Chef Marc Elliot, the Grateful Dead enthusiast
and seafood maven of Cobble Hill, has relocated.
In January, he closed his first restaurant, Whim, on Degraw Street. Just one month later, he opened its successor, Blue Star, in the former Latin Grill space on Court Street. The new restaurant, named after the Dead song "Stella Blue," is nearly three times the size of Whim.
The Latin Grill’s large room was heavily tiled in watery tones of aqua with a glamorous, Miami diner ambience that made a great backdrop for the restaurant’s Latin cooking. It works well as a setting for Blue Star, too.
In his move to bigger environs, Elliot forfeited some of the intimate charm of his first restaurant, but the new space still reflects his quirky personality. On Blue Star’s deep-green walls, six aquatic lovelies swim above the heads of diners, keeping company a single stuffed shark, Whim’s first mascot. And Whim’s lone waitress has been swapped for a bevy of beauties: guys that is, all great looking, a little distracted and with lots of tattoos.
Unfortunately, they play the music too loud, especially when the restaurant is not jam-packed. It made me wonder whether the music was on for the diners or the staff. It is, however, something easily remedied.
Elliot’s house cocktails are "Greatfully deadicated" to the band. The "Garcia-Tinis" include Mexicali Blues (tequila, O.J. and Curacao) and Fire on the Mountain (Bacardi cocoa, pineapple juice, orange juice and grenadine) among others. There’s a well-priced wine list with descriptions that you won’t find in the New York Times Dining Section.
"I’ve been known to drink a whole bottle on a Saturday night," writes Elliot about a Riesling.
His menu is heavy on seafood with a few southwestern or Asian-inspired meat dishes. The fried Fanny Bay oysters from the West Coast were utterly delicious - the best I’ve ever had. Each oyster is given a dip in light, curry-laced batter before frying. The result is crackling crisp on the outside, as creamy as a marshmallow inside, with a subtly briny taste. The plump puffs are served atop onions cut into paper-thin slices before frying.
Yes, it’s a fry-fest.
But even with the pairing of oil-with-oil and salt-with-salt, it isn’t too much of a good thing. We gobbled down every oyster and fistfuls of the onion rings.
The night’s special, a ceviche of salmon and shrimp, was less successful. Ceviche is traditionally made from mild-flavored fish and shellfish cut into thin slices or diced small. The fish marinates in citrus juice until the acid in the juice "cooks" the fish. This ceviche was sliced into large chunks, like seafood salad, that distracted a bit from the delicacy of the dish. And, while the salmon’s deep flavor was lightened by its soak in the lime, lemon and orange juices, the fish’s assertive flavor overpowered the dish.
A winner was the "Dragonfish," an entire fish "flash fried" and drizzled with hot wasabi sauce. That evening’s choice was yellowtail snapper, which has a sweet, clean flavor. The fish was served whole - head and tail intact - fried until its skin was lightly crusty and its interior moist. Everything about the dish, from its just-off-the-boat freshness, to the simple trio of fish, tartly dressed greens and wasabi mayonnaise was delightful.
Elliot’s turf is as good as his surf. He serves a massive short rib that is slowely braised in soy sauce, garlic, sugar and star anise until it falls off the bone. The sauce is deep and nutty with the slightly bitter licorice flavor of the anise. Mashed potatoes and daikon, an Asian radish, accompanies the meat. When the radish is braised, it loses its bite, absorbs the flavor of the sauce and takes on the texture of a pear.
The dessert menu is for grown up kids who want their sophisticated palates acknowledged. There’s a cappuccino chocolate pudding with whipped cream and a cookie; an ice cream sandwich made with peanut butter cookies and chili-flavored chocolate ice cream "swimmin’ in chocolate syrup"; and three scoops of house-made ice cream with flavors such as carrot, caramel and chocolate jalapeno.
I’d avoid the banana bread pudding, which was as dense and dry as its ample serving was imposing. Elliot uses cinnamon raisin bagels. It’s a cute idea but not a good one.
Two or three diners with big appetites, or six who just want a taste of something sweet, should try the chocolate sushi. Fudgy slices of a pate made with Valrhona chocolate are rolled in shredded coconut that resembles rice. The slices come with a ramekin of Kahlua, two tiny scoops of wasabi ice cream and a little bundle of candied ginger. A spoonful of the bitter chocolate dipped into the coffee-flavored liqueur, a tiny smear of the intriguing ice cream - at once hot and cold - and a bit of the spicy-sweet ginger, tastes like the lusciously boozy, dark chocolate truffles one finds in better chocolate shops.
Blue Star (254 Court St. between Kane and DeGraw streets in Cobble Hill) accepts cash only. Entrees: $8-$22. The restaurant serves lunch Wednesday through Friday; dinner is served seven nights a week. On Saturday and Sunday, brunch is served from 11 am to 3 pm. For information, call (718) 858-5806.