater Grill is located at 417 Carlsbad Village Drive in Carlsbad. Reach them at (760) 730-3474 or www.bluewatergrill.com.