THE most anticipated restaurant opening for the entire food & wine community here on the Central Coast has easily been BLUE HERON in the Baywood section of Los Osos.  Finally, after months and months of watching the build-out slowly creep towards fruition, the invites to family, friends, industry and media soft-openings started arriving.  I was lucky enough to dine there last night–as a guest of the wine-director.

I’ve been casing out this place for months, peering in windows and exploring the grounds, so the oohs & aahs of many of the guests were no surprise.  I had seen the cozy bar, fire-pit conversation area, kitchen-pass dining area and expansive outdoor patio.  I had seen the copper gutters, walls of hanging plants, stunning entrance and outdoor fireplace–a protected alcove overlooking the windswept bay.  But this was my first time inside the building.

First stop was around the shiny new bar to adore the winelist.  Did I mention the winelist at BLUE HERON?  Holy WOW.  A wine-geek’s wet dream, full of easily-priced bottles from the nooks and crannies of our local producers mixed in with generous offerings from all over the world.  NOTHING on this list will show up on ANY other winelist in the area–with the possible exception of an uber-dorky list like Granada or a ten-pager like Lido.  But this is NOT just another hipster-somm list in a competition to include the strangest varieties and unknown vignerons.  No way.  This is a usable, working, FRIENDLY list of solid, well-made, fabulously-priced bottles–but stuff you’ve probably never seen–so if you come expecting Wild Horse Merlot or Tooth & Nail you will be gravely disappointed. Started off with two stupid-good by-the-glass offerings, Olga Raffault Chinon and a Vinum Chenin Blanc.  I have to come clean here and admit THE MAIN REASON for my excitement about Blue Heron was being told by the wine-director several months ago the Raffault was going to be BTG.
Moving in to food, instantly was drawn to a wilted-spinach salad with pork belly.  Perfectly glazed–greens AND toppings.  I know I have gone on record lately complaining that *pork belly* needs to be over already, but these little caramelized nuggets made me do a bit of retracting on that theory.  Probably my favorite dish of the evening.  And PICKLES!!!  So many house-pickles popping up on menus now.  I am SO HAPPY for this trend.  And, in addition to a brilliant mound of pickled cauliflower and peppers buried like treasure in the depths of the charcuterie plate, there was a stand-alone pickle selection on the starter menu!!  So many resties with great pickles I have had to ask for a side of their offerings, and here they thought of that.  Beets, green beans, daikon–all with shrill different flavors, but acidity in check–nothing to clash with the wine.

While we are on the subject of acidity, another small note of a resty getting it right:  Room temperature, still water on every table for self service.  No ice, no lemon, no nothing.  Just water–when you want it–no bus-boy drizzling condensation through your conversation to constantly clunk your glasses to the rim.  Another interesting bottle of wine was selected off the list–a Foradori Teroldego–RIDICULOUS good stuff, funky and delicious: bright cherry and rigid minerality.
After a “crudo” tower of tuna far closer to a ‘tartare’ description, everyone was praising the scallops–including those at our table–nested on roasted potatoes and swimming in green tomato puree. The vegetarian offering on the list jumped out at me.  Tired of your choices being limited to fettuccine Alfredo or stir-fry?  Help is here.  The vegetable tart had pluses and minuses going on in it, but definitely out-of-the-ordinary for non-meat-eaters.  Rarely do you see a creative, labor-intensive dish exclusively for vegetarians on an other-wise meat-driven menu, but Blue Heron’s little pie in a puddle of spicy marinara is just that.  A few tweaks here and there and this will be the talk of the healthier-than-thou community.

The fried or freeze-dried or SOMETHING artichoke petals?!? were my favorite part.  Remember, this is a restaurant not officially open to the public, the kitchen and staff gearing up rapidly for general-admission, with tweaks and twists of the menu and service happening constantly, so it is impossible–and short-sighted–to raise serious criticism of anything.  I would say they are WELL over the hump on their way to finding the groove at Blue Heron.

A beautiful piece of halibut, perfectly cooked, floated on heavily-sauced pasta and mushrooms.  I thought the crust a bit salty and the bedding a bit bland, but they balanced themselves out as a whole.  And on to dessert!  Apple pie and Chocolate anyone?  WHO could say no?
Hits and misses… a few glitches in service… but this is the story of a soft-opening.  Not sure what the official schedule is going to be for the near term, but watch for full-time opening announcements with hours in the VERY near future.  The *feel* of the dining room is PERFECT and staff alert and professional–two things lacking in FAR too many San Luis Obispo restaurants.  BLUE HERON will soon be a fixture in conversation among serious foodies throughout the Central Coast–mentioned alongside true standouts in food, wine, and service like Ember and Spoon Trade–DESTINATIONS for diners who appreciate the full blend and are willing to go quite out-of-their-way to get it.  You watch.
*EDIT 7.1.2017: Blue Heron is open full-time Thursday-Monday 5:00 PM til Close.
Instagram (food): @_soifeats
Instagram (wine): @_soif
TACOS AND CATS (just kidding, there’s no cats)

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