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On the Menu: Culinary voyage explores local fish delights at OB’s Blue Water Seafood

Blue Water Seafood's ahi salad with seared sea salt, cracked black pepper and sesame seeds.
(Ashley@stillhungrystrobes)

The fresh, salty sea air, killer views of the Pacific and the wide selection of local, wild and sustainable fish lure seafood fans to Blue Water Seafood in Ocean Beach.

The queue out the door of Blue Water Seafood on Santa Monica Avenue in Ocean Beach is longer than a braid fishing line cast out to sea by a skilled angler.

The fresh, salty sea air, killer views of the blue Pacific from the sprawling, rustic patio, and the wide selection of local, wild and sustainable fish so fresh that it was probably swimming in the waters off San Diego that morning lures discriminating seafood fans, from loyal locals to seasonal tourists.

Blue Water Seafood is at 5083 Santa Monica Ave. in Ocean Beach.
(Camila Badaro)

Brothers Judd and Matt Braun, denizens of Ocean Beach, grew up in and around the water, whether surfing, diving or fishing, and fell in love with the bountiful treasures of the sea. Judd soon got hooked on the culinary aspects of seafood preparation and presentation during his tutelage at several high-end coastal restaurants.

The budding restaurateur had a vision of scaling down the lofty image of seafood into an approachable delight readily available and offered at neighborhood fish markets. Judd and Matt dove in head first, transitioning from blue collar to Blue Water, and in 2004 launched their first restaurant on India Street in Mission Hills.

They soon gained national exposure when their piscivore’s paradise was featured on the Food Network’s popular “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” hosted by Guy Fieri.

By 2018, the Braun family brand set anchor at Petco Park in downtown San Diego and at Ocean Beach, the latter providing a warm, woodsy, nautical decor punctuated by giant fiberglass molds of rooster fish, mahi mahi and yellowtail, along with walls plastered with framed awards.

The interior decor at Blue Water Seafood includes mahi mahi (left) and rooster fish (right).
(Judd Braun)

“It’s no trick,” Judd said. “We do our very best to buy wild-caught, sustainable fish that we either catch ourselves or buy from local fishermen. Our purveyors handpick the freshest, most responsibly sourced seafood on the planet, which translates to mouth-watering morsels.”

Those include bourbon butter scallops, grilled shrimp sandwich on a soft bolillo roll, the award-winning Del Mar Racetrack taco, wasabi and sesame-crusted ahi, lemon and garlic butter local halibut salad, and classic tomato-based cioppino swimming with scallops, mussels, clams, chunks of fish and shrimp, with a toasted slice of jalapeño bread.

Blue Water Seafood's cioppino, or seafood stew
(Judd Braun)

The menu also incorporates a do-it-yourself component with a choice of grilled, wild-caught, local fish (white and black sea bass, yellowtail, calamari, Scottish salmon, bluefin, mahi mahi, Hawaiian wahoo), marinade (ginger butter, lemon butter, lemon garlic butter, teriyaki, blackened, chipotle, bourbon butter and brown sugar bronzed), and type (sandwich, salad, plate or taco).

The eye-popping fish market display case at the entrance features oceanic treasures freshly cut to order to enjoy at home, including leopard grouper, diver scallops, jumbo Mexican white shrimp, local halibut and swordfish, clams and mussels, along with prepared dishes such as seaweed salad, salmon and ahi poke and red snapper ceviche.

The display case at the entrance of Blue Water Seafood features fresh fish cut to order.
(Judd Braun)

The menu boasts, “If it swims or crawls in the ocean, we can probably get it,” and the establishment takes requests for special orders of delicacies such as sablefish and baquetta grouper.

“While everyone claims to serve fresh seafood, we do the hard work and ... provide a true product that you will undoubtedly taste on your first visit and every one after that,” Matt said. “We stand behind it, and so do our friends, family and purveyors out on the water bringing fresh seafood to our shop every day of the year.”

The Brauns recently acquired a full liquor license at the Ocean Beach location, which will coincide with the transition to full table service by spring or summer. Award-winning mixologist Jahmal Bento, on loan from sister location La Doña cantina, will be taking the helm at the new bar with custom cocktails and vodka and oyster shooters. Bottoms up!

Blue Water Seafood

Where: 5083 Santa Monica Ave., Ocean Beach

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, except Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter (hours are currently shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic)

Information: (619) 255-8497 or bluewaterseafoodsandiego.com

Recipe

Ahi salad with seared sea salt, cracked black pepper and sesame seeds

Blue Water Seafood’s ahi and bluefin tuna arrive fresh daily and are hand-cut to order.

1 6-ounce ahi steak

1½ teaspoons sesame oil

4 tablespoons black sesame seeds

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

In a mixing bowl, combine salt, pepper and sesame seeds. Coat the fish in the sesame oil, then roll in the dry mixture until generously coated on all sides. Flame-grill or pan-fry in an oiled cast-iron skillet. Sear two minutes on each side or until cooked to a tender pink center, or desired doneness.

Slice the ahi into thin strips and fan out over a fresh mixed green salad with sliced avocado. Drizzle with vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing.

Courtesy of Matt Braun


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