Hard by the harbor, fresh seafood with panache
The Blue-Eyed Crab Grill & Raw Bar takes seafood seriously.
There’s an extensive selection of raw bar items, such as mussels, clams, steamers, and oysters. A blackboard tells diners where each day’s selections come from: crabs from Maine, tuna from Puerto Rico, mussels from Canada, scallops from Georges Bank, clams from Ipswich, oysters from Wellfleet, shrimp from Thailand, and cod from local waters.
Another blackboard announces the day’s fresh fish choices. Diners may choose one of these, served with rice, and add a “topper’’ of their choice — mango salsa, sweet chile scallion cilantro sauce, sherry ginger butter, ginger plum sauce, or avocado casino. It’s a nice way to turn the catch of the day into a custom order.
Monday and Tuesday nights feature lobster. On a recent Tuesday, a baked stuffed 1 1/4-pound lobster with scallop, shrimp, and cornbread stuffing went for $26 with two sides, and a steamed lobster with two sides was $23.
The dining room is small but charming, with decorated wooden fish suspended from the sea-blue ceiling and fresh marguerites on each table. There are also several outdoor tables shaded by umbrellas on a pretty patio filled with flowers, and they come with a view of Plymouth Harbor.
The menu at the Blue-Eyed Crab is a delightful read, full of vivid descriptions of creative and funky combinations of ingredients.But the dishes that arrive from the kitchen don’t always match the menu’s representation.
The disconnect started with the cornbread. “Here’s some fresh cornbread with maple butter,’’ our waitress announced as she placed a small loaf on the table. The cornbread was delicious, crisp on top and moist in the center, but as for the accompanying pot of butter, we could not discern even a hint of maple.
An entree of sauteed orange lime spiced wild striped bass ($23) delivered a fresh, moist piece of fish with a pleasantly crisp exterior, but the flavors of orange and lime were noticeably absent.
We expected an entree of macadamia-crusted scallops ($23) to have an actual crust, but the six scallops were topped with a soft, bready coating.
A pan-seared scallop salad ($12) fared much better: the quick cooking method enhanced the natural sweetness of the scallops, and the homemade sesame-mango vinaigrette (one of many homemade salad dressings) was just right on the fresh field greens.
Appetizers came closest to matching their menu descriptions: Crab two ways ($10) was two croquettes loaded with crab, and the accompanying crab fondue made a bright, creamy dip, sparked with a ribbon of red pepper sauce and a little olive oil. My guest, a devotee of Maryland crab cakes, deemed these deep-fried versions a little too crispy, but delicious nonetheless.
Steamed Prince Edward Island mussels ($10) arrived dramatically stacked with sticks of sliced, grilled baguette to soak up the savory broth flavored with tomatoes, garlic, parsley, lemon, and white wine.
All our food was good, and some of it was very good. But menu descriptions create specific expectations, and if they are not met, some degree of disappointment is inevitable.
The staff is unfailingly cheerful and accommodating. Our waitress answered all our questions pleasantly and authoritatively, and her good nature made the long wait for our meal (a full hour on a Sunday evening) more tolerable.
Hats off to the Blue-Eyed Crab for making fresh fish the centerpiece of its menu and turning out inventive, attractive, and tasty seafood dishes. If the menu writer and chef could just get together, we have no doubt that the resulting meals would meet everyone’s great expectations.