Sea trials

Blue Trout’s namesake swims in the restaurant’s tank before landing fresh on your plate.

Blue Trout’s namesake swims in the restaurant’s tank before landing fresh on your plate.

Photo By David Robert

Blue Trout Restaurant

425 South Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89501

(775) 348-8811

Menu reading is a painful process requiring soul-searching evaluation: How hungry am I? How much money do I have? How messy am I willing to get? And, most importantly, what sounds good?

The menu I was given at Blue Trout threw me for a loop. I was annoyed by the silly (and typo-ridden) introduction that boasted of “pursuit of excellence in creations from the sea,” but it was less expensive than I had expected from the posh location (formerly the Chophouse and Adele’s). The dishes sounded mouth-watering, but there were more sandwiches and less seafood than one might expect from a restaurant named after a fish. And I was confused by the presence of a “Business Person’s Quick Picks” page. What could that mean?

The perceptive reader may have deduced what I did not: I’d been slipped a lunch menu. Finally, after much careful deliberation and twice turning away the waiter, my sister, Brenna, her roommate Kat and I had all made our selections. But as we began ordering, the waiter recognized the error. He quickly remedied the situation, supplanting our meal-incompatible menus with the correct, more expensive dinner variety.

This felt like quite the fake out. The emotional reserves I required to read a menu were now completely depleted. I started to peruse the new menu, but my heart wasn’t in it. I decided to order the blue trout ($22) because it has the same name as the restaurant, and I figured that would be easy to remember.

There is a tank of blue trout swimming around near the back of the restaurant. Depending on how you feel about seeing your dinner squirm around before you eat it, that’s either really cool (my feeling) or “a little freaky” (my sister’s). The fish had a mild but rewarding taste that complemented well the accompanying aioli.

The final steps of preparation were performed tableside (allowing for a glimpse of the vinegar-dyed blue skin) which was a nice flourish. Also prepared tableside were Kat and Brenna’s caesar salads ($6.75). I enjoy a good dinner show and like to know what goes in my food, but tableside service is hard to pull off. If it’s too showy it can be disruptive, and if it’s done without embellishment it’s a little boring. The gentleman who prepared the salads wasn’t our regular waiter, and I got the sense that tossing salads wasn’t part of his usual job description. It felt very awkward. Kat compared it to a comedian who’s not getting any laughs.

The ladies’ entrees were appetizers recontextualized. Brenna had the jumbo prawn scampi ($15.25) with a white wine sauce. Kat had the crab cakes du chef Bruce ($12.50), tasty little pucks with a nice spicy remoulade.

Our waiter was excellent. I imagine he could tailor his service to any taste. He could’ve been exceedingly formal but was instead jovial and informative. He cracked up the three of us when he pretended to sit down to join us for dessert. The dessert itself was disappointing—a rather dry chocolate mousse cake ($6.25).

The overall service and atmosphere (and prices) were aimed at formal, pampered, fine dining. But the flowers and faux impressionist paintings, the music (which Kat accurately described as “waiting-on-the-phone music") and the ingratiating service (our busboy was just a little too eager to refill our waters) all seemed a little … bourgeois. The food was good—but not good enough to justify the pretensions of sophistication. Still, this is a very new restaurant, and if they get the kinks worked out, it might become fine dining after all—not just plain fine.