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Lindsay

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Thursday
Jul072011

Dinner - and a job offer - at BLT Fish

*THIS RESTAURANT HAS SINCE CLOSED*
  • Restaurant  BLT Fish
  • Cuisine  seafood
  • Location  21 W. 17th St. (between 5th & 6th Avenues), 2nd level, Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-691-8888
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  casual elegance, bright (entire ceiling is a skylight), natural colors, beach-y
  • Attire  business casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, romantic dates, foodies
  • Price  expensive, however, there is a less pricey "fish shack" concept located downstairs

To call any one of the BLT restaurants a "hidden gem" is kind of like describing Manhattan as "tranquil."  However, in the case of BLT Fish - quietly positioned over the less inhibited, raucous BLT Fish Shack - the term "hidden gem" fits like a glove. 

Diners who have plans and/or reservations for BLT Fish must first check-in at a centralized hostess stand that is located on ground level, in BLT Fish Shack.  From there, they are escorted via glass elevator to the second floor, which houses BLT Fish.  

Photo: BLT FishHaving arrived a couple of minutes shy of my aunt and cousin, I had the opportunity to admire BLTF's (BLTF = BLT Fish) interior space.  My eyes - and mood - lit up when I noticed that the entire circumference of the ceiling was a skylight, which allowed for natural interior illumination and an undeniably cool urban view, dotted with brick building tops and fire escapes.  Floral arrangements were few, but aired on the side of grand, in terms of size.  The color palette of the room was neutral, evoking subtle coastal and beach hues.  I felt transported, if only for a couple of hours.

"Gonna b cpl mins late," read Eric's text.  The poor kid was coming from his prep course for the NY State (law) bar exam, after all.  It was no bother, really, as I kept myself happily occupied studying both BLTF's dinner and evening specials menus.  And nursing the $14 glass of Chianti that I had quickly purchased at the bar, downstairs.

Phyllis, Eric, his full-grown beard, and one of the largest "study guides" that I have ever seen in my life arrived promptly after I had received his text.  Our server approached with additional menus and inquired as to whether they wanted a cocktail/glass of wine.  Having given us an ample amount of time to peruse both menus (nightly and specials), the three of us decided to split an appetizer and each order our own entrees. 

Moments after placing our order, we were presented with an amuse bouche which, on this particular evening, consisted of: tempura-shrimp lollipops, celery slaw, and a buttermilk ranch/celery-seed dipping sauce.

The shrimp were perfectly cooked - not too chewy - and the buttery, crunchy, tempura batter which encrusted them was still warm.  The use of celery, both in the slaw and the dressing/dip, added elements of cool, crisp, and balance to an otherwise heavy dish. 

I'll put it like this: if I had the option to order this as an entree, I would have done so without question.

Just when I thought that, for the time being, things could not possibly get much better, the "bread basket" arrived.  Three plump, fresh-from-the-oven Cheddar & Chive Biscuits, a small dish of sea-salted maple butter, and a mini recipe card for each were neatly arranged on a wooden slab of butcher block.

P.S. Their little "mini recipe card" marketing ploy worked!  BLTF's biscuits were so delicious, in fact, that I posted the recipe last week!

The next dish to arrive from the kitchen was our appetizer, the Big Eye Tuna Carpaccio.  Thinly-sliced sushi-grade tuna was liberally topped with nicoise olive tapenade, house-made crouton bits, and artichoke confit.  The constructed plate, alone, was a work of art and almost too gorgeous to bring myself - or my fork - to disassemble and eat.  Luckily, I'm not that in to art.  

I appreciated the thought behind BLTF's version of tuna carpaccio because it was so cleverly deconstructed.  While some may have balked at the sight of croutons atop the raw fish, I found it to be a brilliant method of incorporating the crostini/toast point that often accompanies this dish.

Before I brag about mine, I want to share some fantastic photos of the entree that my aunt and cousin split.  Having completed a work/study program in Hong Kong recently, the "Crispy Red Snapper 'Cantonese Style' Whole Fish" is the BLTF menu item that captured Eric's eye.  "I've been craving this dish since my return," he exclaimed.  "I wonder if they'll let me eat the eyeballs?!?"  Ew.  He was serious. 

Just as our server was almost finished de-boning the snapper, a startled Eric jumped from the table.  "I have to take this," he whispered towards his mom, "it's Singapore!"  As he stepped away to take the phone call, Phyllis explained that Eric had been interviewing with a British law firm for a position at their Singapore office. 

Moments later, a stoic Eric returned to the table.  He sat down - placed his napkin back in to his lap - and glanced at each one of us.  "I got the job!"  Eric said, as his face melted in to the most adorable smile.

With Eric's announcement came the arrival of our entrees.  I ordered the perfectly-seared Diver Scallops, which were served over creamy dollups of sweet corn polenta and crowned with shaved black "summer" truffles.   

After our meal, we were presented with a gratis serving of homemade green-apple cotton candy and a plate of petit-fours.  What a sweet way to end such a memorable evening!

~

Conclusion: my experience at BLTF - food, ambience, service, company - was perfect.  There was not one aspect of my dinner that was missing, subpar or, even, mediocre.  I was more than pleased on all accounts.  And to further add to my delicious meal, Eric received an incredible job offer - in Asia - while awaiting the arrival of his favorite Asian dish - alongside me, his cousin and friend, who came all the way to Hong Kong to visit him during his first go-round.

Here's to round-two, Eric!  I love you. 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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