You get a chocolate fortune cookie after your meal at Blue Ginger. Sounds a little unusual, huh? Yeah, but it tastes good. And that's how the cookies crumble at the unusual but good Blue Ginger.
Stuck between a mattress store and a DVD rental place on Sawmill Road, Blue Ginger calls itself an Asian Fusion Bistro. Do not wince or recoil. Because though that string of eye-roll-inducing words might sound unseemly, the beautiful food at Blue Ginger tastes as good as it looks.
Plus, you'll forget you're in a suburban shopping plaza the minute you step foot in Blue Ginger. The locally unique, two-room restaurant is darkly lit and features polished, carved dark woodwork, big booths with mod metallic tables, a sushi bar and a handsome regular bar. Overall, its stylish mood conjured up a nifty San Francisco eatery for me.
I'd always believed vegetable sushi to be oxymoronic, if not full-on moronic. Not here. With a knockout presentation riffing on colorful tubular forms and displaying meticulous knifework, Blue Ginger's version played fibrous and crunchy off of smooth and pitted salty and vinegary off of sweet; it's definitely worth ordering.
So was the Tsunami Roll ($14) - a giant wave of pretty sushi, stacked in layers and plated with garnishes like blobs of spicy Asian mayo. An inverted roll, it had cool, tender tuna and avocado dotted with sriracha draped over wheels of exterior sushi rice. In the middle were bundles of veggie matchsticks - bell peppers, cucumbers, fruity sweet peppadew peppers and explosively hot jalapenos. The stimulating result was cool and hot, smooth and crunchy, spicy and sweet and lots of fun to look at and eat.
But I could say that about plenty of Blue Ginger's offerings. Even bluntly described menu items like the Vietnamese Salad ($8) were sharp standouts. A heap of crispy jicama was treated to bright accents like slivered mango, chopped cilantro, a spicy peanutty dressing and a lively presentation. This made for a vibrant, refreshing and colorful warm-weather salad, perfectly suited for cooling off sun-abused diners.
Main courses here vary from noodle preparations to creative sushi platters, from house specialty dishes to stir fries, all given a range of ethnic shadings that bounce from Thai to Chinese, from Indonesian to Vietnamese and so forth. If it all sounds like a mixed-up jumble, it's really not.
I found selections from the Wok-N-Grille menu section - where a protein is chosen along with a flavoring method (like rich and gingery Thai coconut curry, zingy brown-sauced Szechuan peppercorn or spicy Indonesian sambal) - to maintain very high standards. If sometimes slightly on the greasy side, they all still featured bold sauces holding together lots of juicy meat (or seafood or tofu) and really good stir-fried veggies given a high-heat searing that lent the ingredients crispy yet tender textures.
More unusual, and pricier, were two excellent specialty entrees - Crispy Red Snapper and Pan Seared Tuna (both $20). The skin-on snapper was a huge block of meaty fish thickly battered, crisply deep fried and doused with a thick, sweet and surprisingly complex hybrid sauce menu-described as "caramelized soy syrup, red wine vinegar and Penang curry."
The visually striking presentation included cellophane noodles and bright green vegetal contrasts from cold little curls of scallion and tender, perfectly cooked whole baby bok choys.
Also dramatically plated was the first-rate Pan Seared Tuna. It wrangled together soba noodles, a seaweed salad, beautiful rare tuna with sesame seeds and a slight sear on its exterior, wasabi, Asian mayo and a green-tea vinaigrette into a fancifully wheel-like abstract art assemblage.
After clever and even inspired dishes like those, chocolate fortune cookies will just seem like par for the course.
For a complete guide to local restaurants, click to ColumbusDiningGuide.com