Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Pacific Blue on Crescent Blvd., Glen Ellyn

The space that Pacific Blue occupies, next to the Glen Theater in downtown Glen Ellyn, is tranquil, and the food ranks as some of the best served in the village. A scratch kitchen (a kitchen that cooks with fresh ingredients instead of premade, prepackaged foods), chef/co-owner Jonji Gaffud primarily prepares mouthwatering seafood items with pan-Asian influences, but the menu also offers beef, pork, poulty and pasta.

The night I visited the dining room (with my wife and 1-year-old daughter), we started with a trio of pan-seared spicy shrimp, pan-seared mini crab cakes and butter poached scallops, served with a chunky blue cheese dipping sauce ($8). It was a nice combination to start off a seafood dinner that was flavorful and not overly done with heavy sauces or overcooked. While my wife and I split the starter, it's really meant for one person (warmed bread was also brought to the table). Other tempting starters included Peeky Toe Crab with a Port-braised red onion marmalade and an ancho chile tartar sauce ($8); beef empanadas filled with potatoes, onion and carrots, served with an avocado relish ($7)--there are more as well as soup. Next I order a mixed greens salad with fresh figs, crumbled Salemville blue cheese with a balasmic dressing ($5)--the combination of ingredients was excellent, but I'd like to suggest to the chef that I while I enjoyed the dish (I'll give it a 6.5 on a scale of 1-10), I would have loved it more if the figs were warmed or roasted and if the salad was topped with toasted walnuts...a classic fall/winter salad combination. My wife had the house Pacific Blue salad, which included baby greens, herb-roasted pecans, California-artisan goat cheese, with a whole grain mustard and roasted fennel vinaigrette ($5). It was an explosion of flavor that married well. My entree was grade A grilled Hawaiian ahi tuna cooked medium, which came to the table perfectly done--slightly cooked on the outer edges, with the rest of the fish warm and still red in the middle (the way tuna should be served) was delicious. The tuna was accompanied with sweet Maui onions with lemon thyme and a sweet soy butter sauce ($22). My wife had baked crab stuffed with shrimp ($18), horseradish mashed potatoes, sauteed summer vegetables, with a Tarragon shrimp sauce. The shrimp stuffing came out moist and light, but Summer vegetables could have been replaced with Fall (root) vegetables considering it was November. Other entrees ranges from olive crusted Lake Superior whitefish ($16) to parchment-wrapped Costa Rican tilapia ($18) to American-style seafood stew ($19) and more.

For dessert, I had one of my favorites...creme brulee, prepared by pastry chef/co-owner Rita Schubert. I have lost track of how many creme brulees I have eaten, and I consider myself an expert on this particular dessert. The sugar topping was perfect--nicely browned, slightly warm and crunchy (the kind of creme brulee topping that you need to break with your spoon). You can tell it was just made...I detest when a kitchen premakes creme brulee by premelting the sugar and storing in the refrigerator until ordered. The custard was good, and real vanilla was can tell when you see black specks on the bottom of the ramekin. If liquid vanilla is used, you'd have an alcohol taste...and that's a sign of a poor kitchen. The custard was a bit firm for my liking, but it was still very rich and filled my need for something sweet.

In addition to the seafood, Gaffud also prepares pan-seared marinated pork tenderloin ($16), grilled capon breast ($15), a grilled 12 oz. ribeye ($26) and penne pasta with seafood (($18). For sides, you can order aromatic and flavorful horseradish mashed potatoes, french fries, grilled asparagus or shrimp polenta (all $3 a piece). The waitstaff is friendly, pays attention to you and is knowledgeable about wine pairings. For those diners who enjoy wine, but not a full bottle, Pacific Blue offers individual 1/2 bottles--not carafes, but actual half bottles, also referred to as a split.

For those who want to find a hide away spot, the restaurant has a "back room" where cocktails can be order and live jazz music is played Friday and Saturday's a great place to get away and not be seen. It's also kid friendly, as my daugther didn't mind our 1 1/2 hour dinner, and the restaurant didn't mind her once in while "yippie."

For more information, vist (536 Crescent Blvd., Glen Ellyn, 630/469-1080.

On a scale of 1 fork to 5 forks (1 fork is not good), I'd give Pacific Blue 3.5 forks. Happy eating! Mr. Foodie