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BLT Fish


lambretta76
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BLT Fish, the raw bar and seafood spin-off of Laurent Tourondel's popular (and fairly well-acclaimed) BLT Steak, is one of those places that I find myself describing with the phrase "It was fine...", with the "fine" being several steps down the chromatic scale from the "It was" part.

Was there anything wrong with my meal? No, "it was fine..." But there really wasn't anything right about it either. The wine, a Gruner Veltliner, was, again, "fine..." But at $8 per glass and $21 per carafe, I might have expected that.

The clam chowder, at $8 a bowl, had a wonderful smoked-bacony essence when delivered that really caught my attention. Too often these days, NYC restaurants skimp on the bacon in New England clam chowders. (Side note: This reminds me of a humorous event involving chowdah. After sampling a particular restaurant's clam chowder on several occasions, and after really enjoying it, I asked the owner why he didn't add bacon to his chowders. His reply was that his restaurant was in a typically Jewish area he didn't want to alienate any possible customers by adding bacon to his soups, which he said the Jews viewed as unclean. I didn't have the heart to tell him that, while yes, they do avoid the bacon, they also tend to avoid the shellfish as well.) However, among the army of cubed potatoes in this slightly too-thin soup, I didn't find a single clam. Not a chunk, no a piece, not a scrap. Nada. It may have had clam juice, or clam essence, but it was not a clam chowder. (Had it been thicker, it would have been a fairly good bacon and potato chowder.) This was served with a garlic bread that was, you guessed it - "fine..."

The crabcakes, two silver-dollar sized cakes (diameter only, about an inch or so thick), were simple - almost entirely crab with just a hint of Old Bay and enough batter to keep them held together. ($14, and came with a small salad of greens.)

The fish and chips ($14) I had were "fine..." - a nice piece of cod (I think) that was moist, but with a batter without much flavor or texture. The fries were of the shoestring variety, tossed with a liberal amount of Old Bay.

My friend's tuna ($22) was a little more medium than the "quickly seared" he requested, but he said the fish was good enough that he was OK with it. (He described it as a shame to let it go to waste, but it was a shame for it to have been overcooked in the first place.)

The desserts were uninspiring and, at $7-$8 a piece, unnecessary. (Key lime pie, chocolate cake, berry crumble, etc.) The total for two came to $106, excluding tax and tip. The room is comfortable, with an "upscale New England lobster shack" kind of feel to it. No reservations for now, but the upscale restaurant opening upstairs will be taking them when it opens in February. (BLT Fish is in the old AZ space.)

Edited by lambretta76 (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Ate an impromptu dinner @ BLT Fish yesterday

Front tables are a little awkward... large enough but right next to their neighbors.

Started with selection of west coast oysters and a cup of Soup each.

Oysters were nicely presented, each priced somewhere between 1.75 and 2.10. We had hamma hammas (sp??), hood canals and another variety whose name escapes me.

My clam chowder cup was wonderful -- a few large chunks of clam, contrasted to Lambretta's experience, ample bacon, and a consistency based more on clam than on heavy cream. My gf enjoyed her lobster bisque but I found it a little too "smoky" and "lobstery" for me. Each was served with oyster crackers.

Fish is served with a choice of 3 sauces on the side (lemon hollandaise, spicy salsa, tartare). It didn't seem like customer's required cooking method was much discussed. My red snapper ($18) was seared very nicely though and filet generous. I had tartare, but sampled the lemon hollandaise which is a very rich sauce that complements the flavor profile of fish well, but only in moderation. GF had the salmon ($16) which was very good, a tad overcooked technically however (no preference requested), cooked light pink in the very center.

Accompanying both dishes were roasted rosemary new potatoes and a fennel coleslaw (we love fennel) topped with a few slivers of parm regg.

Total, tax and tip 75. Didn't try dessert. Not a bad place, but not ***.

The upstairs I have heard is going to be fancier in constrast to the restaurant downstairs which is definitely casual and free-spirited "fish shack style".

_mjr

ps bathrooms were nice. but I question the placement of magazine racks in them. i don't want to wait for the can while a guy finishes reading the profile of Scarlett Johannson.

�As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans.� - Ernest Hemingway, in �A Moveable Feast�

Brooklyn, NY, USA

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God - now there's a magazine I can guarantee I'm not going to be touching. Disgusting.

mjr - It sounds like it may have been a different experience for you altogether. Like I said, there wasn't even a hint of clam in the clam chowder I tasted.

A second-hand report - my friend, who's from the Cape, did not enjoy the lobster roll at all, although I feel he may be somewhat of a purist. He was upset by the inclusion of spices in the sauce - he likened it to a dill/pesto flavor - although other mentions I've seen haven't mentioned anything besides mayonaise, lobster, and a bun. (All reports seem to reflect the skimpy serving size does not justify th $25 price tag.)

Again, I'm not a raw bar person and I think that this is where this restaurant will shine. But I'm worried that the large variety will end up in some of the raw bar items being served past their prime. (How many people are going to be ordering $4 oysters to keep them fresh...)

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the lobster roll was fine.. it doesn't compare to Mary's or Pearl, both of whose offerings are more rustic and a bit looser, with more mayo to them.. i didn't love the chopped chives topping the lobster roll but it wasn't the sole purpose for BLT fish's existence, as opposed to what the lobster roll has come to mean to Mary's and Pearl..

the raw bar is great.. none of the oysters were four bucks the night i was there.. all right around two bucks each.. and people were ordering huge platters of stuff, so i think they'll turn over just fine..

the stone crab claws came with a mayo based sauce different from the classic preparation, which i sort of missed..

due to a snafu in the kitchen, we wound up with two different servings of the clam chowder at different points during the meal.. both were great, thin, full of chunks of bacon and a good amount of the namesake clams..

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So, off I went to meet two friends at BLT Fish. I had read the previous postings and wasn't expecting much. After speaking on the phone with a hostess, I expected even less. But the date was set, so off I went.

And I'm glad I did.

Yes, the hostesses are dumb as a box of hair. I'm always amazed when someone invests good money to open a culinary den and then hires a total dimwit as the first impression.

I digress......first.......BLT Fish is NOT an oceanic version of BLT Steak. That will happen upstairs. The ground floor is a faux fish shack with terrific food, good drinks/wine (at decent prices), great music, unfortunate decor (think Shoney's by the design team at Sears) filled with aging frat boys and ticking clocks looking over the shoulder of their fellow conversationalist hoping for something better to walk in.

But forget the crowd and have fun. Once past the robotatrons, the staff (beginning with coat check) was friendly, knowledgeable, sharp and refreshingly short of ingredient lists. We all had the New England Clam Chowder. Full of flavor, a bit heavy on the bacon (but I think that was a choice) and not at all stingy at $4 a cup. Then we tackled the large seafood plater. It was enormous. Great clams, oysters, periwinkles etc. Only complaint was the cerviche--too much cure, not enough to be cured. We downed a friendly Riesling and were sated. Ordered desserts, which left us over-stuffed. Desserts won't rock the world, but they are equally as good or better than those I have had at many of the highly touted new restaurants that have opened in the past year or so.

This is one of the smartest business moves I have seen in ages. It will serve as a cash cow to keep the upstairs high-end location running smoothly and customers and owner(s) alike, happy.

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(Side note: This reminds me of a humorous event involving chowdah. After sampling a particular restaurant's clam chowder on several occasions, and after really enjoying it, I asked the owner why he didn't add bacon to his chowders. His reply was that his restaurant was in a typically Jewish area he didn't want to alienate any possible customers by adding bacon to his soups, which he said the Jews viewed as unclean. . . . )

Only in New York, is all I can say. It reminds me of the guy who was selling oysters he advertised as "Kosher." These were Gulf oysters. Apparently he had once met someone who defined "kosher" as clean and he felt his oysters were exceptionally fresh and clean. I don't know that he had a clientele who knew what kosher was, or would have been more likely to make a purchase if they knew, but I guess eventually one came by and and he got some pubicity he didn't want as well as a lesson or two in communication. If memory serves, he was a recent immigrant to the US and his English wasn't all that good, possilby not good enough to distinguish between English and Yiddish, but he was working on his vocabulary word by word as he learned each new one.

I've always thought salt pork was required for traditional New England clam chowder, but I see the Joy of Cooking allows bacon as a substitute. Perhaps it's replaced salt pork, which is usually fattier, as the preferred choice. I can't say I don't enjoy that smokey taste from time to time.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Curbed.com blog has an item about service or lack thereof at BLT Fish

http://www.curbed.com/

Bad Service Strikes Again [vittlesvamp]

�As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans.� - Ernest Hemingway, in �A Moveable Feast�

Brooklyn, NY, USA

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I had a really solid dinner at BLT Fish last night. I enjoyed the food very much, and am looking forward to returning when the upstairs opens. I agree with the earlier comment that the downstairs is a little too claustrophobic/casual. I couldn't hear my own conversation because I was too close to my neighbors, and the music was a bit too loud up front.

Atmosphere aside...the food was very good, IMHO. I ordered a sampler of East Coast oysters, which I enjoyed and thought comparable to what I've had anywhere else. I was also impressed by how well-tended the raw bar was. Every time I looked up, someone was gently sprinkling crushed ice over the shellfish. Very nice. Mr. alacarte ordered a mixed green salad for apps, which was fresh but fairly ordinary.

Our entrees were excellent. The red snapper was outstanding, meaty, fresh, and generously sized. Mr. alacarte's halibut fillet was equally good, and neither were overseasoned. We both ordered the lemon hollandaise sauce with the fish, which I hated but mr. alacarte polished off. (Note to BLT: revise the menus so that it reads "tartar sauce," not "tartare sauce." It confused us as well as the customers at the next table!) The fish came with a choice of rosemary potatoes or rice, and "mixed vegetables." Much to my chagrin, the mixed vegetables turned out to be a fennel-carrot coleslaw -- and not knowing that, I had ordered a side of regular coleslaw. Not a big deal, though, since both were good.

With drinks, apps, entree, and dessert (a tarte-tatin style apple pie), plus tip, the total bill came to about $100 for two.

I suspect that BLT Fish has heard some of the rumblings about their service -- they still seem to have some kinks to work out but overall I thought the service was pretty attentive. I think the waitress had too many tables to serve (is 7 tables of 2 a lot?)-- she was never far away, but always busy at another table. It was hard to get her attention but when we did she was knowledgeable and very solicitous.

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Tonight, BLT Fish threw a cocktail party to celebrate the imminent opening of the more formal third floor. They served great food. As soon as I got upstairs, I started on a three-tiered platter of shellfish. My total oyster consumption for the night was 32; scallops, 9; and clams, 7. I nursed a glass of Sancerre and went about to find more food. All sorts of little treats were coming around on trays: scallops with "coriander oil", which tasted like citrus oil to me, but was excellent nonetheless; arctic char with ginger and lemon; tuna tartare with avocado and American caviar; miniature mugs of New England clam chowder; fried Maine shrimp with curry dip; and an excellent fried ball of something. Oh, and a little curl of squid that was amazing. Chefs, including chef Tourondel, prepared this stuff in the open kitchen, and guests ate it under the retractable glass roof. I had a small plate of fried red snapper with ginger and soy, likely a preliminary version of the "Crispy Red Snapper 'Cantonese Style' (for two)" on the menu. And speaking of the menu:

Appetizers

Tuna tartare Two Ways, Avocado/Soy-Lime Dressing & Spicy/Tomato/Citrus/Caviar [i'm confused, too.]

Diver Sea Scallops/Bermagot Oil/Kumquat-Vegetable Tartine

Squid and Shrimp Risotto/Garlic Porcini/Parsley

Raw Hamachi/Citrus-Herb Vinaigrette

Grilled Sardines/Bacon/Marinated Tomato/Basil

Dungeness Crab Meat/Avocado/Grapefruit Vinaigrette

Nantucket Bay Scallops/Cipollini Bouillon/Foie Gras Ravioli/Walnuts

Fish & Shellfish

Chilean Sea Bass/Acacia Honey Marinated

Yellow Fin Tuna "Surf & Turf"/Ginger Ketchup

Butter Poached Lobster/Tomato Veal Shank Jus [Whoa!]

Seared Chatham Cod/Pesto-Vegetable Minestrone/Truffle Tapenade

Crusted Halibut/Curry-Lemon GRass/Cauliflower/Pea Salad

Tasmanian Sea Trout Papillote/Ginger & Vermouth Broth

Dover Sole/Lemon-Caper Brown Butter

Roasted Wild Atlantic Turbot Steak/Sage/Black TRumpet Bouillon

Crispy Red Snapper "Cantonese Style" (for two)

Not Fish

Roasted Rack of Lamb/Herb Crust

Lemon-Rosemary Chicken

Vegetables

Baked Fennel

Sauteed Garlic Spinach

Grilled Asparagus

Braised Celery Stalk

Glazed Carrots

Salt-Crusted Sunchokes

Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

Potatoes

Parmesan Gnocchi

Pommes Soufflee

Garlic Mashed

Silver Dollars

Desserts

Grapefruit Tart/Honey Lavender Cream

Dried Apricot Bread Pudding/Nut Ice Cream/Apricot Caramel

Bitter Almond-Chocolate Soufflee/Salted Pistachio Ice Cream

Lime Mille-Feuilles/Lime Syrup Sauce

Crispy Meringue/Banana-Passion Fruit Sorbet

"Rocky Road" Chocolate-Praline Cake/Coffee Cointreau-Creme Glacee

Four-, five-, and six-course tasting menus will be available.

Chef de Cuisine is Mathieu Palombino

Pastry Chef, I believe, is Nancy Olson (also of Django)

Also, when the transformation of the Union Pacific space is complete, it will be called BLT Prime, not BLT Meat, as rumor had it.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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:raz: Had the honor of being there also. It's good to be a supplier...Most fun I have ahd in a while at an opening/tasting. I am very biased, as I service both restaurants, soon to be three, and know the qulaity of the goods they produce. Didn't have as much raw as jogoode, but I managed to sneak in quite an ample amount of the red snapper.. This is not your Fish Shack, this is great stuff.
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I'm so jealous that I wasn't there.

1. When does the third floor (second floor?) open?

2. Is that the menu for the new floor going forward, or was it just a special menu for the cocktail party?

I think the third floor -- the second floor is a space for private parties -- opens on February 28. The menu I quoted is the menu for the third floor, which they were giving out at the party. If I had been given access to the food on that menu, I'd probably still be eating.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Tonight, BLT Fish threw a cocktail party to celebrate the imminent opening of the more formal third floor. They served great food. As soon as I got upstairs, I started on a three-tiered platter of shellfish. My total oyster consumption for the night was 32; scallops, 9; and clams, 7.

Thirty-two raw oysters?!

Sniff.... I'm so proud of you JJ.

--

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Nantucket Bay Scallops/Cipollini Bouillon/Foie Gras Ravioli/Walnuts

This sounds downright dreadful. Why add all of those full flavored items to something so simply delicious as Nantucket Bay Scallops?

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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:raz: Break it down... Scallops in Fish broth, a foie gras ravioli floating next to it and some nuts as a garnish.. It works well together

Nantucket Bay Scallops/Cipollini Bouillon/Foie Gras Ravioli/Walnuts

This sounds downright dreadful. Why add all of those full flavored items to something so simply delicious as Nantucket Bay Scallops?

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I had lunch there last week. (The fish shack ground floor.) It was, as the first poster said, fine. Fine, for what it is, but it was short of being stellar for what it is. It's certainly no Cello, nor does it pretend to be. For it's shortcomings, I enjoyed my lunch, will most likely be back to the ground floor and I'm eagerly looking forward to the upstairs.

There was a selection of about nine or ten oysters pretty well split between east and west coast and they were individually priced between $1.75 and $2.65 (Kumamoto) or there abouts. Nice raw bar. Not unreasonably priced and not too ambitious to expect it to be kept fresh but enough variety to make it interesting. Some of the shortcomings in my mind no doubt are just that I'd still rather eat in France or Spain than the US and here's there's a talented French chef with a background in haute cuisine doing his damnedest to pull off a midrange American fish house. He succeeds pretty well, and maybe too well at capturing what I see as shortcomings.

For instance, why is my softshelled crab garnished with a deli pickle? The coleslaw works, but the pickle is a lead weight as a garnish for me. More to the point, there's an unnecessary and useless slice of out of season tomato. The softshelled crabs -- the season is just beginning -- were excellent if a bit small. The accompanying fries were less excellent. They're not dismal, but they'd keep me from ordering fish and chips. This place should have fries that compete with places such as Balthazar. As a matter of fact, it's the oysters and fries that get me back to Balthazar and I'd probably be raving about lunch if the fries were first rate at BLT Fish and on a regular basis.

I liked the clam chowder, which had lots of chopped clams in it. I suspect given the comments and the range of what's been said, that they're still breaking in the place and that it should keep on improving. The two tops up front are a little close for comfort, especially if the table next to you is a bit loud, but real estate is expensive in NYC.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Soon after opening the second and third floors of his restaurant, my wife and a friend spent a Saturday night in Laurent Tourandel's gourmand part of his BLT Fish. I didn't take notes since the experience was hardly noteworthy, but it's appropriate to note that New York's newest fish restaurant has sunk to the lower depths. The downstairs, which has been open for a few months is an intensely cacaphonous combination bistro and raw bar, while the upper two floors are a spare, contemporarily-designed restaurant. The menu follows the Craft forumula in that the species of fish are in one column and the sauces in another so that you can select the latter to go with the former. However, the three of us ordered a pink snapper cooked in a salt crust which they portioned out on two plates with two garnishes while throwing in a third and empty dish. Many salt grains migrated on to the flesh of the fish, making it close to inedible. Appetizers slipped my mind and desserts we bailed on. I noticed that the menu make light of offering "fish from around the world". What happened to sticking to produce from your own backyard, as they say? But listen, this is 21st-century dining in which the aspiring gourmand gets hijacked at every turn. Yes, I know, I know. I should go back since you shouldn't judge a restaurant with aspirations on one visit and a few dishes. The problem is, is that I don't like to dine alone.

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. . . The menu follows the Craft forumula in that the species of fish are in one column and the sauces in another so that you can select the latter to go with the former. . . .

That's not unlike the arrangement between meat and sauce at BLT Steak, so in that way it's not a surprise. Unfortunately, I had been hoping to hear reports that it might be more like Cello which I liked very much.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I’m said to hear about your dinner, Robert. I also had high hopes for this place. On the other hand, considering a poor experience I had downstairs, somehow I’m not surprised that the place doesn’t deliver. Other than their raw bar with more-or-less decent oysters (though some were opened poorly so that the salt water escaped, robbing the oysters of brine and resulting in their dryness), it seemed that anything that required even a slight manipulation in the kitchen, starting with a tasteless and somewhat rubbery1 ½ lb (the only size they had that day) steamed Main lobster and ending with fish and chips (heavily breaded with soggy French fries), turned out quite mediocre. I happened to take there a good friend (a native of the South of France), who was craving oysters and simple fish, for a very quick lunch (we happened to be in the area). His facial expression at the end of our meal hardly masked his distress, despite his polite attempts to smooth the corners.

I read some positive reports about the restaurant, and I can indeed believe that our light $70-per-person lunch was an unfortunate incident, but the question always comes down to whether it is worth it to give a restaurant another chance. For me, the price/quality-of-ingredients ratio, aside from the presentation, currently doesn’t spark any interest.

Edited by lxt (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...
First up is a complementary heap of deep-fried rock shrimp in the drag of Buffalo-style chicken wings, a tangy red sauce slathered over them, a pool of blue cheese spread below them and wooden forks as thin as ice cream sticks rising up from the irresistible pile.
Yuzu joins avocado, shallots and American caviar to goose a tuna tartare that's silkier and more sumptuous than most. A grapefruit vinaigrette bathes Dungeness crab meat.

BLT Fish (Frank Bruni) (placeholder link for Wednesday's DIGEST update)

Related discussion with regard to the review of BLT Fish per se can be found here.

Soba

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