Aqua Blu

734 5th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101

Editor's Pick Special Offer

As cool and bright as the food it serves, Aqua Blu offers diners a refreshing taste of local and imported seafood. Located in the heart of Downtown San Diego, conspicuous under a large turquoise awning, Aqua Blu is a welcome oasis in the center of the ordinary. Relying on the experience of Chef Christopher Powell, they are serving up a paramount selection of Pan Asian Inspired dishes such as traditional Roasted Sea Bass, and the more adventurous Squid Ink and Wasabi Ravioli. With such an enthusiastic chef at the helm it is no surprise that the menu features some of the best the sea has to offer.

Aqua Blu: A Gem in a Sea of Restaurants


Stunning. Delicate. Exquisite. I could go on, but then I’d be gushing, and the tastes and flavors at Aqua Blu are something you should really experience for yourself. The restaurant, a bold and exciting space in the heart of the Gaslamp, has been serving excellent seafood for over six years, although it was a recent change that triggered my enthusiasm.  Aqua Blu has welcomed new Executive Chef Russell Hawkins, whose culinary approach, techniques, and philosophy seem to be slowly revolutionizing the Aqua Blu experience.

My date and I visited Aqua Blu on an evening when Chef Hawkins was just implementing a new menu, and he offered to prepare a tasting of several new dishes. We eagerly agreed, and were pleased to learn that Hawkins eventually plans to introduce tasting menus on a regular basis at Aqua Blu. 

We ordered an aperitif in anticipation of Chef Hawkins’s meal, then, sipping on a glass of Martin Ray “Marriage” Chardonnay from Russian River Valley, sat back to enjoy our surroundings.  The dining room was refreshingly intimate, with curved lines and a modern look that was both sleek and comfortable.  Soft colors swept through the room; while bursts of teal and gold, framed textures on the walls, and colored lights projected onto white-paneled ceilings offered a lively and playful touch.  While we chose to sit inside, the outside patio looked equally inviting, especially the two lush corner booths under the patio’s awning. 

The arrival of the first course marked a turning point in our evening, when we went from simply enjoying ourselves to being stunned. The Dungeness Crab and Scallops Tempura offered a truly royal commencement of our meal: a plump, commanding scallop sat atop a throne of golden hollandaise sauce, cloaked in a crispy ring of nori and crowned by a luscious slice of Dungeness crab and micro greens. The first bite sent us into a world of heightened sensuality, the crisp, flash-fried nori crust giving way to buttery scallop, both bursting with not only flavors but texture. The nori tasted leafy with a hint of both sweetness and salt, the scallop sweet and creamy. The hollandaise sauce offered the faintest hint of spice and the crab, succulence. We eagerly relished each understatedly complex and savory bite, realizing there was no turning back—this would prove to be an astonishing meal. 

Next, the Beet Carpaccio presented a delicate trio of red, gold and candy cane beets shaved thin and laid underneath dainty goat cheese croquettes, accompanied by julienne beet greens, mint, basil, and a shallot and sherry vinaigrette. The thin slivers of pink, gold, and dark purple circles were arranged so carefully on the plate that the dish could have hung on the wall as work of modern art. Each sliver of beet seemed refreshing and pure, especially in contrast to the decadent and creamy croquettes.  The brilliance of the dish was the integration, which somehow allowed each ingredient to remain distinct.  A bite of beet plus croquette was precise—the earthy beet and the creamy cheese offered two simultaneous flavors rather than melding as one. It was an intentional dichotomy—the croquette’s crisp shell served to isolate the cheese—and one that intrigued me long after the dish was taken away.

Our first entrée, Mushroom Crusted Salmon with Japanese mushroom fricassee, salsify root, and garlic herb emulsion was impressive even before we took a bite. The colorful dish featured bright pink salmon crusted in black mushrooms, accompanied by bright green foam, subdued garnet salsify, and a bundle of golden mushrooms. It was a perfect example of the varied influences that seemed to seep into Chef Hawkins’s cuisine, combining European and Asian ingredients as well as modern and classic technique. The salmon was perfectly tender, with a crunchy black shell of mushrooms that had been dried in house and then crushed into a course powder. The braised and then crisped salsify—a root vegetable that was new to me—offered a wonderfully complex, almost meaty flavor that left me wanting more. The honshimeji mushrooms were juicy and nutty, and the garlic herb emulsion creamy and bright. The dish was both delicate and rich, subtly combining flavors and tastes so that no one element seemed overpowering. 

As if sensing the complexity of the last dish, Chef Russell sent out a soothing, refreshing counterpart: Blue Nose Grouper steamed in a banana leaf, plated with baby bok choy and a yellow thai curry that was combined with a young coconut broth. The dish was immensely fragrant with aromas of coconut and spice. Fragrance was followed by delicateness, as each element from the coconut to the curry to the fish offered an almost elusive distinct flavor. The fish itself was firm with a sweet mild taste that seemed defined by the bold curry spice and sweet essence of coconut. Together, the dish tasted wholesome but light, with a mysterious complexity that was at once familiar and exotic.

Our next delight was Jidori Chicken Udon, a satisfying dish that explored and embraced the essence of chicken. The preparation centered around a house-made smoked chicken consommé which was first used to poach a chicken breast and then served along with slices of the breast in a bowl with house-made udon noodles, Japanese mushrooms, and togarashi sausage, which had also been prepared in-house from the dark meat of the chicken. The result was a well-integrated dish that resonated with flavor and fragrance. The consommé was almost sweet and distinctly smoky, the poached breast moist and succulent. The sausage, made with a Japanese 7-spice blend, was feisty and intensely flavorful, seeming to exhibit all five basic tastes at once. Even the noodles were intriguing. We sampled a smooth and mellow Cartlidge & Brown Pinot Noir from Napa with this dish, although it was the dish, not the wine that we would remember.

We moved on to a Wynn’s Coonawara Estate Shiraz from Australia for our last dish, a Grilled Prime Filet Mignon accompanied by truffled bacon and onions, baby carrots, veal jus and potato galette. For the third time a savory aroma arose from the plate, seeming so irresistible we quickly dug in. The beef was tender, although the unique, amazingly rich bacon and onions stole the show.  Caramelized onions blended with barely discernable bacon and rich truffle oil mingled with the veal jus on the plate to create a rare and memorable intensity.

As our plates were cleared, hints of tastes from our meal still lingered, and I relished the tingling sensation on my tongue.  Russell sent out an intermezzo to clear our palates, a melon-ball scoop of house made chai ice cream, bursting with spice and vanilla and tantalizing our palates with the promise of dessert.

The dessert itself was a masterpiece; although simply titled Two Bavarian Creams, it was quite intricate. A harmless-looking form of glistening milk chocolate sat on the plate, hiding a treasure of delicate flavor inside. Hawkins enthusiastically described the process of the dessert’s preparation: he first made a small mold of chocolate and raspberry Bavarian cream, which was then dipped in white chocolate, then encased in a second mold of vanilla Bavarian cream, which was then all together dipped in dark chocolate to become the dessert on our plates.  The milk chocolate shell gently broke open to reveal two distinct creams separated by a thin sliver of white chocolate. A bite was rich with flavors but not heavy or burdensome, a theme that had carried itself throughout our entire meal.

We left Aqua Blu with smiles on our faces, feeling like we had just experienced a delightful surprise. While we had expected a good meal, there was something about our dining experience that we could not have anticipated. It was just a detail—not the quality, or the service, or the ambiance—but some combination of the Chef’s enthusiasm; the well thought out intricacies of each dish; and the lightness and delicateness not only of each element, but of the combination of elements on the plate. Somewhat elusive, it was this that had instilled us with a sense of wonderment, each dish calling for our full attention so that we explored and delighted in its subtle complexity. In an increasingly populated sea of restaurants, it is sometimes the little things that set one apart from the rest. Aqua Blu, we discovered, has emerged from this sea with distinction.

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Reservations


  Business Info

  • Address: 734 5th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101
  • Cross Street: Between F and G
  • Location: | Gaslamp Quarter
  • Location: | Gaslamp Quarter
  • Cuisine: Seafood |
  • Cost: | Moderate
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Casual Elegant
  • Meals Served: Lunch | Dinner |
  • Parking: None |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover | Diners Club |
  • Corkage Fee: 20.00 | Per each bottle
  • Phone:
  • Features: Full Bar, Catering Services, Outdoor Seating, Prix Fixe Menu, Smoking Area, Takeout Available, Wheelchair Access, Valet Parking, Happy Hours, Personal Wines Allowed, Lounge / Bar, Healthy Options,
  • Occasion: Romantic Dining, Dining Alone, Business Dining, Meet for a Drink, People Watching, Special Occasion, Quick Bite, Trendy / Hip,

  Business Hours

Reservations Available

Monday
Main Dining Room | All Day 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.  
Tuesday
Main Dining Room | All Day 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.  
Wednesday
Main Dining Room | All Day 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.  
Thursday
Main Dining Room | All Day 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.  
Friday
Main Dining Room | All Day 11:30 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.  
Saturday
Main Dining Room | All Day 11:30 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.  
Sunday
Main Dining Room | All Day 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.  

 Menus

Early Dining Specials

Choice of Soup, Salad or Appetizer

Entrees

Dinner Menu

Appetizers

Soup & Salads

Entrees

Meat & Poultry


Customer Reviews & Ratings

OUTSTANDING!  

From the time we walked through the door, till the time we left...it was outstanding! I highly recommend the Fried Calamari & the Blackened Scallops for an appetizer...I can't tell you how good they were. I had the Filet Mignon & my wife had the Halibut..both entree's were prepared perfectlty!! I almost never find an establishment that exceeds my expectations...Aqua Blu did!!! The staff was extremely friendly, and was very impressed with there manager. I will be back!

Pleasant Experience  

We had a great meal at this restaurant last night. We sat outside on the patio which was great for people watching. They have 2 small plate dishes that rocked. One was fried calamari and the other was a killer scallop dish. Spinach salad was superb. For dinner we had Halibut and a yummy pasta that I could not pronounce. Service was very friendly and attentive. Loved the half bottle of pinot. We had 3 :.)

Great Place  

Ate here late last Saturday night to get away from the noise of St. Patricks Day. The food and the service was awesome. The special tuna appetizer was great as was the salmon. Waiter was friendly and efficient. I will go back here.

Incredible Experience  

Dinner at Aqua Blue was an incredible experience. The service was excellent and the presentation of dinner was amazing. We will return again soon. Suzanne

Best dining experience in San Diego yet!  

I was really shocked how great the food was here. I had the mushroom crusted salmon and my date had the beef filet with truffled onions and it was great. I'm a bit of a foodie and have dined in some of the best restaurants in the US and Aqua Blu is among them.

Nice atmosphere, very good food!  

Dining at Aqua Blue was great. My date was impressed as much as me. The food was delicious, excellent service, and a wonderful atmosphere. I plan to eat here again.

Outstanding  

Can't imagine EVER having poor service here. Our waiter was probably the best I've ever had, both gracious and perfectively attentive. Others seemed to be getting similar service. And the food! We shared the seafood tower (and have decided to bring my mother back for it when she visits) and the calamari appetizer. My pomegranate martini was excellent and you just can't pass up the chocolate souffle with 2 sauces. Pricey, but can't wait to go back.

Aqua Blu was great!  

We were looking for fresh fish and seafood in a modern setting - we found it. The food was excellent as was the service. They even helped us select a great wine to go with it all.

Yum!!!!!  

Killer food here. Awesome scallop appetizer and probably one of the best filet mignon entree I had ever had. Service was great too. This place was cool. Better alternative than some other restaurants in the Gaslamp.

Best seat on 5th  

We had an early reservation which was good because we got an outside booth before the place filled up. We had an outstanding merlot with dinner which was very nicely prepared. The salmon and the ahi tuna both excellent. The service was friendly and perfectly timed even though the restaurant was almost full. In all a very enjoyable dinner.

wonderful experience  

Great food, friendly staff & reasonable prices makes this restaurant a favorite of mine.

Fusion!  

Excellent food! If you like fusion cuisine, you must try this place! Great creations and combinations. The ahi was spectacular.

Great Experience  

We went to Aqua Blu for a special occasion. I had no idea what to excpect and was pleasantly surprised. Wonderful service, great food and a fun evening. This is an easy place to enjoy. If you are an uptight person better you go somewhere more suited to your taste. If you want fine cuisine without the attitude and a relaxed enjoyable time give this restaurant a try.

Awesome!  

Aqua Blu is an excellent restaurant for seafood! A refreshing menu with excellent service and atmosphere.

Unique  

Food matched decor-beautiful. Staff excellent.

over the top  

We attended a conference in San Diego and tried a couple of seafood resturants in a row. AQUA BLU is by far one of the best. We ordered the New Zealand green lipped mussels as appetizer. The mussels were so fresh, extremely succulent, and the timing of the cooking was well controlled. Although a few of them were undercooked (unopened), our waitress, Kara was super friendly and helpful. She had the chef redo them and thew in a few extra for us. For the main entrees we had the seafood ciopinnno and scallion crusted fish filet on a bed or rice/risotto. They are both very tasty and well prepared. The touch of spice and herbs blended very well with the delicate texture and flavor of the seafood. We have recommended this restaurant to our friends and other attendees and will certainly revisit when we are back in San Diego.

A Great Experience  

I had heard good things from friends of mine and decided to see for myself. I was immediately greeted by a polite hostess and sat on the small, but cozy patio. The wait staff was friendly and efficient from beginning to end. Never having to ask for anything. The appetizer was spectacular and the martini's even better. I highly recommend the Tartare. My main course was the Ahi and it was prepared perfectly. NOT OVERDONE! The potato cake had a touch of wasabi and it was a good companion to the Ahi. The presentation was as good as the flavors. I look forward to returning to Aqua Blu in the future and trying more of their Asian style cuisine.

Great  

Everything about this restaurant exceeded expectations. Their Sake was excellent, and reasonably priced. The duck spring rolls were flat out amazing, and my entree was cooked perfectly. I was surprised at the portion size, which was large for a restaurant of this price range. The staff's timing was perfect, and they were very friendly. Great atmosphere, my only complaint is the small table we were seated in. All together, a fantastic dining experience.

Loved It.  

My boss took 5 customers to Aqua Blu and came back raving about the food and service stating it was all wonderful. The only negative was the noise level but the service, food and atmosphere made up for the noise. Loved it and will go back.

excellent start to finish  

Had an excellent meal at Aqua Blu. The service was terrific; the food and the presentation even better. Everyone in our party of four was delighted with their meal. Highly recommend going.

Outstanding  

We sat at two-top out on the patio and had a wonderful evening. The Ahi and Crab Cake apps were presented with creative elegance, and the flavors were bold and complimentary. The Miso herb-crusted Halibut was prepared perfectly and went great with the woked veggies. Our server reccomended the Brancott Reserve Sauvignon Blanc that was a perfect pair to the meal.

Incredible  

Foood not only delicious but beautiful as well. The specialty of the house is a whole lobster friend in tempura batter. Out of this world. Everything including the service. Right up there with number one.

one great place..  

my fiancee and i visited aqua blue just to see what all the fuss was about...i was very impressed at how prompt the service was...the minute we came inside, a waiter gave us a seat and told us the specials for the day as well as his personal favorite selections from the menu...the only thing that i had a problem with was the time that it took for our order to come out...for what we paid, i dont' think that i would have expected any less. we were stuffed by the way and we only ordered an appetizer and one eentre to share...

Excellent-but not a big group place  

We entertained a large group of clients at the restaurant over the weekend. Service was excellent and the food/wine of the caliber expected. I would caution anyone considering the restaurant for a large group as the seating area is fairly small and does not accommodate groups of more than 6 or 8 as well as you may hope. Staff was very helpful with "sampler platters" for apps & dessert which is always nice with bigger groups.

Super-Smart & Very Tasty  

I was there 2 nights ago. I had the most amazing baby-spinach salad in my life. For the main dish I had ahi-tuna, which as one would expect had a super-smart plating and was very tasty. I also had the Saki-sampler. I recommend the Pearl and Pear saki's.

Great food!  

Pros: food is great; awesome menu although I wouldn't pay $22 for fried rice. I got the ahi tuna; not only was it presented really well, taste was excellent. All the flavors mixed very well. My girlfriend got the scallops and the texture along with the scallops were absolute winners. Freshness is key here. The tuna and salmon tartare appetizer was great in terms of presentation and taste; very exotic. Cons: service was good but not for the money I paid; seems like the staff is doing the people watching when the diners should be. Also the seating on the patio was a little cramp. Overall: definitely one of the better restaurants in Gaslamp. There are many unexperienced restaurants aimed at getting tourists money (no names...); instead of going to the flasy restaraunts, check this place out. Great food, great decor, moderate/good service, comsumerate pricing

Aqua Blu  

For appetizers, we chose the crab cakes and the chicken satay. Crab cakes were excellent, and the satay was pleasant. It was disappointing that the waiter did not know the chef's name, nor offer to discover it for us. For entree, we had the bass and the filet. The filet was disappointing - Ruth's Chris is the place for that. The bass was good, but not inspiring. Presentation of the plates was beautiful, wine list good, but service was mediocre. Our career waiter really did need to find a different career! Despite knowing it was a birthday, waiter did not even congratulate the person. I would not return here - there must be a better fusion experience!

Enjoyed it  

I came to this restaurant based on a recommendation from colleagues. We were a party of 8 people and the staff was very accomodating considering we were late for our reservation. We all loved the seared ahi and the mussels are a must have. According to the other reviews, I thought that yes, the prices are a little high, but, my entree was ample and flavorful. I will definitely return here on my next business trip to San Diego.

Disappointed with food, waitress's knowledge  

Perhpas it was the night - Jazzfest - but we were disappointed with our experience at Aqua Blu, the food, the waitress's knowledge of the menu, small things. In the first course, the lobster bisque emerged lukewarm, it was quickly repolaced (micro-waved?)when we complained, but it got things off to a rocky start. During the second course, while the portions of protien were quite reasonable, the sea bass was served with burned potatoes and the snapper (rockfish?) was served with a few scraggly, disiccated longbeans. The waitress had very little knowledge about the menu... I asked about the sauce on the seabass, I was told it was a tomato sauce - which technically it was, but I am use to more colorful descriptions of the dishes I order. According to the menu, it was a smoked tomato sauce with red pepper. She also drew a blank when we asked about the sauce for the snapper (another waiter indicated it was a red bean vinegarette). At one point I asked for our candle to be lit, it remained dark all evening. We didn't bother ordering dessert.

Disappointed  

We were disappointed in the choices and the prices. They were a lot higher priced then posted on sample menu.You also did not get much as you had to order sides. I had the sea bass 31.oo and it came sitting on bokchoy and that was it. Plus the food was ok not great and parking was horrible. Had to pay valey 17.oo down the street as we couldnt even get right in front of the resturant. Service was good.

good start slow ending  

food was great started with the tuna and salmon tartare and had the sea bass, only thing was service was slow(2.5hr) for dinner and it wasn't that busy, waiter seemed overwhelmed but despite that food was great atmosphere is electrifying since it's in the gaslamp area.

failed to meet expectations  

I had read several reviews of Aqua Blu and the good ones definitely seemed to outweigh the bad ones. As such, I suppose I set my expectations too high. It was not a bad dining experience, yet, nothing memorable enough about it to return. The waiter seemed disinterested in us and was just unenthusiastic about being at work. The physical atmosphere was enjoyable and well put together. The starter and main courses had good flavor, especially the sea bass. Portion sizes were nothing to brag about by any means. I think prices should be lower as the restaraunt has not yet established itself as one of the premiers in the gaslamp. Hope this helps.

Overpriced  

The service was good. The food was o.k. but for the price you pay, it should be better. Nice decore.

Quality not proportional to price  

I took a business party of four to this restaurant on a January friday evening. The atmosphere was very nice and the waitstaff was above average in thoroughness, courtesy and timing. The food was somewhat more expensive than comparable downtown restaurants. Entrees were slightly more and appetizers were ridiculous (I paid thirteen bucks a three-shrimp cocktail). Now, I don't balk at price when it comes to providing an enjoyable dinner for colleagues and customers. But I do insist on value for the money and I can only say that the food was mediocre in flavor and the portions insufficient in the estimation of my party.

Its our anniversary!!!  

Very romantic setting, me and my wife went here for our first anniversary. The food was o.k. for me she actually loved her entree. We had a very nice time at Aqua Blu. I dont think I would eat there again though. Really nice place but not our style.

Too expensive / unimpressed / not enough food  

We went to this restaurant for our honeymoon because it was so highly rated. To be honest, we were not impressed. Let me clarify that. The presentation was outstanding. What little food they offered looked fantastic and tasted great. It just wasn't worth $15 for a half-ounce appetizer or $30 for 6 ounces of fish, no matter how beautiful it looked. When I go to a restaurant, I go to eat. I don't go to admire how nice to food is presented. We ended up paying $85 for dinner and when we left, we were still hungry. The portion sizes were simply ridiculously undersized for the amount of money we paid. And that was enough to give them a low review.

Disappointed  

I was very excited to go for my boyfriend’s birthday after reading the great reviews. We LOVE seafood, and hoped to be impressed. I knew I might be in for a bad dinner when the host informed me they had no valet! We looked past the fact that there were only a few seafood items on the menu, and hoped that they would be extra good because of it. However that was not the case. We both ordered two of our waiter’s recommendations, and they were sub par to say the least. The service was awful and the waiter didn't even acknowledge that we were there to celebrate a birthday. I will not be returning!

WAY overrated  

This restaurant is extremely overrated. San Diego is quickly filling up with restaurants that are "full of themselves" and not "filled with great food". This is a prime example of a restaurant that is full of itself. The fish had too much flavor added to it. Rather than allowing the natural flavors of the fish to come through, the only thing I could taste were the seasonings added to it. The menu stated that my dinner came with green beans. Don't be fooled- two green beans came out on my plate. I was so upset with dinner, that to the extreme suprise of my boyfriend, I opted to skip on dessert (and that never happens). When you pair the disappointing food with the mediocre service we received, this is not a good restaurant to go to for seafood. There are MANY other choices in San Diego with excellent service, where the food is great, and they won't skimp on the portions.

The Unexpected  

My husband and I visited this restaurant while hanging in the Gaslamp district. We were very excited to be there. However, our experience at Aqua Blu was disappointing. 1. the food: it was good, but not good enough for what we paid. 2. the service: we only ordered wine and appetizers and the server seemed very upset that we were not purchasing full entrees. He did not attend to our needs and at the end, placed his real estate business card in the bill (which I thought was very tacky). 3. the atmosphere: this was one plus that I enjoyed...we sat on the patio and were able to enjoy the comfortable evening weather and people watch. My husband I will not return again. They should remember first impressions are everything.

HORRIBLE service - good food  

I took my mom there last night for a special night out. The place looked cool, but then we were seated. Our waiter could barely muster up a clear, "I'm ***, I'll be your waiter". When I asked him for a glass of wine, he acted like I had asked him to lick my shoes. After we ordered, it was the last I saw him all night until the check came. The food took 40 minutes to come out, and my salad came AFTER my entree! By the way, the place wasn't even half full and there seemed to be plently of waiters. The food was good. Well presented and warm, but by the time I ate, I would have eaten a hot dog from 7-11 and thought it was great! As I looked around, I caught the glance of many who seemed to be having the same experience. I politely mentioned my bad experience to the manager who responded matter-of-factly "I'm sorry. We're backed up toight" and walked away. No wonder the wait staff is miserable... I would not recommend wasting your money in this restaurant... there are just too many great places downtown to eat.