Seafood in a Hurry

Unknowledgeable, rushed service and small portions ruin the Bluepoint dining experience

Dinner at a "nice" restaurant comes with certain expectations. A great meal, of course, is one of them. Atmosphere is another. The surroundings should be beautiful and inviting--a place to linger awhile. I also expect a well-trained, knowledgeable staff that understands the importance of establishing a warm and comfortable relationship with each table (beyond being nice to me just so I'll leave a big tip).

Regrettably, our dinner at Bluepoint Kitchen & Bar, on a recent Friday night, didn't meet those standards, especially in regard to the service we received. Not only did the staff rush us through our visit, but they also appeared to be disinterested and untrained.

The length of our stay there--not including a drink in the circular martini bar after dinner--was exactly one hour. One hour! To the minute! And mind you, dinner included drinks, appetizers, entrées and dessert.

I do hate it when a party monopolizes a table, and on a busy night, getting a table to hurry a bit is understandable. But there were plenty of empty tables at Bluepoint that night, and the bar was practically empty.

Bluepoint is certainly a beautiful restaurant. With big windows overlooking the city, lots of wood, highly shined brass fixtures and enormous lanterns hanging from high ceilings, Bluepoint promises a romantic, memorable experience. (The Web site calls this concept restaurant "sexy" and "big-city.")

The whole thing started with the hostess. Dressed to kill, she sped to our table walking a good 10 feet in front of us, then plopped the menus on the table and took off. I don't think she even made eye contact. I watched her with other customers--she did the same thing with just about everybody.

Before we had even picked up the wine list--let alone had a chance to read it--our server was at our table asking us for our drink order. We asked for a few more minutes, and that's what she gave us--like two, maybe. Feeling slightly pressured, we ordered drinks: a classic martini for John, a glass of viognier for me. Please note: While my French isn't up to par, she didn't know which wine I wanted until I gave her the number on the menu. That should've been a clue as to what was to come.

Our drinks arrived, and John stated that his Ketel One martini was "just like I build them at home."

Of course, we ordered oysters. When asked what was fresh, our server rattled off the list so quickly it was almost impossible to understand her. I hesitated to ask her a question for fear she'd lose her place in the recitation. We went with six malpeques and six blue points (market price, $19.95).

Before the oysters arrived, we were asked for our dinner order. Considering we didn't even know what the "Catch of the Day" was, we felt a bit rushed. We had to ask for the daily specials, which resulted in another high-speed listing of the fresh seafood and fish available. Again, she talked so fast that we had to ask her to repeat the list--even then, it was almost impossible to understand every fresh catch. Again, we asked for a few minutes. Not picking up on body language or verbal hints, she asked us for our dinner order a total of three times in the next 10 minutes.

Eventually, we gave in to pressure and ordered. I love scallops (market price $21.95), so I ordered them pan-seared (I could've opted for char broiled or blackened) with the tequila lime sauce. John ordered the sea bass (market price $23.95), also pan seared, also with the lime tequila sauce. Other sauce options include mango salsa or ginger soy.

Our oysters arrived. Another server placed them on the table, announcing, "Tonight, we have two oyster choices, malpeques and blue points," then pointed to the larger ones and said, "These are the blue points, I think." She thinks? She should know. Because even assuming a customer knows one type of oyster from another, "I think" isn't good enough. No explanation of the dipping sauces was forthcoming. (FYI: a mild seafood sauce and a mignonette.)

Our entrées quickly replaced the oysters, and in one glance, I knew there was a conspiracy to get us out of there in a hurry. Five relatively small, pale scallops sat on a large plate next to the vegetable of the day--a mélange of sautéed carrots, summer squash and peppers. Yes, scallops do take a light hand, but pan-searing means a nice brown color. There wasn't a trace of color here. Plus, scallops should be about an ounce apiece, and these weren't even close.

John's sea bass was more seared and definitely more flavorful (the tequila lime sauce was a nice touch), but the serving size again left much to be desired. No hungry man, or woman, would've been filled up by either of the entrées.

It was only when we were served our dessert--a heavenly, five-layer chocolate cake--that we saw a large portion. The piece was large enough to make four chocoholics happy. But I don't go out to dinner to fill up on dessert.

Lunch on a sunny Saturday afternoon was a bit better. The servings were a tad larger, but the service was still lacking.

I had steamed clams ($9.95) and the warm lobster salad ($14.95). John had the Maryland crab cake ($11.95) and the fried oysters ($12.95).

A big fan of crab cakes, John called this one good, but not great. The price seemed a bit exorbitant for just one, merely fair crab cake. My clams were steamed in their own juices with bacon and tomatoes. The bacon flavor predominated the dish, rather than the clams themselves; again, good but not great. The lobster salad was beautifully presented--a small tail split and a crispy tortilla shell filled with fresh greens topped with a lobster claw--though to be honest, I was still hungry afterwards. The winner for lunch was John's fried oysters: crispy outside, soft and flavorful inside. The portion, nine in all, was enough to share.

We were pressed for our order; the entrée arrived before we finished the appetizers (with the comment "The food came out faster than I thought"); and my appetizer plate was never cleared away. The biggest glitch was when we asked our server to explain a Meritage wine. Her first response was, "I know I read about that twice in the notes." She then made up some story about creating a special name for a grape. Time for lunch on a lazy Saturday afternoon? Forty-five minutes.

I don't really understand the reason for rushing people in and out of such an upscale restaurant. Perhaps it's all part of the "big city," "sexy" atmosphere. Perhaps not.

No big-city restaurant--at least not the ones I've eaten in--would tolerate the attitude found at Bluepoint Kitchen & Bar.

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