Monday, September 21, 2015

Blue Sand Seafood & Grill Brings A Seafood Riff To Korean Food On Rte 40: Raw, Grilled, Soup

Seafood dolset
As I'm getting better at understanding Korean food, I feel like the Korean food is getting better in Ellicott City.

The newest find:  Blue Sand Seafood and Grill, which opened in the back of the Bethany 40 shopping center and served a delicious dinner -- fresh, flavorful seafood that tasted authentic, but would also welcome folks looking to try Korean food.

Now, it's just one meal.  But I'm incredibly optimistic.  We had a kid-friendly noodle soup, grilled fish and a seafood rice bowl.  Everyone left happy, even though we hadn't touched the flashy stuff at the heart of the menu.

I say flashy stuff because the restaurant and the menu put the sushi bar and the enormous platters front and center.  We watched hand rolls go past us.  We saw enormous platters -- primarily of sashimi on the night that we visited, but ranging from broiled fish to shellfish to thin-sliced beef on the menu.

Grilled mackerel
We started simple.  Grilled mackerel, seaweed noodle soup, and a dolset seafood.  The dolset is a hot stone bowl filled with rice, vegetables, squid and a shrimp.  This is an ocean version of the dolset bi bim bap that I recommend in my Korean 101 post.

This was really good food.  Mackerel comes split and grilled.  The meat is firm and meaty.  The flavor a step stronger than salmon, but that keeps the meat moist even cooked through.  We pulled the backbone and the fish came off in chunks even with chop sticks.

We alternated with the seafood dolset.  I'm a huge fan of squid, and this was cooked perfectly, firm but not chewy.  Some greens, scallions and other vegetables made the bowl filling but light.  I added some of the spicy sauce served with the dolset, maybe a tablespoon too much for Mrs. HowChow.

In contrast, Blue Sand's seaweed soup was mild.  It was perfect for Lil' Chow, who loves soup, noodles and seaweed.  I'd recommend it, although I may stick him with miso next time and try the spicy seafood noodle soup myself.

I'd actually love advice on other things to order.  I have posted many times about Korean food, but I'm an amateur.  Can anyone leave a comment with suggestions for Blue Sand or for Korean seafood in general?  A group could have a ball ordering those platters or maybe filling a table with grilled fish, soup, a dolset and some sushi.  I also see that Blue Sands could be a spot for people with adventurous tastes like sea squirt and live sashimi.

But I'd recommend our three dishes even for someone just learning about Korean food.  Or consider swapping out the soup for a sushi order or hwae dup bap -- a rice and sashimi mixture that I posted about last year.  That's all accessible and obvious.  Plus, you'll get a good introduction, especially because the small dishes served with the meal -- called panchan -- were really good.  The cabbage kimchi had a crunchy and a warm, but not sour flavor.  The stuffed cucumber kimchi was crisp and refreshing, a terrific taste after some grilled mackerel.

"Push button" -- Lil' Chow
If you work near Rte 40, Blue Sand offers several lunch specials for $11-14, including bento boxes headlined by sashimi, sushi, kalbi and salmon.  Blue Sand replaced the Kimco Seafood restaurant, which I don't remember having as an interesting or as tasty a menu.

If you go to Blue Sands, look for the numbered button near your table.  Many are on the walls at Blue Sands, but they can be on the table at other restaurants.  When you want something, push the button.  Often, the staff in a Korean restaurant doesn't check back with a table.  They wait for a ring, then come to assist.

Don't seat your children next to the button.  Lil' Chow spent a significant part of our meal alternating between singing "ding dong, ding dong" and asking me to push the button.  I was just glad it was out of his reach.


The Unmanly Chef said...

I was so excited to read this. I've been planning on going to this spot with a Korean friend of mine who has also heard great things. I'll let you know how things turn out.

Min said...

The lunch special LA Galbi box was awesome! I'll send you the pix.

Michelle said...

We are new to MD and I am glad to have found your blog - please keep up the posts! Blue Sands has become a favorite of ours. A couple unlikely finds for Korean food are in food courts - not where you would take a first date but pretty good food when you just want a quick meal - Hwarangi in Hanoori Town by the old Hmart has handmade kalguksu noodles and the Mannarang food court inside the new Hmart - their kimchi al bap is delicious!

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