Last night I was very fortunate to have a sneak preview at the newest restaurant Downtown: bleu. bleu has taken the place of Sole, directly across from the Fed Ex Forum on South Third. This upscale restaurant officially opens for business tonight, so let me give you a peak into my experience so you know what to expect.
Walking into bleu last night was like walking into a different world. You enter the place and instantly are taken into an atmosphere of elegance, charm, and relaxation.
We sat down to have a few drinks at the bar before dinner. The bartenders at bleu have worked very hard to craft signature martinis that are sure to delight. They are all unique and all piqued my interest. The signature martini is the “bleu steel”, which is crafted with “Skyy vodka, simple syrup, muddled blueberries and thyme, with freshly squeezed lemon juice”. It was delicious. Scott and I made sure to try as many different signature drinks as possible, and there was not one drink that we didn’t like. With each sip you could taste the hard work and craftsmanship of each drink.
It is also worth noting that they have an awesome beer and wine list. I had a glass of La Creme Pinot Noir with dinner that was so smooth. Scott ordered a Sam Adams Octoberfest. They also have the three standard Ghost River beers on tap. ALL THREE. That gets a gold star in my book.
While were sipping martinis, music from local artist Lee Taylor graced the room.
We were seated for dinner soon after and greeted by our server. Through I cannot remember her name, she said in real life her nickname is “Blue”, which works great for the job. She was wonderful throughout the whole night: friendly, personable, and knowledgeable about the whole menu. Props to her for doing a great job!
We first ordered salads to start off our meal. Scott ordered the Caesar and I the Fried Goat Cheese and Asian Pear Salad. Though Scott’s salad was more presentation and less functional, the taste of it was delicious. The caesar dressing was creamy and smooth. My salad was even better. I fell in love with it over the first bite. The arugula was fresh, and the cheese and pear cooked to perfection. It was a great blend of flavors.
We then ordered a couple of appetizers to share. We got the Spicy Lobster Tempura and New Zealand Lamb Chops, which came with a cucumber and blueberry chutney and pomegranate reduction. The Lobster Tempura was my favorite item all night. It was perfectly sweet and buttery. Each bite melted in your mouth. The lamb was amazing as well. It was cooked to perfection, which brought out the sweetness and flavor of each bite.
For our entrees, I ordered the Salmon Roulade, which the menu described as “Salmon stuffed with shrimp, scallops, and crab served over sauteed edimame, cherry tomatoes, and Chinese black rice finished with citrus beurre blanc and garnished with rainbow micro greens”. Each bite was perfect. There were so many different flavors that blended so well together. I ate every single bite.
Scott ordered the Steak Frites, which was described as “Grilled herb and garlic oil marinated sirloin topped with a Jack Daniels and green peppercorn demi, smoked shallots, grilled asparagus and hand cut herb fries”. They had him a Jack Daniels. When you put two of his favorite things in one dish, steak and Jack Daniels, Scott will be a happy camper. I tried his as well, and man, this chef knows what he is doing. That was no ordinary steak. Also, everyone, I think I may have found my new favorite fries in Memphis. Those babies were something special. That was no plain potato. They were unique.
When presented with the dessert menu, Scott and I glanced at it and made out decision quickly. How could you NOT order the Grand Finale? That just sounds awesome. The Grand Finale was described as “Molten chocolate cake, vanilla bean gelato, fresh berries, crystallized bacon, oreo dust, chocolate chip cookie crumble, toasted merengue, chocolate paint, seasonal sauces and coulis and freeze dried bread pudding”. This whole dessert is created on the table by the chef. How neat. The dessert touched every taste bud and gave new senses to the palate.
However, the best part about this was being able to chat with the chef while he was constructing our dessert. Chef Robert Nam Cirillo has been in Memphis for five months now, where he moved from Rhode Island and, previously, Central New York. So far, he says he loves Memphis and the downtown area. He told us about getting to know the locals, and he loves that Memphis is a big city but with a small town feel. He is excited to be a part of the tight-knit downtown community.
His inspiration for food is interesting, and this is how he describes it in his own words:
When I’m creating dishes, I am inspired by the “melting pot that is America,” and the menu will reflect that. The flavor combinations are bold, something neu, if you will. This is what art is all about. To me, food and cooking are art forms. It’s all about starting with a blank palette and interpreting the world on that palette through the eyes of the artist; the unique retelling of his or her vision. I like to think of each plate as my canvas. Being at the restaurant at this time in its cycle is thrilling, the culmination of 16 years of hard work. I relish being on the edge of creating something new, fresh and different in a fantastic town like Memphis. To be sure, Memphians know good music, but they also know good food!
Overall, I was extremely impressed with bleu. It is out of my price range for an every night meal. However, I will be back for some more of their signature martinis, as I still need to try the Caramel Macchiato dessert martini! This is a great place for a special occasion. I highly recommend trying it out for yourself and seeing what it is all about!
For more information on bleu, visit their website. It is still partially under construction, but will be more available soon.
Here is the Storify I put together on Bleu thus far: View “Bleu is Neu to Memphis” on Storify