by Lauren McAllister & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & 've heard that in business, the best location is right next door to a competitor. Apparently, chef/restaurateur Ian Wingate decided to capitalize -- or monopolize -- on that notion and open a new restaurant just a few doors down from Moxie, his other restaurant. (It's also across the street from his old job at the Davenport Hotel.) While many menu items at Moxie are Asian-influenced, Bluefish features almost exclusively Asian cuisine.

The dreamy blue interior is achieved through blue lighting and deep blue walls, accented here and there with large mesmerizing aquariums and colorful canvasses. The interior is thoroughly modern, with polished chrome funky chandeliers and shiny glass tables anchored by smooth, black leather upholstered seating.

The menu features predominantly "shared plates" rather than formal entrees, although a few of those are available, too. We started off with the edamame ($5). The soybeans were noticeably fresh, and sauteed in ginger, garlic and basil, with just a hint of chili for some heat. Perfect with a frosty Sapporo.

Next came our seared scallops ($10). Four big scallops were pan-seared and topped with chopped peanuts. They were perfectly cooked, tender, sweet and spicy. The plum wine reduction drizzled around the plate was tasty, and even more of it might have been better. Other small plates that will have to wait until our next visit are the crunchy spicy prawn cocktail ($6) and the tempura tuna with truffle ponzu sauce ($10).

The sushi and sashimi section of the menu features a bunch of creative options. In our trademark fearless style, and because we couldn't resist the name, my companion and I launched right into the Pink Cadillac hand roll ($9). This little diva must be the Mary Kay of sushi, with ahi poke and avocado wrapped in a pink mamenori instead of the usual black-green nori wrap. It was cute as a button, with a wild pouf of watercress sticking out of the top of each upturned roll, and a riotous pile of cellophane noodles in the middle of the plate. The chunks of raw tuna were so large that I found them a bit intimidating, but my companion gobbled them right up. It's a fresh, new take on traditional sushi. The watercress added a nice peppery flavor. Next time, I plan to try the duck and roll ($8), which features Wingate's fabulous pepper-seared duck.

One portion of the menu is devoted to satay -- skewers featuring all variety of meat, fish and vegetables. These are the coolest menu items to hit Spokane in years and a great way to enjoy fabulous cuisine without taking out a loan. We tried the red curry chicken pineapple ($2.75) and the mandarin ginger mahi mahi ($3.75). They arrived together on a plate with fresh cucumbers and the sauces in a divided condiment dish. The mahi mahi was sweet and moist, but it took us a few minutes to figure out which sauce went with which skewer. The chicken was even better, and the red curry sauce was rich and not too spicy. There are all kinds of intriguing choices on this portion of the menu -- eggplant or zucchini are just $1.50, while the most expensive items are the cilantro lime scallops ($5) and the lemongrass yaki filet tenderloin ($4.75).

Large plates are the more traditional entree items at Bluefish. This portion of the menu seems to be designed for those reluctant to dive into family-style dining. Here's where you'll find a ribeye steak and mashed potatoes ($27) for the die-hard meat and potatoes freak in your group. There's also a Kobe beef burger for $10 for the less affluent die-hard meat eater. We tried a large sampler, which is apparently meant to be shared. Since we'd already had our raw fish for the night, we skipped the ahi lua sampler ($28) and the sashimi platter ($30) of raw fish with truffle ponzu sauce, and opted for the mahi mahi tacos ($26). The mahi mahi was nearly lost under a big mound of stir-fried onions and peppers. Wrapped in one of the little corn tortillas with a bit of the coconut jasmine rice, the mahi mahi was tasty, but I couldn't help but consider what a better bargain the mahi mahi satay had been. Plus, the wasabi creme fraiche lacked punch, and in any case, there was hardly any of it or the sweet chili sauce. When I return, I'll probably stick to the family-style offerings.

For dessert, there are a number of items made by the pastry chef. We tried the haupia chocolate layered pie. Haupia is a Hawaiian coconut pudding, here paired with rich chocolate in a lovely flaky crust. The pudding was a good showcase for the fresh coconut curls and set off the dark chocolate nicely.

Service, although pleasant, seemed a bit off-balance during our evening. Items we ordered seem to arrive at irregular intervals, and there was a particularly long lapse after our dessert order went in. The menu is not typical, and it would help newcomers to point out the distinction between menu items with raw fish and those without, and to suggest appropriate choices and quantities of food.

Still, Bluefish provides that elusive "escape" quality that sets a restaurant apart from the crowd. The innovative menu and uber-cool atmosphere combine to create a unique experience.

Bluefish & r & 830 W. Sprague & r & Tues-Thu 4 pm-11 pm, & r & Fri-Sat 4 pm-1 am & r & Call: 724-2111

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