One of the marvels of modern times is that we can get fresh seafood in the desert.
And that's exactly what Bluefin specializes in: fish.
There are cod and lobster and shrimp and ahi and sea bass and - well, you get the idea.
The recently opened hip restaurant in Casas Adobes Plaza - brought to us by the folks at Kingfisher - is a veritable ocean of seafood choices. That's a little bit of an exaggeration. OK, a big exaggeration. But it does have a fish menu that could be the most varied and exciting in town.
Bluefin has a cool ambience, with a bar downstairs and live music on weekends. Upstairs, there are big arched windows and cozy tables and booths. The service is friendly, fast and efficient.
And you'll want that fast and efficient service - understandably, you'll be eager to chow down on the fish; they know how to do it right at Bluefin.
There were very few missteps during a couple of recent visits.
The sea bass ($19), for example. Though the chunk was very small for an entree, the firm, white fish was grilled to moist perfection. The mild fish was given a simple finish with a roasted lemon butter sauce - though a rock shrimp relish and roasted garlic tomato vinaigrette were also choices.
The scallops ($19) were a thrilling success. Baked in a roasted shallot cream sauce and with a crust of Parmesan cheese and fresh rosemary, the large sea scallops came to the table sizzling. More important, they came cooked so that the sweet flesh retained its full flavor and was like velvet when it was bitten into. The slightly crunchy crust added another dimension of flavor and texture. It's very easy to overcook scallops, and when you do, they become rubbery balls without flavor or interest.
No bouncy balls at Bluefin.
Bluefin's bouillabaisse ($28) was a spectacular-looking dish, with a lobster tail sticking out of it and shrimp, scallops, mussels and more settled in the deep-dish bowl. Adding color to the broth were fresh tomatoes and carrots, and a slice of sourdough toast with a fat spoonful of the spicy rouille on top.
The broth was sublime, with all the rich flavors of the fish and a pinch of saffron to give it an exotic edge.
But the bouillabaisse fell victim to a common problem with the stew - overcooked fish. The lobster was a touch tough; ditto the shrimp and scallops. Not overdone enough to ruin the dish, mind you, but enough to disappoint.
Not one bit disappointing, however, were the lush pan-fried cod cakes ($16) sitting on top of al dente fettuccine picked up with garlic and curry. The cod cakes were crispy on the outside, smooth in, and matched up beautifully with the fettuccine tossed with a buttery cream.
Appetizers are plentiful and delectable, especially the crab risotto cakes ($11). Though a little light on the crab, the risotto gave the cakes a twist on the traditional appetizer - a much more interesting filler than bread crumbs - and the spicy Tabasco aioli set off the saffron-laced cakes.
Dessert choices are more limited.
But, oh, what heaven. The crème brûlée ($8) was a silky sensation, without an eggy taste, spiked with vanilla bean and with a thin, sugary crust. Quite possibly the best in town.
What didn't work were the profiteroles ($7) - miniature cream puffs filled with rich vanilla ice cream and topped with hot fudge. On both occasions when this dessert was sampled, the cream puffs were tough and chewy.
But then the torta negra ($8) was bitten into. The flourless chocolate cake was dense and moist and made with a fine, very intense chocolate. The dollop of whipped cream on the side was superfluous.
Expectations are often high when a new restaurant opens in town, but they aren't always met.
In this case, they are met. And exceeded.