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Jun 13, 2012 10:15 AM

Grand Cayman - Blue Cilantro

Decided to try out the new restaurant in town and had a great monday night dinner at Blue Cilantro ( Make no mistake about it, this place is ambitious and in contrast to a number of other newly opened restaurants in Cayman, it actually delivers. In the words of the Terminator, "I will return!".

The restaurant is awkwardly placed right at a busy traffic circle. Apparently the owners want to channel a metro vibe.. thankfully, the traffic cannot be heard inside. There is a small outside terrace overlooking the traffic, and to date I have not yet seen it filled with customers.
The staff made a big deal about the fact that we had no reservation, despite the place being pretty empty, and placed us in the lounge area, away from the main dining area where you can watch the chefs.
Contemporary decor with touches of blue, pretty dishes, glasses and cutlery.. however each table is adorned with an ugly concrete-based vase and candle - quite a misstep amidst the display of good taste. Big windows offer displays of parking lot/traffic, which is actually cool after dark ("metro vibe").

So we get our menus and decide to go with the 3-course, a 5-course tasting menu, and a la carte, with a wine of our choice rather than the wine pairings.
Note that the menus on the website differ slightly from what we were presented with.

The first thing to arrive is warm buttery naan flatbread with a tangy fresh mango chutney. Loved the chutney, but the naan was not fresh.
Wine selection and approval carried out smoothly. Ditto for taking our order.
The servers are friendly and comport themselves well - they don't interrupt conversations, they are attentive without hovering, and offer sound advice.

Then after a pause, a surprise: An amuse bouche for all the diners (not just the person having the tasting menu). Tuna ceviche topped with a paper-thin slice of beetroot and a pile of green lemon foam. Amazing textures, colours, tastes!
Everything we ate was beautifully presented, great visual appeal and amazing flavours. Amazing!

The a la carte choices were the jumbo shrimp and rack of lamb, with sticky toffee pudding.
The shrimp were fabulous, humongous, juicy and perhaps the best thing of the entire meal (the server too said they were very popular). Very tender and juicy lamb on a bed of scalloped potatoes, but the sticky toffee was so-so (I guess there's only so much you can do with it - a different way to go would be to cut the sugar and perk it up a little, hint hint!).

The 3-course menu choices were Crab Cakes, Beef Tenderloin, Key Lime bar.
Crab cakes were lovely. Not mushy, and with nice chunks of crab.
The beef tenderloin was perfectly prepared, incredibly tender - maybe just a little bit boring? A crust or a rub would perhaps have highlighted the meat's taste.
It came with a deepfried mashed-potato cake with blue cheese both in the body of the cake as well as a cheese nugget in the center. Mea culpa, I'm not big on blue cheese, and forgot to mention this when ordering. After tasting it (lovely crisp coating and fluffy potato filling), I had to slide the potato cake over to hubby, who really loved it.
My least favourite thing was the dessert, where I found the cheesecake-meringue very stodgy, and the tequila granite overpowering the delicate blueberry compote.

The 5-course meal was a lot of fun. There were some choices available, and everything was beautifully presented.
As far as I recall, the courses included ceviche, pumpkin ravioli, swordfish, something and a molten chocolate cake. I heard no complaints or adverse comments, and all our plates returned empty, so we were a pretty happy lot by the end of the meal!

We drank red wine throughout, with port for dessert.

The staff juggled the 5-course diner along with several 3-course diners pretty adeptly. The 5-course dinner included an second amuse-bouche halfway through, which was a rhubarb granite with champagne, poured over the granite at the table. We were all served this, and the rosy, slightly bitter, cold, bubbly concoction was a fantastic pick-me-up that kept our palates enthused for the next round.

On the whole, the food and presentation was awesome. The servers were smooth, and there were very few missteps during the evening.
There was, however, a pretty long break at one point, about 30-40mins, just before the tenderloin/lamb/third course out of 5 appeared. This pause put a damper on my appetite, and also ended up taking our chatty group well past closing time (10pm, which is pretty early). I'm not sure if the restaurant offers post-dinner coffee? We were not offered any, and it was a pity, because it would have been a good closure to a fantastic meal.

I read a review elsewhere calling the restaurant "Indian fusion", however, apart from the naan bread at the beginning and a couple of hints on the dinner menu, there were no other signs of indian food being served. This is modern and very well-executed contemporary cuisine with no specific ethnic leaning, and a welcome addition to the dining scene. Finally, I should mention that our party included somebody who'd tried Blue recently, and felt that Blue Cilantro was much better.

However, it remains to be seen if the food is as flawless on repeat visits, or whether it gradually begins to suffer from the uneven and shoddy execution that characterises many of the other restaurants here, along with the general refusal to renew their menu so that one sees the exact same menu today that one saw 6 years ago... culinary boredom after a few visits. I truly hope Blue Cilantro sticks to its guns and high standards of quality, because I plan to eat here often, and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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  1. So this time I decided to try a Saturday lunch with a girlfriend.

    The restaurant was empty, just one other table was occupied - we loved the quiet restaurant and therefore quite personal service. Sat at one of the window tables and enjoyed watching the traffic go by.

    We found out that the website mention of a glass of bubbly with saturday lunch is not current any more (guys, please update that website!). And to my surprise, the lunch menu has a distinctly Indian vibe. The lunch menu did not feel particularly inspiring somehow; a lot of fuss is made of the appetisers, with a somewhat limited variety in the choice of entrees.

    I decided to try the udon noodles in a coconut curry, with fish prepared to my specification, while my friend went for lamb kebab with fries.
    The udon were cooked just right, in a light curry sauce, with a perfectly grilled slab of mahimahi. Looked great on the plate, and I loved the dish, particularly because the sauce was light and did not overpower the fish.
    Girlfriend's lamb turned out to be big meaty skewers with very distinct Indian aroma (cumin?), in a wrap, with a side of salad fries and some salad. Pretty good, she said, but the dish lacked visual appeal and was a bit on the dry side. The fries did not come with a dipping sauce, so she had to ask for ketchup, which threw off the balance of flavours.

    Bubbles not being included as we'd expected, we asked about freshly pressed juices, of which they had none. However, they offered to make us a fresh spritzer type drink with fresh crushed fruit, and this was a very flavourful and fresh accompaniment to the food, without being too sweet or overpowering.

    No desserts for us: the ones on offer were the pre-fab ones offered all along SMB: Cloyingly sweet Sticky Toffee pudding, done-to-death molten choc cake, stodgy cheesecake .... no thanks. Not in a restaurant of this calibre and capability. I know its lunch, but honestly, we live on a tropical island with fresh fruit freely available. And not everybody wants to load up on calories in this day and age...

    Would we come back for lunch? Yes, I had a great lunch but girlfriend would order more selectively next time. Something light and sweet to round off lunch would have been nice. Good atmosphere.. might be hard to find parking during the week.

    3 Replies
    1. re: HaveSpoonWillCook

      I was meaning to try this restaurant when I was on the island last month, but my companion has an aversion to Indian food. I am glad that you corrected the impression in your post. Maybe next time, I will try this restaurant. All I have to do is find the parking lot, I am not a great fan of roundabouts.

      1. re: BigGeorge

        I'm not too fond of Indian food myself, so I was pleasantly surprised that only a few dishes on the lunch/dinner menu have decidedly indian flavours. I don't mind other asian tastes and found the light curry sauce for the noodles perfect. I've found the servers to be very well-versed with the menu, they answered all my questions knowledgeably.
        Yes, the roundabout and parking is a bit of an issue! Perhaps you could park across the street behind the stores of Galleria Plaza, and walk across the road to the restaurant?
        Hope you enjoy your experience!

      2. re: HaveSpoonWillCook

        Another Saturday lunch report!

        I do wish they would add daily specials or do something to jazz up the very limited lunch menu. If you've been there for lunch twice, the menu ceases to appeal ... This time I tried the steak which was fairly unexciting; just a small slab of steak with nothing out of the usual to remind me that I was dining in a fine restaurant. Oily fries with aioli were a greasy combo that didn't appeal very much. My friends picked the noodles with fish, and loved that.
        Great service and atmosphere, very nice wines.

        And then, having talked up the restaurant so much, I took a group of friends for dinner there on a mid-week evening. Impeccable service, great atmosphere, very nice for dining out.
        We were somewhat surprised that despite the restaurant being not even half-full, and having just ordered mains and dessert (no tasting menus), AND arrived pretty early, the food took ages to arrive. I realise good food takes time, and am all for slow food, but this is definitely not the place for a quick dinner.

        The lobster ravioli appetiser turned out to be one medium sized ravioli, swimming in a thick pumpkin sauce (think: thick pumpkin soup with a ravioli in it, covered in the soup).This was a case of way too much bland pumpkin sauce, too thickly-rolled-out pasta, and a few tiny bits of lobster (no ricotta or other filler, no herbs and flavouring, just bits of lobster). A big miss.

        My friends loved the shrimp appetiser, although the "jumbo" shrimp is shrinking! The basket of warm flatbread and fruity chutney were a big hit too.
        Fastastic lamb entrees - tremendous flavour, correct done-ness, beautiful presentation. They certainly do the "meaty" dishes (seafoods and meats) well.

        The desserts failed to impress, however. There is a lack of wow factor and the quality is generic.
        I was persuaded to sample the trio of creme brulee. Bad move. They were stodgy and tasted like they were made from a packet mix. The flavours (cardamom, pineapple, mango) were uneven: The cardamom was really really overpowering, with almost a teaspoon of the seeds at the bottom of the tiny bowl (yeuch) while the mango could scarcely be tasted. In terms of flavours, mango and pineapple resemble each other a lot, and replacing one of these with a slightly more distinctive note such as orange, or even rum, would have improved the trio considerably and given a good contrast in flavours. Nicely presented, though.
        The sticky toffee dessert and chocolate cake failed to impress our group either.

        All in all, uneven execution, and this was despite Chef Shetty being in the kitchen.

        Would I return?
        To be honest, I'm not sure. It seems to be becoming somewhat hit and miss.
        My first post was in June of this year where I had a sublime and faultless dinner at this very same restaurant... Is this restaurant going downhill already?

      3. Decided to give this a try. We came early for dinner and navigated the roundabout.The restaurant was relatively empty. We tried the tasting menu. The food was good overall except for the so-so desserts. Some people have complained in the past about the portion size, but it was good. I believe the portions are too large at most Cayman restaurants.

        The experience was good , but with all the good restaurants in Grand Cayman, I am not rushing back.

        1. Its been 2 years since I went to Blue Cilantro, and I can say that it now ranks with the best in Cayman. My companion and I had red snapper with spices cooked in a tandoori oven and the Asian aromatic seafood were wonderful. The starters: cerviche,mussels and the clay oven bread were also excellent. There was a decent reasonably priced wine selection.