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October 18-24, 2006

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First Bite

Bluewater Bistro

By Therese Nicol

With the trend toward flash instead of substance, it's the simple things that often get overlooked. I've got just enough German in me to insist upon things like reliability, punctuality and substance. This hunger for order (and my renowned hunger for food) are the reasons that the Bluewater Bistro at the Links at Bodega Harbour speaks to my most primal self. It's a well-oiled Bosch engine that not only runs, it hums.

I appreciated that a simple call ahead of time got us immediate seating in front-row seats to a coppery Bodega Bay sunset. Our sleek oil lamp was lit with an air of ceremony just as the last sliver of sun melted into the horizon.

The menu is short and to the point, another pleasant departure from the Cheesecake Factory mentality that once engendered a 40-page bill of fare. We began our feast with coastal steamed mussels ($8.50) and Dungeness crab cakes ($11.50). Both dishes arrived promptly and were as beautiful to look at as they were to ingest. The crab cakes were a bit smaller than we expected them to be, but the payoff was their meaty flavor, especially good with the complement of tarragon aioli. The huge portion of plump, earthy mussels rested in a chili, basil and coriander broth that was so luscious I couldn't stop myself from sopping it up with the warm, crusty Bennett Valley Bakery bread. (So, all right—I didn't even try to stop.)

For his main course, my husband chose the special Alaskan halibut ($24.50). It's easy to go wrong with halibut, but here the chef used a delicate hand to leave this noble flounder moist and flavorful, while still managing to etch in a deeply caramelized outer layer. Nestled into a bed of sautéed corn, basil and tomatoes, it was summer on a plate. For my part, I chose the filet mignon ($26.50). It, too, was served upon its accompaniments, emerald green spinach and magnificent scalloped potatoes, a chubby cushion of bright flavor and homey richness. A fairy dusting of French-fried onion snippets provided crunch to every bite.

The grand finale was a fete of art both visual and gustatory. A snowy white rectangle arrived laden with a geometry lesson: a triangle of caramel apple tart ($5.50), an orb of vanilla ice cream and a sphere of whipped cream. Half of the cream was elegantly draped in apricot purée and the other side in pomegranate red raspberry sauce. Every bite was better than the last, as we adjusted to the perfect ration of elements.

Bluewater Bistro isn't a night-spot for the hipster hell bent on sipping slinky sloe gin fizzes. This is the place for family anniversaries, birthdays and other rites of passage. The overall ambiance of Bluewater Bistro is relaxing and rejuvenating. The food is traditionally delicious, the chairs are unfashionably comfortable and the service is warm and reassuring. Without a doubt, we'll be back.

Bluewater Bistro, 21301 Heron Drive, Bodega Bay. Open for lunch daily; dinner, Thursday-Saturday; breakfast, Saturday-Sunday. 707.875.3513.

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Quick-and-dirty dashes through North Bay restaurants. These aren't your standard "bring five friends and order everything on the menu" dining reviews.