On a warm and breezy Friday, we arrived at ICONA Diamond Beach to dine at their on-site restaurant Coastal Blue Oceanside Bar and Grille. And yes, the hotel is on the beachfront, and the restaurant is just about there, located just next to the hotel’s pool. Beyond the pool and parking is Icona’s Star Beach Bar located ON the beach with bar and seating clusters, some around fire pits.
My dining companion Reginald and I entered the restaurant from the pool side and were seated inside at a comfy two-top, though we could have also chosen to eat at the expansive bar or outside on the covered patio. Once seated, we were hankering for a margarita on this very warm day, and the cocktails were quite tasty and refreshing. Often, bars use a mix, and this was clearly not made from a mix. Perfectly balanced, one with salt and one without.
Our waitress was the lovely and charming Evelina who was also very efficient and attentive—but not overly attentive. She noticed when we were in conversation, and just serviced our table with what she thought we might need—water refills, warm rolls, and butter—these all appeared like magic.
Reginald, as is always the case, needed soup. Though normally hisself prefers the brothy tomato-based Manhattan Clam Chowder, he waived his aversion and ordered Coastal Blue’s New England Clam Chowder. He took two bites and declared it “exquisite.” I agreed after being given (only) one spoonful. Rich and creamy, loaded with vegetable bits and tender clams.
For my appetizer, I was curiously drawn to the Crispy Calamari. The calamari were so tender, which is the benchmark for good fried calamari. If it’s ever the oft-rubbery rings and tentacle bits, full stop, it gets sent back. Anyway, the calamari were flour dusted and deep fried with jalapeño rings with the seeds and veins intact, upping the spiciness a bit. It was the dipping sauce (cucumber-wasabi) that made this app absolutely sing. Note that the portions for apps and entrees are huge, and I took home half of everything.
Now onto the salad. I chose the Grilled Peach Salad because: Jersey Peaches. The mélange consisted of Arcadia mixed greens including fresh mint and cilantro, grilled and nicely charred peach wedges, and finely crumbled chèvre, all lightly tossed with a mild peach vinaigrette. I highly recommend this salad as a complete meal along with soup or an app, because again, the portion is very generous. I did ask for the vinaigrette on the side because I knew I’d be taking most of it home with me and dressed salad just doesn’t ever seem to translate into “leftover.”
This is my favorite bit: describing our entrees and dessert. I had the Chicken Mole, which was a half of a chicken in a spicy deeply rich mole sauce—a Oaxacan creation of chilies, spices, and bittersweet chocolate—served with Spanish rice and grilled asparagus. The chicken was roasted to perfection and quite literally falling off the bone. I would order this upon return, though there are many tempting choices. Coastal Blue’s menu offers vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, so there’s a little somethin’ for every taste and dietary need.
Reginald ordered the Moroccan Spiced Salmon, served with a salad of quinoa, Marcona almonds, blood orange, cilantro, and mint. The spice on the salmon was definite but delicate, and my buds identified a blend of coriander, cumin, ginger, and maybe a hint of cinnamon and turmeric? Whatever the blend, it did not overpower the delicate, perfectly cooked salmon.
For dessert, we were offered chocolate lava cake and a few other confections, but we chose the Pecan Pie. This arrived as a kind of tart-sized serving with a large dollop of freshly made whipped cream with a ripe strawberry to garnish. This deliciousness is made in-house, as is everything on the menu.
At this juncture I should mention a few things about the ambiance and operations of Coastal Blue. It’s chic and airy, nautical, and comfortable. The staff are very well-trained and friendly. They know the menu inside and out, they’re helpful and funny. Kudos all around to the management, chef, bartenders and waitstaff. Well done and thank you!
Coastal Blue Oceanside Bar and Grill (and Icona), conveniently located far from the madding crowds, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and features a seasonal sushi bar, serving made-to-order sushi, nigiri, and sashimi. Once you visit, I’ll bet Coastal Blue will become one of your go-to restaurants in the area! And don’t forget, you can make reservations through their website, via Open Table. Easy as (Pecan) pie!