Thursday, June 2, 2011

What do you call a fish with no eyes? FSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

For the approximately 10 years I've been in Columbia, I've been told to go to the Blue Marlin more times than I can count.  More often than not, I was told to go to try the shrimp & grits (not really an option for me, sorry), but was assured that everything else was pretty tasty too.  I finally got around to taking all of the unsolicited advice last weekend.  A restaurant that specializes in Low Country (that's the lower part of SC, primarily coastal, that is located below sea level) cuisine and features chefs who were invited to cook at the James Beard House?  How could I possibly have a bad experience?

I couldn't.  R and I had a blast (minus the screaming children in one corner).  The Blue Marlin looks like it should be a fancy restaurant, but is really pretty laid back.  I wouldn't recommend showing up in your gym clothes, but there's certainly no need to overdo it.  I would say that the summer-in-SC uniform of khakis (shorts or pants), polo, and boat shoes were the norm for men, while most of the ladies grabbed a sundress and sandals from their closets.  Of course, that might also have been because it was an unbearably hot and humid evening, but still.

Right.  Onto the important stuff.  Wine.  We usually order a bottle when we go out, and, truth be told, this Hungry Lady doesn't deal well with children in general, especially ones who scream, and I was very tempted to order something stronger.  But we settled on the Bollini Pinot Grigio.  I liked it.  It was delicate and fruity and pretty well-balanced.  Plus it was cold, which was a nice touch change from the heat of the outdoors.

We ordered an appetizer to start (obviously).  I had been perusing the menu for a few days before we actually went to dinner, and desperately wanted to try the Crab and Spinach fondue.  Wouldn't you?  Fresh crab, creamy spinach, and melted cheese with garlic toast points?  Sounded fabulous.  And it was...mostly.  The flavor was delicious, the toast points were crunchy, the cheese was perfectly melted and a bit browned, and the spinach was plentiful.  What wasn't so plentiful was the crab.  At least not on my side of dish.  R kept grinning every time he would find a piece of crab, and that happened quite a bit.  So while I was a bit disappointed in the lack of crab, it appeared that it was just not evenly spread out through the fondue.  Still delicious though.  But very heavy.  I may have eaten too much of it (in my defense, I was sure that I would find some crab if I just kept eating), and was pretty close to full by the time we decided we'd had enough.  Probably a good app to get if you have more than two people.

I LOVED how perfectly done the cheese was on top.
For dinner, R didn't get what he really wanted (shrimp & grits), and decided to try the fish special for that night.  I'm glad he did, because a) I couldn't have tried the shrimp & grits, and b) the fish was Amberjack, which is something I had never had before.  I think in the end, R was pretty pleased with his decision as well.  The amberjack was served with a topping of pineapple & pepper slaw (red and green poblanos) and had spinach and Yukon gold potatoes on the side.  Talk about some heat.  The peppers added such an awesome spice element.  I think that the pineapple must have been marinated with the peppers, because every time I stole one from R's plate (and that happened quite a bit), I would get this great sweet grilled pineapple flavor to start and then just an explosion of spice as an aftertaste.  It was fantastic.  

Just a wonderful mountain of flavor.
My decision on what to order was a little easier than R's.  I had to eliminate everything that featured shrimp, so about half of the menu was off-limits.  That kind of bummed me out because so many things looked dishes I would love to try.  Silly food allergy.  At any rate, I finally settled on the swordfish.  Don't kill me for saying this, but after the first bite, I looked at R and said, "this really does taste like chicken."  He didn't believe me, tried a bite, and agreed.  In truth it really only had a chicken-y taste around the edges.  By the time I was a few bites in, the fish taste emerged.  I'd never had swordfish before, and I've discovered that I like it.  At least the way it was prepared at Blue Marlin.  It was marinated in honey and cilantro and topped with red pepper slaw.  It was served with Yukon gold potatoes and asparagus.  I loved it.  I ate every single thing on the plate, even though I was still pretty full from our appetizer.  I'm just so glad that I found something tasty that didn't require me to painstakingly pick out shrimp from my dish.

Yes, I really did eat all of the food on this plate.  I would have licked up the sauce too, if we hadn't been in public.
Love the decorative drizzles of sauce.
Somehow, we both managed to find room for dessert.  We should have just ordered one dessert and shared it, but where's the fun in that?  R decided to go for the Blackout Cake, which was really just a rather large, gooey brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, hot caramel, and hot fudge.  I don't think he managed to eat half of it.  It was decadent and sweet, and definitely made for sharing.

I could eat this every day and not get tired of it.
I had the Creme Brulee Cheesecake (I promise that one day I will order something other than cheesecake.  Really) and a cup of coffee.  The coffee was disappointing, but then again, I'm picky. Most people wouldn't care, but I'm a coffee snob.  But might I recommend something?  Double filter.  It works every time to make the coffee smoother.  The cheesecake on the other hand, was delicious.  It was creamy with a great vanilla wafer crust.  It was plated on an utterly amazing strawberry sauce, and topped with a bit of whipped cream.  I wanted to finish this more than anything, but I just couldn't do it.  It was huge, but I made a good effort.  

Lesson learned though.  Next time, order an appetizer OR dessert.  Not both.  Definitely not both.  Well, either that or hire a personal trainer to help me battle the insane number of calories I consumed on Saturday night.  Or I guess I could just join a gym.  Or not.

Bottom line?  Blue Marlin definitely lived up to the hype.  They are certainly known for their shrimp & grits, but for those of us unable to consume shrimp, there are still wonderfully tasty options.  I would most definitely recommend it, especially if you're looking for good seafood in the area.  Thanks to the wonderful staff at Blue Marlin, who checked in several times to make sure that we were enjoying ourselves.  We certainly appreciated the experiences, and will be back sooner rather than later.  I mean, it's not like I'll be able to stay away from the cheesecake.....

Final Rating: 

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