- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

Blue Point Grill, an Alexandria favorite since 1994, stands at the southern end of Old Town, on the corner of Washington and Franklin streets.
The restaurant is in a contemporary building, sharing ground-floor space with Sutton Place Gourmet, which owns the restaurant. The dining room is pleasant, simply decorated with fishy motifs. On one side is a large open patio, sheltered by a canopy; a glass wall on the Washington Street side serves to minimize noise and aroma of traffic. The patio is a delightful venue when the weather is accommodating.
At the name suggests, the Blue Point Grill is primarily a fish restaurant, specializing in oysters and clams on the half shell. On any given day, between three and six varieties of oysters from different parts of the country are available. They are all fresh, shucked just before being served and irresistibly delicious.
Shellfish platters combining oysters, mussels, clams and shrimp, with or without half a lobster, are a specialty. Portions are large, but many items come in tapas sizes, which for the most part are sufficiently substantial to serve as entrees.
An outstanding starter is the shrimp and oyster hand roll. Small flour tortillas are filled with large shrimps and lightly breaded and fried oysters, with some finely shredded greens and a nicely spicy creamy chili lime remoulade sauce. The rolls are unusual and delicious, but they must be served hot or they lose some of the textural contrasts.
At a recent dinner, a special of the day was a scallop seviche salad, a combination of greens, tiny dice of peppers and tomatoes and sliced, marinated scallops in a tangy fresh vinaigrette. An excellent light beginning.
Soups are not the restaurant's strong point. A gazpacho one night was adequate, but not very interesting. Scallop chowder was a thick milky soup with diced carrots and potatoes. Again the flavor was adequate but the single scallop in the cup was tough and chewy. The special at a recent lunch was a cucumber margarita soup. The taste was as odd as the name. Lots of shredded cucumber in a sweetish liquid. The first three spoonsful were refreshing and pleasant, but the concoction quickly became cloying. Not a success.
The horseradish-crusted sea bass is a splendid main dish. The crunchy crust with its mild, yet distinctive horseradish flavor keeps the fish moist and tender. The crust adds complexity to the fish without overwhelming the simple freshness of the bass. The accompanying mashed potatoes with just the faintest taste of lobster and grilled asparagus make this dish a wonderfully balanced pleasure.
A Maryland-style crab cake was good, albeit marred by a few little bits of shell in the mix. The crab cakes come with excellent roast potatoes and vegetables of the day. A red remoulade sauce adds bite to the crab cake.
Sesame seared tuna served rare with a fine soy ginger dipping sauce is a winner and an excellent choice for anyone who likes fish barely cooked. The tuna is of high quality and just seared on the outside; the thin slices are almost sashimi-like. Sides of bok choy and shiitake mushrooms add an Oriental character to the tuna.
A lovely Thai curried shellfish stew with shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams is served with steamed, jasmine rice on the side. The broth is redolent with spices and coconut. The curry is mild, fragrant and subtle in its mix of flavors.
The Blue Point Grill also has meat, primarily chicken and steak. A New York strip, served with potatoes, French string beans and a bordelaise sauce can be ordered in the regular 12-ounce size, or in the smaller, tapas version.
Lunch, unfortunately, is nothing like dinner. We ordered the fish of the day white snapper. The chunk of broiled fish came on a salad of fresh, lightly seasoned greens with bits of tomato. No sauce, no special preparation, just a piece of fish and salad greens. It didn't even look pretty.
How much nicer it would have been both for the eye and the palate to serve the snapper as part of a composed salad of cold vegetables, or, alternatively with an interesting sauce to complement the mild fish.
The blackened yellowfin tuna sandwich, garnished with french fries and watercress salad turned out to be a thick rectangle of highly spiced frozen tuna on an enormous bun. (The cucumber creme fraiche mentioned on the menu as an accompanying condiment tasted a lot like tartar sauce.)
Frozen tuna in a restaurant owned by Sutton Place Gourmet? Horrors.
Ordered rare, the tuna did come to the table as ordered, but the fish was tough, dry and as hard to cut as a New York steak. The salad looked and tasted like day-old watercress, already turning yellow at the edges, drenched in a nondescript vinaigrette. Inexcusable.
The lunch menu is limited, although of course all the raw bar selections are available, and the excellent sourdough bread is much like real San Francisco sourdough.
Perhaps the lobster BLT, the tuna tartare (hopefully made with fresh tuna) or the fish and chips are better choices. It's almost as if the Blue Point Grill were two restaurants. Perhaps there's a shift change in the cooking staff. I would forget lunch at the Blue Point Grill and go only for dinner when the cooking is sophisticated and shows off fish at its best.
Desserts are good any time of the day. A warm chocolate cake with a liquid chocolate center is a signature dessert. It could be more intensely chocolate, but it is a satisfying finale. The New York cheesecake is a fine, rich version of a classic dessert.
The restaurant has a full wine list without surprises and serves a pleasantly light pinot grigio for $6 a glass. Service is personal and friendly, although it can be a little slow, particularly at lunchtime.
RESTAURANT: Blue Point Grill, 600 Franklin St. Alexandria; 703/739-0404
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily
PRICES: Oysters and clams $7 to $12 per half-dozen; salads and appetizers $8 to $13 (lunch), $5 to $15 (dinner); entrees $9 to $17 (lunch), $20 to $27 (dinner), tapas portions $10 to $15; sandwiches $10 to $15; desserts $6
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards
PARKING: Ample street parking and complimentary parking in the building
ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible


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