Friday, 13 January 2012

Flashback Review: Blue by Eric Ripert - Grand Cayman - November 18, 2011

In honour of the Cayman Cookout taking place January 12 to 15, 2012 at the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman which is hosted by the wonderful chef Eric Ripert; we decided to write about our amazing dinner in the Cayman Islands at his restaurant Blue by Eric Ripert, the only Five Diamond Award restaurant in the whole Caribbean.

Eric Ripert

In his opinion:
Eric Ripert should need no introduction. Either for his award winning restaurants (Le Bernardin, Blue, Periwinkle and 10 Arts), or for his very famous chef friends (Anthony Bourdain and Jose Andres).  But it is his French background and French/seafood restaurants that delight people all over the world.

We had the privilege to dine at both of his restaurants (Blue and Periwinkle) while on vacation in Grand Cayman this last November, and enjoyed two great meals that we won't soon forget.

Blue is the more famous of the two restaurants we dined in and it is this one that we are here to review. One should expect a lot from the only AAA five Diamond Award restaurant in all of the Caribbean (remember that there are only two five diamond restaurants in all of Canada) and, although the expectations were high, the service and food met all the expectations. (BTW one of two 5 diamond awards restaurants in all of Canada, is down the street from our house, Yay Langdon Hall!)

Blue is housed inside the Ritz-Carlton Cayman (arguably the best hotel on the island) but, unfortunately presents itself with the pretentiousness that one would hope never to find anywhere.

The Decor in the restaurant is very minimalist, with a slight hint of nautical/sea theme but with clean lines and oversized chairs. Our son was starting to fall asleep as we waited for our table after a very long and tiring day swimming with the stingrays and catching starfish. We finally were seated and set up his portable DVD player (that's code for electronic babysitter) to allow us to enjoy our meal. This ended up not being necessary as he fell asleep before the appetizers hit the table. Oh yeah, the meal...I'm getting to it, stay with me.

We both ordered a glass of wine (Rulli "le villerange" White from Burgandy for me and Argentinian Malbec for Julie) as we decide to order from the a la carte menu instead of the $135 or $165 tasting menus being offered...ouch!.

Before we even ordered, they brought us both an amuse bouche; in this case, it was scallop ceviche (ceviche is Spanish for seafood marinated and "cooked" by the citrus of lemon juice). I'm never one to shy away from scallops so I enjoyed it very much...nice start chef!

For appetizerI decided to go for their signature appetizer Tuna-Foie Grais. I had seen pictures of it before but the pictures don't do it justice. The color and texture were so nice that I didn't even want to put a fork in it. It was a very thin layers of yellow fin tuna, Foie Grais and toasted baguette shaved chives with extra virgin olive oil.

For Entree: There was one item on the menu that was calling my name and I decided to give in. Perfectly grilled swordfish it was.......and served with  baba ganoush and a delicious pomegranate sauce. The swordfish was surprisingly soft and the grill marks just gave it that (I could have done this myself on my BBQ), but not really, no way.

For Dessert:  I chose the pecan tart with house made sorbet and it was just ok. I love pecans so that always makes it good but this was my least favourite part of the meal, go figure. The sorbet and the pecans itself ended up saving the BLAH dessert. I should have gone with the ginger parfait (too late tough, LOL).

Continuing with the excellent service, we were given an after dessert treat sample platter consisting of chocolate fudge, cream puff, strawberry gelee and shortbread cookie. Now that's what I'm talking about......almost made me forget the price of the pecan tart and, I can't argue with "complementary", especially in this restaurant.

Just when we thought it was over, our amazing Hungarian born waiter brought us a beautiful blue box with French macaroons in it, but I will let Julie tell you all about that.

The Good: Ambiance, food and service were top notch. Not the best we have ever had (but then again we have a lot to compare too) but pretty good I must admit. This restaurant was a lot less pretentious than the R. C. Hotel itself and that's always a good thing.
The Bad: Dessert (my fault for choosing it) but 5 Diamond should mean everything on the menu is excellent right? Wrong.....
The Verdict: It was an amazing meal overall. I can see why it consistently is considered the best in the Caribbean but I must say that my experience at my other Caribbean favourite (The Cliff in Barbados) is a great match, even though the Cliff is only rated 4 Diamond.

I loved it, it's done, crossed it off my bucket list and have now his other restaurant to look forward to sometime; NYC's Le I come!

I give it a 4 1/2 olives out of 5.

In her opinion:
To say that this restaurant is on my bucket list would be lying. I love good food...I love great restaurants...but the cost of eating at this place really turned me off (especially for a Caribbean's not New York City or Toronto for that matter). Really, was it worth it? I was perfectly satisfied with having dinner at Periwinkle and calling it done as far as Ripert was concerned. However, the morning that we were off to swim with the stingrays my darling husband of thirteen years tells me it is on his bucket list to eat at Blue by Eric Ripert.  So what do I do...I pull out the cell phone and precede to make a reservation for that night.

Spending a long day out on and in the ocean didn't make me anymore excited about dining at Blue; but, who am I to quash a man's dream or the opportunity to check off an item on a bucket list. 

Our last experience with the staff at the Ritz-Carlton had made me realize that this place was super snotty and pretentious but I decided to keep an open mind.  Our reservation was for 8:30 pm and we weren't seated until 8:50 pm.  Ethan was slowly fading ...he ate two pieces of delicious house made bread and drifted away to sleep.  The staff was wonderful and brought a comfortable pillow to rest his head...they scored points there as far as mommy was concerned.

Let me say that our waiter was amazing.  He made us feel like we were the only two people in the restaurant.  He started us off with an amuse bouche, a scallop ceviche.  This was excellent.

I ordered LOBSTER for my appetizer - a combination of crispy and steamed lobster, topped with a lovely micro green salad and served with a wonderful citrus vinaigrette.  I love lobster and this certainly did not disappoint.

For my entree, I ordered BEEF - a wonderful beef tenderloin. Served in a red wine-garlic reduction, served with asparagus and a wonderful potato emulsion.  A crisp potato basket filled with the silkiest potatoes I have ever eaten and topped with shaved asparagus.  The beef was perfectly cooked to medium.  I usually don't order beef in the Caribbean but this was extraordinary.  The beef was perfect with my Malbec.

For dessert, I ordered Chocolate-Banana - chocolate mousse, chocolate sorbet, chocolate brownie, two slices of brulee bananas and caramel sauce with a shortbread crumble. Excellent. So good.  I loved it.

If that wasn't good enough they brought us an after dessert platter of sweets. Now we're talking. Everything was so good.

After we paid our bill, our fantastic waiter brought me a beautiful little blue box filled with two passion fruit French macaroons.  Very nice touch...almost made me forget what we paid to eat here.

Blue was amazing. I am so glad that we ate here. The whole experience was well worth the price.  I think that Eric Ripert definitely knows what he is doing.  This was an unforgettable meal in one of the most unforgettable places in the Caribbean.

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