Sunday, April 3, 2016

Blue Marlin

If you like your seafood fresh and your dining experience casual, there's a new place in Bradenton Beach that could fill the bill. In November 2012, Adam Ellis opened the Blue Marlin in the heart of historic Bridge Street where the first bridge to Anna Maria Island was located. You'll know the Blue Marlin by the vibrant blue color of this historic 1920s cottage, and once inside you will feel like you're in a seafood house in coastal Maine. Dedicated to serving only the freshest, local seafood and hearty fare, the Blue Marlin is committed to bringing you the best product the Gulf Coast has to offer.

In keeping with the feel of an intimate coastal restaurant, they retained the original wainscoting and wood flooring and cleverly built tables and benches from recycled dock wood. The walls and ceilings are painted pale blue and white with nautical artwork, black and white photos, oars and ships lanterns scattered around. Ellis' staff is made up of friends who also happen to be artists, so the original artwork in the restaurant is also for sale. There is a lovely curved bar, also hand built, and an outside covered deck they call The Trap Yard that offers live music on the weekends. The d├ęcor is deliberately understated so as not to take away from the food, which focuses on daily fresh fish brought in directly from the Cortez fishing fleet. Nautical ship-lamps provide cozy lighting at their intimate beer and wine bar.

April 2013: Keith and I called ahead for reservations after a quick search gave us a heads up that this new restaurant was quite popular and often had long wait times.  We snagged a table for two at 8:30pm, which was fine for us since we spent the day lounging at the beach and were able to get a nap in before dinner time.  My first impression of the restaurant was made by the tasteful nautical decoration and all the original artwork on display.  I especially liked the namesake blue marlins hanging on the wall.

Our server was training another young fellow this evening, so service was very attentive.  We ordered a bottle of pinot grigio to share while nibbling on a complimentary bowl of edamame - their alternative to the bread basket.  The fresh fish of the night included black grouper and tuna.  We were informed that the tuna specials were quickly selling out, but decided to skip on that this evening and instead ordered the steamed clams to start.  A large bowl of Cedar Key Little Necks steamed in white wine and garlic butter with crushed red pepper and chopped local oysters arrived with slices of garlic toast for dipping in the broth.  The clams were incredibly tender and flavorful.  Not sure if we were just hungry, or if the clams were that good, but we completely devoured the bowl and were really excited for the rest of our food to come.

For my main, I chose one of the specials of the evening - lobster linguini.  The generous dish came with large chunks of lobster with roasted tomatoes and zucchini tossed with a linguini pasta and topped with garlic toast croutons.  The pasta was piping hot and never ending in the bowl, so much that I could not finish it all.  The sweet lobster chunks were also plentiful and I really enjoyed my meal overall.  Keith chose the fresh black grouper and asked for the blackened preparation, where it was seared a house blackening and finished with lemon butter.  Instead of the staple side of peas and rice, he substituted Bridge Street Brussels - which was a hash of potatoes, bacon, and brussels sprouts.  He liked the fish and found the brussels to be unique.

Lastly, for dessert I couldn't pass up the Tropical Bread Pudding.  A warm orange-pineapple bread pudding in the shape of a large muffin arrived with sweet pineapple rum caramel and whip cream, topped with pecans.  Even though I was full from my large pasta dish, I still managed to finish this dessert. It was excellent - not too sweet and just the right amount of "tropicalness".  All in all, the seafood at Blue Marlin is superb and highlights local and seasonal offerings. Also to be noted was the call to attention of many gluten-free items available on the menu.  This seemed to be a trend here in Anna Maria Island, as many restaurants offered it.

April 2016:  We returned to Anna Maria Island for a quick weekend visit. While here, we also had to return to the Blue Marlin.  Still seemingly popular, we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table even though we had reservations.  While waiting outside, a couple who walked by remarked "This is the best restaurant in town!"  Once seated, we ordered a bottle of 2015 Indaba Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa.  It was light and citrusy with forward notes of grass and grapefruit.

For appetizers, we shared the Steamed Clams - Cedar Key Little Necks steamed in white wine with crushed red pepper & chopped local oysters.  We had these at our first visit and they stood out as being great, so we knew we had to order them again.  So happy we did.

I had the Shrimp & Grits - Large Gulf shrimp rolled in Cajun spices, served with cheesy grits with bacon and scallions.  The shrimp were plump and sweet, and the sauce was not overly spicy.  I really enjoyed this dish.

Keith chose the fresh black grouper and asked for the Fulford preparation, where it was egg-washed and sauteed with lemon butter and garlic.  Instead of the staple side of peas and rice, he substituted Bridge Street Brussels - which was a hash of potatoes, bacon, and brussels sprouts.  The fish was fresh, but he only wished there was more lemon flavor.

For dessert, we shared the Guava Lime Pie.  The shortbread crust was classic and the passion fruit puree gave a tropical twist.

The service and food was just as great as our first visit, and we highly recommend this restaurant to others who visit AMI.

Total Rating: 4
Food: 4, Price: 4, Service: 4, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 4

What I ate:

Steamed Clams
Cedar Key Little Necks steamed in white wine
with crushed red pepper & chopped local oysters

Lobster Linguini
large chunks of lobster with roasted tomatoes and zucchini
and garlic toast croutons

Tropical Bread Pudding
Warm orange-pineapple bread pudding,
pineapple rum caramel and “big country” pecans

Plus Keith ate:

Blackened Black Grouper
seared in a house blackening and finished with lemon butter
served with Bridge Street Brussels

Blue Marlin on Urbanspoon

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