Review: Bluewater Grill

888 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Bluewater Grill is a nice-looking seafood place along the route by which I take Jen to work, and on several occasions we’ve said, “We should go there sometime”. Well, tonight we finally got around to it. And this is not your grandfather’s seafood restaurant.

Oh, wait. Yes it is.

The food wasn’t bad, mind you. It was just … unexciting. The free bread was an uninspired sourdough. It was warm, which was nice, but the crust was unexciting and chewy and the crumb was uniform and bland.

We ordered wine and appetizers to start with; Jen had a glass of Pinot Grigio and a cup of clam chowder, and I had a glass of Riesling and a bay shrimp cocktail. The waitress warned us that the Riesling was sweet, but I like sweet wines (what can I say? I’m a wuss). Jen’s wine was good, and the clam chowder was tasty but very rich. My shrimp cocktail was also good, though I probably would have eased up on the cocktail sauce a little. I’m not sure what to think about my Riesling. I now understand what they mean by wines having “apple notes”, because my wine tasted like cider. This was OK — I like cider — but it was a little weird. Still, so far so good.

In passing, I want to note that there was a massive box of Old Bay on our table.

For the entree, I ordered grilled catfish, and Jen ordered scallop and shrimp skewers. We both got sliced tomatoes and sauteed spinach as sides, because we are people on a diet, not professional food critics. And here is where Bluewater Grill didn’t come through for us.

The spinach was OK, but swimming in oil, which made it a little unctuous for my taste. The tomatoes were quite good; firm and sweet and huge. Should you go, I recommend the sliced tomato side. Alas, my catfish was profoundly bland. It was cooked well — tender and moist. Just deeply uninteresting. You would never know it was grilled. Jen’s skewers, meanwhile, were similarly bland. It took a while to find any evidence of grilling on the scallops, and the pieces of seafood were spaced on the skewer with unappealing squares of bacon, charred at the edge and underdone at the center. Judging from the look of the food, they used the exact same seasoning on the catfish, the scallops, and the shrimp. That just doesn’t seem right.

We also had to ask three times for water, which was annoying.

In the end, Bluewater Grill seems to have good-quality ingredients, but not a lot of ingenuity in putting them together. If I were to go again, I’d focus on dishes where the flavor of the seafood itself is paramount. The shrimp cocktail was good, and I’d bet the raw bar might be tasty too. More assertive fish like salmon might also fare better with their chef.