If you're looking to open a restaurant in Fort Worth, common sense may say to steer clear of 6115 Camp Bowie Blvd., the strip mall where a handful of restaurants have come and gone recently.
The last two, the Ridglea Jazz Cafe and All Star Sports Bar, were open less than a year.
Obviously hoping to break that losing streak is The Blu Crab Seafood House & Bar, which took over the space occupied by All Star and, before it, Cafe Aspen. Opened in March, Blu Crab comes from a team of restaurateurs who own Yourway Burgers and Pho Noodle & Grill in Fort Worth, as well as Mango's Noodle House & Sushi Bar in Farmers Branch.
In the kitchen is chef Jason Stephens, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in his home state of Florida. Most recently, he was executive chef at downtown's Cowtown Diner and The Links at Land's End, a resort in Yantis, in East Texas.
As the name implies, there is a blue theme: blue booths, blue lights, blue artwork and, of course, a blue marlin hanging on the wall. The restaurant has a clean, sleek look, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, a sidewalk patio and a happening bar area with TVs and pretty bartenders.
It's a much nicer atmosphere than at Yourway, but there's one similarity: Blu Crab has adopted Yourway's build-your-own-burger concept for its fish entrees. You choose from seven types of fish, ranging from salmon to red snapper; how you want it cooked, grilled, blackened or pan-seared; and the topping sauce, of which there are six. Then you choose two of a dozen sides, including cheese grits, fries and coleslaw.
Blu Crab also borrows a bit from Mango's, in that you can also order crawfish, shrimp and crab by the pound, along with lobster tails, all market price. Steaks, salads, sandwiches and fried options round out the menu.
Some of the prices are on par with Eddie V's and other high-dollar seafood restaurants. The least expensive entree is a terrific $9 catfish po-boy, nearly a foot long, served at lunch. Dinner entrees range from $16 for catfish and tilapia to $35 for sea bass, with most of the prices in the $22-$26 range. Appetizers go up to $14.
During our visits, the food was too inconsistent to completely justify the prices. Some dishes were very good. Others didn't live up to their four-star price tags, such as the bigeye tuna appetizer ($14). Served in a row, one leaning against another, the raw, small cuts of tuna were plentiful -- there were 10 -- but were barely seared and underseasoned.
What the menu had described as accompanying avocado salsa was guacamole that had browned on top. Prettily dotted on the plate were large drops of wasabi aioli that, despite a good, spicy flavor, could not bring the tuna to life.
A single blue crab ($5), also ordered as an appetizer, came from the market menu. It arrived in a covered dish, claws on the side, drenched in a spicy Cajun sauce, with a small corncob and single red potato. Our server and a manager told us that the seafood arrives daily and is not frozen, but that's how the crab was served, its insides so cold that ice was still present.
We sent it back and it was replaced, after our entrees had arrived, with a piping-hot crab and an explanation from the server that if that day's arrivals do not sell, they are frozen overnight and served the next day. After cracking open the crab's shell, we found moist and flavorful meat.
Our favorite appetizer was a cup of seafood gumbo ($6), filled with bits of crawfish, sliced andouille sausage, white rice and green onions; it was simple and pleasant.
For a fish entree, we ordered red snapper ($26), grilled and topped with the house specialty Blu Crab sauce ($5). The fish was well-cooked, tender, flaky and not overly fishy. Good call on the sauce: Made with tarragon, roasted garlic and jumbo lump crab, the white sauce was a nice balance of rich and spicy, and perfectly complemented the fish. A side of dirty rice, with bits of ground beef and celery, was good, but the "gourmet onion rings," with plain, smooth golden batter, were anything but.
We weren't able to get through the Bourbon Street pasta ($19), a large serving of linguine doused in a red sauce of bourbon and roasted tomatoes and topped with large grilled shrimp and andouille sausage. While the shrimp and generous chunks of sausage were both right-on, the pasta had been overcooked, so much so that portions of it stuck to the plate. The sauce was bitter.
Our server said desserts were made in-house and he recommended creme brulee ($8). Served flambéed, it was nearly perfect, its hard caramel top giving way to a silky, faintly rich custard. As good as it was, there was no reason it should have cost as much as it did, a recurring theme here that left us quite blue.