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Friday, July 26, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Restaurant Review

BluWater is an attractive addition to Green Lake

Special to The Seattle Times

BluWater Bistro Greenlake


7900 E. Greenlake Drive N., Seattle

American bistro

**

$$

206-524-3985

Hours: Dinner 4 p.m.-1 a.m. daily; brunch 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Prices: Dinner starters and salads, $5.50-$13.75: entrees, $13.50-$20; brunch starters and salads, $6-$13.75; entrees, $6.50-$13.75.

Parking: free in the Lakeside Plaza garage (entrance one block west).

Sound: You'll have to speak up when the place is full.

Full bar / major credit cards / smoking permitted at the bar/no obstacles to access.

When Bart Evans and Dan Anderson opened the original BluWater Bistro in 1997 on Lake Union, its intimate mahogany bar and spacious deck quickly drew a good-looking, youthful clientele who partied late into the night. The newest BluWater Bistro, which opened in May at Green Lake where Six Degrees once stood, is attracting an equally handsome group, only they aren't quaffing blue margaritas at this larger, but equally woody venue. They are the staff and they work their shapely buns off at a pace set by an energetic rock soundtrack. The last time I saw this many gorgeous people in one place, they were handing out golden statuettes.

Don't hate them because they're beautiful. Don't envy them because you need your cheaters to find the smoked almonds and slivers of fresh pear in your blue-cheese salad, while they all demonstrate peripheral vision a major-league pitcher would sell his arm for. Love them because they do a good job.

Appreciate the grinning hostess, who looks out for your friend who's always late. Admire the quick-witted server who knows when not to intrude, and the guy who logs miles keeping water glasses full. And how endearing is the buser who waits for everyone to finish before clearing the table and then wipes up spills from the polished-wood surface. You expect service like this in a fancier place; to find it in a neighborhood restaurant and bar is just ice cream on the brownie (more about that later).

If you can take your eyes off the help long enough to notice what's on your plate, you'll discover some pretty classy fare. Executive chef Peter Levine, the partner in charge of the kitchen, has virtually cloned the Lake Union menu, wisely not tinkering with success. Peruse the printed card, but don't ignore the hand-written fresh sheet detailing the ravioli, pasta, soup and fresh fish of the day.

There, you would be lucky to find grilled marlin ($18). The firm white fish, served warm over a cool, crunchy salad of zucchini, jicama and cucumber, fresh tarragon and basil tossed in well-balanced shallot vinaigrette, is an ideal repast for a midsummer's eve. Artichoke-filled ravioli ($14.75) mired in a nondescript cream sauce weren't quite as winning, and the addition of chicken-breast chunks only made the dish clumsy.

Signature dishes mostly live up to my rosy recollection. Salmon ($8/$17.50) preens in an ancho chili, honey and lemon glaze. Jamaican jerk chicken ($7.50), skewered like satay and fragrant with cinnamon, cumin and nutmeg, delivers a gentle kick, nicely countered by fresh mango salsa. Blue cheese flavors a juicy 10-ounce New York steak ($17.75). The corpulent pork chop ($13.50), literally bursting with sage-flecked bread and pecan stuffing, does a good imitation of a Thanksgiving turkey, but was, as that seasonal bird can be, a bit dry.

Ceviche ($9.50) comes with tortilla strips dusted with cumin, coriander and cayenne strewn like autumn leaves under a cocktail glass that holds too much romaine and not enough guacamole and zingy halibut and shrimp, marinated in citrus and red-pepper flakes. A bountiful bowl of steamed clams ($11) proves deceiving, too; many are AWOL, but their liqueur flavors a pungent elixir of white wine, garlic, butter and herbs.

Service is more lackadaisical during weekend brunch. The Green Lake location lacks a deck, but tables stretch along the sidewalk and the front windows open fully enough to allow the front of the house to approximate a patio. Thus, a couple can enjoy their meal within petting distance of their black Lab. But the cool breeze wafting in doesn't do any favors for my already lukewarm corned-beef hash and sautéed potatoes. The latter also escort excellent eggs Benedict made with spicy, hot crab cakes ($11), a better choice than the overcooked and overstuffed omelet ($8.50).

The "skillet bon" ($5), a cinnamon breakfast roll baked — or in this case, underbaked — in its own personal iron skillet with a pitcher of unctuous icing on the side, is a good idea in need of better execution. That little skillet finds its true calling as a vessel for a freshly baked Tollhouse cookie ($6.50) still warm under a coverlet of vanilla ice cream.

Which brings us to the brownie ($6.50), a chunk so big it can support three scoops of chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, chocolate shavings, cocoa powder and chocolate-covered espresso beans. As the waitress's tanned, well-toned arm effortlessly lowers this flotilla of excess to the table, I pick up my spoon to do my duty and feel a twinge of dislike. I don't hate her because she's beautiful; I hate her because she's skinny.

Providence Cicero: providencecicero@aol.com

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