(Published in the Cayman Compass Weekender, Friday, 27 June, 2014)
The Caribbean’s only AAA Five Diamond Restaurant, Blue by Eric Ripert, at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, is offering diners the opportunity to savor its award-winning cuisine at a fraction of the regular cost.
The restaurant’s summer tasting menu “Into the Blue” is now available through Aug. 31. The tasting menu is a scaled-down version of the restaurant’s traditional seven-course tasting menu, offering diners three exceptional courses with wine pairings for $105, gratuities included.
Headed up by famed French chef Eric Ripert, Blue is arguably Cayman’s premier seafood restaurant, and follows on from the success of Ripert’s Michelin-starred, multiple award-winning New York restaurant La Bernadin.
Blue’s tasting menu offers fantastic value for money and is the ideal opportunity for those who perhaps would not ordinarily be able to afford Blue’s elegant ambience, exceptional service and delicious food.
Standout dishes during a recent visit included the yellowtail ceviche with avocado, sour orange and cilantro; cobia with red wine beluga lentils and an artichoke emulsion; and a caramel mousse with caramelized popcorn and popcorn sorbet. There were a few extras too, including a selection of amuse bouche, served soon after seating, and perhaps my favorite dish of all – a poached scallop served in its shell with turnip puree, turnip pearls, maitake mushrooms and a smoked butter sauce.
As you would expect, the wine pairings further enhance each dish’s flavor profiles. Wines were selected from a variety of regions, including a brightly citric, single vineyard 2011 Viognier “K Vintners” from Columbia Valley, Washington, and a classic 2011 French Malbec “Clos del Coutale” from the Cahors wine region. The pre-dinner cocktails are not to be missed, either.
Cooked to perfection
The key thing that stands out at Blue – apart from the elegance of it all – is the freshness of the seafood and the simplicity and balance of each dish.
Indeed, Ripert’s philosophy is to use only the freshest fish and only the very finest cuts – sourced locally wherever possible thanks to a strong working relationship with Cayman’s fisherman.
Everything in the restaurant is cooked to Ripert’s exacting standards under the watchful eye of the newly installed chef de cuisine Thomas Seifried. He tells me that fish is typically cooked to an internal temperature of 130-135 F, meaning diners enjoy a perfectly medium rare fish every time. Indeed, preparing every dish at Blue and ensuring the fish is at the precise doneness is an exact science.
Simplicity and balance of flavors are also a hallmark of Blue. Seifried says that anything overly complicated or with more than three or four key ingredients will never make it onto the menu at Blue.
While the tasting menu changes regularly to reflect the availability of ingredients, classics such as the Tuna Foie Gras – a dish that has been on La Bernadin’s menu for some 15 years – will also be featured.
Megan Licata, public relations manager at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, explained that Into the Blue invites locals and summer visitors to discover new tastes at the restaurant.
“We create the menu with the summer’s best seasonal ingredients, the finest local seafood and culinary-inspired wines for a truly distinctive experience,” she says.
“As with all our menus, dishes are updated to reflect the seasonality and availability of ingredients. Locals who experienced our Into the Blue menu in previous years have been excited to come back and see what new dishes we’ve created, and the turnout has been great thus far. Our Into the Blue menu offers an exceptional introduction to the restaurant for first-time guests as well.”
She added, “Chef Ripert is a strong believer in food’s ability to bind cultures together and create lasting memorable experience. Our team and restaurant enliven this experience, blending an acclaimed fine dining experience with the casual elegance and exquisite local seafood that makes Grand Cayman such a distinctive and wonderful place.”
Blue by Eric Ripert is open Tuesday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m.