R and I had dinner with our friends Jon and Michelle the night before heading out to Martha's Vineyard. They were driving in from Albany, so I thought Blue Ginger would be a nice choice, close to I-95. Plus, Blue Ginger just expanded by adding a large lounge section, so it has been getting a lot of press lately.
I must confess; I've had a big crush on Ming Tsai since his show, East meets West, on the Food Network over a decade ago. A large group of us went to Blue Ginger for my 22nd birthday and I can still remember the miso glazed sea bass that my friend Wendy got. It was sensational.
Fast forward nine years and R and I are sitting on a leather bench (what is it with Asian people and leather furniture?!?!) waiting for Jon and Michelle to show up. Ming is in the house and he is talking and schmoozing everywhere. He is the only “celebrity chef” I've seen in attendance every time I've been to their restaurant (I did see Ken Oringer at KO Prime). At one point he was standing with his back to us, at the hostess stand, and what else could I do but whip out my trusty cell phone and take a picture of his butt?
Jon and Michelle finally arrived and we decided to splurge and get the 5 course tasting menu ($80). You can choose 5-10 courses, each additional course is $10. Make sure you allot plenty of time, as our 5 course took 2.5 hours.
1st – Hawaiian Bigeye Tuna Poke with Crispy Sushi Rice Cake
2nd - Sake-Miso Marinated Alaskan Butterfish
3rd - Foie Gras-Shiitake Shumai in Sauternes-Shallot Broth
4th - Grilled Marinated Hanger Steak with Five Peppercorn-Red Wine Sauce and Garlic-Black Pepper Lobster with Lemongrass Fried Rice
5th – Dessert: Coconut Doughnuts with Lime Leaf-Kiwi Sorbet, Fresh Fruit Salsa and Pineapple Curd and Bittersweet Chocolate Cake.
Let me start off by saying, wow, it was a phenomenal meal. I have been swimming in a sea of over hyped and over priced fine dining restaurants that leave you disappointed. I don't remember the last time I was this impressed with a tasting menu. With this one meal, Blue Ginger has made my short list of favorite restaurants in Boston.
The tuna poke was so fresh and delicious and the rice cake provided the perfect compliment in texture to the rich silky fish. The second course is the same preparation of fish Wendy had a decade ago, however sea bass is not sustainable, so it's become politically incorrect to serve it. The butterfish was so good, it definitely lived up to the memory of the sea bass. I think this was my favorite course.
As for the third course, I could have done without the broth, but the single foie gras shumai floating in the center made it all worth while. How wonderfully decadent. I needed a little Chinese lady pushing a cart with steamer baskets of these shumai. One is not enough, I could have had half a dozen, easy. Our fourth course was a surf and turf. The hanger steak was excellent, perfectly cooked and full of flavor. The lobster was probably too peppery, but still very good. I thought the lemongrass fried rice was too subtle. The desserts were a disappointment, but who's surprised? After all, you know what I say about desserts in Asian cuisine; they have nothing on the French.
So back to Ming's butt. For our second course, Ming, himself, comes over to help serve the butterfish. He describes the dish in detail and then sticks his hand out to me. I introduce myself, and then he moves on to R and says, “Hi there, you took a picture of my butt. I know it's a sexy butt, but I don't want it showing up on your myspace page, so we'll have to take a real picture later.” I wanted to crawl under the table and die of humiliation. R just sat there and looked shocked as Jon and Michelle burst out in laughter. Ming was good natured about it and even came back later to sign autographs of the tasting menu for us. He is a sincerely nice guy.
Go to Blue Ginger, have the butterfish, eat as many foie gras shumai as they will give you and don't get caught taking a picture of Ming's butt.