Taste of Arizona: Bluewater Grill

Bluewater Grill  $$$
1720 E Camelback Road Phoenix, AZ 85016

It’s no secret that desert dwellers love the water. There are more boats per capita in Arizona than any other U.S. state. We also love our seafood. Beginning as kids with fish sticks from TV dinners and school cafeterias, all the way up to sushi and caviar, these marine marvels satisfy hunger and our yearning for exotic tropical beaches.

Over the past 20 years, Arizona has developed from a “don’t order the fish” area to a “delectable ocean and stream fare all over” kind of place. For everyone who drives the 51, there’s a familiar neon sign sticking out near Camelback Road marking the location of the Bluewater Grill. Old-timers may remember it as the Fish Market, and it’s the same ownership. The family has a small chain of California restaurants, with one of them, the Bluewater Grill, in Phoenix. There is quite a range of fish house restaurants, from corporate low-price chains all the way up to five-star pricey experiences. In the middle, there is Bluewater Grill, which is decorated like a wharf-side restaurant yet is smack dab in the middle of Phoenix.

The hostess welcomes you to choose a seat at the bar or at a booth in the dining areas. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and readily answer questions about the menu. The fresh catch is well marked on the menu and sits among their signature dishes and starters. Best of all, a warm loaf of French bread and butter arrives before they even take your drink order. Over the course of a couple of visits, here’s what I had:

Fire Grilled Artichoke  $8.25
(Split, and served with pesto aioli)

I love everything about artichokes. From the careful peeling of each leaf to get to the heart of the matter, to the increasing tenderness from the outside in, you can’t beat this fully interactive food. Served warm, this marinated, steamed and then charred artichoke makes a great appetizer. The aioli was fresh and complemented the smokiness of the artichoke.

Albacore Tuna Melt  $11.75
(Tuna salad with cheddar cheese on toasted wheat bread with your choice of one side)

Those of you, who like me are always in search of the ultimate tuna melt, can’t resist ordering it when you see it. I asked for sourdough instead of wheat and chose coleslaw as my side. Much to my delight, the cheese had a slight golden crust to it, meaning the tuna and cheese had been baked before the sandwich was grilled, a wonderful detail that was not lost on me. Bottom line, it’s good! What really stood out though was the coleslaw. Everyone knows that coleslaw can either be too heavy on the mayo or too heavy on the vinegar. This was neither, which allowed the fresh ingredients to really stand out. I can’t remember ever seeing parsley in coleslaw and was surprised at how delicious it was; it was part of the reason it tasted so fresh. Coleslaw is a must try at the Bluewater Grill.

Seared Ahi Tuna  $13.50
Ask them to hold the pancetta
(Roasted tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, lemon aioli, kaiware sprouts)

This was heaven on a plate. Perfectly seared slices of fresh tuna on a bed of roasted and crispy vegetables, all with an Asian drizzle and sesame seeds. My server offered chopsticks and a side of soy and wasabi, which I accepted, though it wasn’t necessary at all to embellish this appetizer. The tuna was rare with a nice crust, and it was an ample portion that could easily be shared by two. This is highly recommended.

Snapper, Pacific Rockfish  $19.75
Choice of two sides

I like snapper. It has a mild flavor, is firm, and grills or sautés nicely. Bluewater Grill’s version is highly seasoned and pan cooked. For sides I chose the seasoned vegetables (a squash medley) and skin-on Yukon gold cheddar mashed potatoes. The fish was nicely done but, caution again, highly seasoned. Not that it was spicy, just that I would have liked to have tasted more of the fish. The mashed potatoes were awesome, and the vegetables were very nice. It came with a lemon butter sauce on the side for dipping that I used occasionally.

Java Mud Pie  $7.95

There is no description offered on the menu, so I asked my server about it. Her eyes sort of rolled back in her head when she said, “coffee ice cream on an Oreo cookie crust with chocolate chunks throughout, topped with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce, and it’s pretty big.” She had me at coffee ice cream, so I ordered it and a cup of coffee. Let me begin by saying I have already made plans to bring a friend and go back soon for another slice. It’s like every flavor and texture of every ice cream treat you ever loved was on a plate in front of you. Though not gourmet like a creme brulee, this slice of ice cream pie was an ultimate dessert. The cup of coffee was a great complement, and I highly recommend you stop by at least for this dessert.

I do love my fish dinners, and Bluewater Grill is a moderately priced restaurant with good service and good food. The dessert was out of this world, and you can’t beat the location. The next time you’re driving on the 51 and you see the Bluewater Grill sign out of the corner of your eye, pull over and feed your ocean-loving sole (pun intended).

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