Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Restaurant Review: Ming Tsai's Blue Ginger

My mother-in-law is a great cook, a fellow foodie, so when she suggested that we have lunch at celebrity chef Ming Tsaiís Boston-area Blue Ginger restaurant, I was all too happy to take her up on the offer. Tsai has an easy-going persona and has made a career of "East-West" fusion cooking. Both he and his restaurant have garnered many awards and seemingly endless media recognition, as the wall of plaques and clippings that greet you when you enter attests. What seems to be a small restaurant from the front is actually quite spacious when you discover that it just keeps going back and back and back. Our reserved table for five was squarely between the power lunchers in their business suits and the grey-haired blue-bloods out to stave off loneliness by having lunch with the girls.

We'd checked out the menu in advance and it was clear that nothing on it would appeal to Kate, but she agreed to sit quietly and allow us to have an adult lunch for the promise of some green tea ice cream at the end. I blanched a bit at the prices, as I knew my fixed-income, retiree in-laws were going to insist on paying. $21 for a lunch entree? Wow.

Because I'd had a dinner of deep fried seafood the night before, I skipped the calamari that the rest of the table enjoyed and went for the tossed green salad, which was standard fare. Perfectly fine, nothing exceptional. Chris and his mother shared the seafood bisque (which was too spicy, and had a grainy texture from the ground seafood used in it) and the shiitake and leek spring rolls (which they pronounced to be good). The best thing on the menu was also the first entree listed: Sake-Miso Marinated Alaskan Butterfish. Chris got this entree and he chose wisely. I opted for the Hot and Sour Shrimp and Vegetable Pho. Mistake! As it was a cold and rainy day, I anticipated a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup, made with banh pho noodles and full of all the fragrant basil and crisp bean sprouts I can find at any of a dozen pho restaurants around my house. What I got was a tepid bowl, with several lovely whole shrimp doused in so much "Thai Basil Puree" that by the time I removed and set aside the shrimp heads, I was left with cold broth tainted an unappetizing green-brown and pasty, disintegrating rice vermicelli. I did my best to finish half of the expensive bowl, regretting every minute that I hadn't just gone ahead and gotten the $21 Alaskan Butterfish, which was (from the taste Chris shared with me) absolutely divine. I've had this fish prepared at three world-class restaurants: Nobu prepares it as Black Cod with Miso; at Tojo's calls it Canadian Sablefish. Blue Ginger's version is Alaskan Butterfish, but whatever it's called, I call it delicious. I will never again pass up an opportunity to eat this heavenly fish. We had a slight scare as the end of the meal came and the well-behaved Kate began smacking her lips in anticipation of her green tea ice cream reward. "Oh," the clueless young waiter said, "green tea ice cream isn't available at lunch. That's on our dinner menu." Before it all ended in tears, I politely asked (begged) him to see if the chef could make a small exception for the sake of the little girl who'd had no lunch and who'd behaved herself so perfectly on the promise of ice cream. As a back-up I ordered the almond praline ice cream sandwiches, but that proved unnecessary as they did scrape up a bowl of ice cream for Miss Katherine and no one needed to cry.

While we were there, Tsai himself made an appearance, presumably coming in to ready himself for the dinner crowd. He seemed every bit as mellow and genial as his on screen persona, and he chatted up the blue hairs sitting at the table behind us while they asked after his mother and daughter as if they knew him. I remember feeling a little bad that I was leaving the restaurant with such a disappointed feeling, with such regret over my meal, because he really did seem like a nice guy and I really wanted to like his restaurant more than I did.


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Blogger J.D. Says:

I have the Blue Ginger cookbook. I think I've only made one thing out of it because most of the recipes seem somewhat daunting: either too much preparation or rather esoteric ingerdients or foods I just wouldn't like. Still, I want to try more. I love Asian fusion (and all sorts of Asian cusisine, actually).

You know, we'd love to have you for dinner sometime if you're in the area. It would be especially fun to have you to a dinner party if the timing ever worked.

The only chance I had to see you in our adult lives was when I was completely stoned on hydrocodone after my surgery, and I barely recall the encounter!


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