I have to admit that I’ve never been a fan of this whole “celebrity chef” thing. The concept really seemed to start with the Food Network, and then exploded with shows like Bravo’s Top Chef. Not that I don’t enjoy the shows — I definitely do. But, too often, the restaurants I’ve dined at that are supposedly run by these famous chefs have just become ways to showcase the brand without any real indication of the chefs’ involvement.
But, there are exceptions. Chef Ming Tsai appeared in the late 1990s on the Food Network with his show “East Meets West”, and now you can see him on PBS with his show “Simply Ming”. He was one of the early advocates of fusing Eastern and Western cooking and ingredients, as well as promoting the selection of wines to complement Asian flavors. On my personal bucket list, if I ever got to Boston, was to eat at his restaurant Blue Ginger.
Well, my wife Karen and I did go to Boston and, sure enough, we had dinner at Blue Ginger with Karen’s sister Liz, her husband Brian and their daughter Katherine as well as Karen’s cousin Denise and her husband Glenn.
For a starter, I got the Fois Gras Shumai, which made me say “Screw the California Food Police” or something like that. This paired beautifully with the La Marca Prosecco from Italy.
Then, for an entrée, I had the Tamarind Marinated Hanger Steak with Thai BBQ Sauce. The perfect accompaniment to this was the 2010 Owen Roe “Sinister Hand” blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre from Washington’s Columbia Valley.
Other dishes that hit the table were the Mussels, Butterfish, Salmon, Chicken, and Risotto. Everyone at the table was very happy.
And, even though one member of our party had food allergies, this was no problem at Blue Ginger. Ming Tsai is a national spokesperson for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and developed the Food Allergy Reference Book. So, special requests are taken in stride at Blue Ginger.
In spite of all of the above being so wonderful, the highlight of the evening was having an opportunity to chat a little with Ming Tsai. His passion for food was only matched by his charm and charisma.
Comment from Karen’s sister Liz: “The steamed mussels at Blue Ginger were delicious! (They) were plump and the sauce they were cooked in was amazing. The sauce was so good that I dipped bread in it and used some on my risotto. I could have eaten a whole bowl full of (them)! Ming Tsai was very outgoing, funny and gracious and it made our evening that he stopped at our table. He was very sweet to autograph a menu for Katherine.”
And Karen added: “My butterfish paired very well with the red wine. Michael and I are not afraid to branch out and have lighter reds with seafood. I believe good food — in this case, excellent food — can always be enhanced with a wonderful wine. The evening culminated with meeting Ming and having our photo taken near the open kitchen. He was so genuine and unpretentious, I must say, it was the best “dessert” I have had in recent memory.”
At the time of this writing, Ming Tsai has announced that he will be opening a second restaurant in the Boston area, Blue Dragon. I am confident that he will not allow his empire to get out of control and will continue to provide excellent dining experiences.
Michael Perlis provides outsourced controller services to businesses that do not need a full-time controller. He balances this with his interest in wine: reading and writing about it and, of course, drinking it. He is still trying to figure out how to combine these two pursuits. Feel free to contact him about either at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.