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RestaurantsSanta Cruz
July 25-August 1, 2007

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Photograph by Nicole Bowen
A Minute with Miles: Bluewater Steakhouse chef Miles Leland shows off two of his creations, ocean-fresh ahi poke and a perfectly grilled porterhouse.

A Blue Ribbon for Bluewater

Surf 'n' turf gets a welcome image makeover at Bluewater Steakhouse

By Denise Vivar

I wonder what Ira Gershwin was really thinking when he wrote the lines, You say "potato," I say "potahto"/ You like "tomato," I like "tomahto"/ "Potato," "potahto," "tomato," "tomahto" ... Did he really think they should call the whole thing off? What about complementary personalities? I like to think in the end it was an ode to love not in spite of differences but because of them. It's all about balance. Gershwin might have said, Call off the attorneys, don't throw in the towel yet, there's something to be said for a little point-counterpoint tête-à-tête ...

Take, for instance, the Bluewater Steakhouse on the Esplanade in Capitola village, which has, er, staked its claim on the sand's edge just a beach ball's throw from the breaking waves. This is the cosmic juxtaposition, the feng shui of fillet, the yin of the ocean to the yang of the steak knives, the quintessential surf to the turf.

For full effect we could have positioned ourselves out on the patio and let the ocean's spray envelop us in the fullness of the counterpoint, but we chose an indoor table to capture more of the chophouse ambience. Inside one can still enjoy an ocean view as well as take in the neon sculpture by artist Brian Coleman (very yang) suspended over the kitchen window in the modestly upscale and comfortable dining room. While we discussed the menu choices, Rachael, our friendly and attentive waitress, brought us Michael's tonic water and bitters ($2) and my Sones Petit Sirah ($11).

I was very happy to note that the chef uses organic, hormone- and pesticide-free, sustainably produced and harvested meats, seafood and produce. This choice is reflected in the menu prices—the steaks cost a fraction more than the average—but I don't mind paying more to support good animal husbandry and environmental stewardship.

We started with the Dungeness crab cakes ($12). The pair of tender crisp cakes were filled with a brilliant crab and finely chopped vegetable mixture far superior to the standard bready, drab offerings all too often passed off as appetizer fare. Surrounding the cakes was a fresh-from-the-field heirloom tomato salad dressed in a savory basil vinaigrette. Appetites well whetted, we were ready for dinner.

Steaks and chops on the menu are offered in two sizes with a choice of sauce and two side dishes. If you're smart (some may call it overbearing), you can enjoy a variety of side dishes after some tactful collaboration with your fellow diner. With my New York strip ($29) I chose the béarnaise sauce with creamed spinach and baked macaroni and cheese sides. For this I should do an extra 60 miles on the elliptical machine, but it was worth it.

Béarnaise is a challenging sauce to do really well, and this tangy, tarragon-flecked offering really measured up. The creamed spinach was a demure partner for the strong flavor of the béarnaise. My steak was a beautiful 10-ounce strip cooked perfectly medium rare, but I found it a bit more resistant to the bite than I like. Next time I might try the filet mignon ($32). The macaroni (little shells, of course!) and cheese was crazy delicious, all creamy and piquant with a crunchy quilt of crumbs to cover—my favorite of the sides.

Meanwhile, Michael was consorting with the Colorado lamb chops ($24), which were also grilled perfectly to order. His house steak sauce—a beef broth and citrus reduction—was just sweet enough to complement the chops well. He enjoyed his braised carrots and onions, which still held their bite and offered a colorful retort to the potato gratin, delicate sheaths of potato blanketed in a light cream and cheese sauce.

We didn't really need dessert, but who can say no to just a bite of molten chocolate cake ($8)? Again, point-counterpoint at play: a mini chocolate volcano cake shoring up a center of hot molten chocolate, with a polar mound of vanilla bean ice cream reigning over the top. The chocolate didn't stay hot for long with the rivers of cold cream streaming over it, but we nevertheless somehow managed to finish the entire dessert.

For a time I'll live on mounds of greens, beet salad and maybe some lean fish—just for the pleasure of appreciating the other side of the equation.

Bluewater Steakhouse

Address: Address 110 Monterey Ave., Capitola

Phone: 831.464.2583

Hours: Open daily, lunch 11am–3pm, dinner 5–10pm, Sat–Sun brunch 11am–3pm

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