I was reading an article recently about celebrity chefs and it mentioned that Wolfgang Puck's restaurants have almost become parodies. This is the way I felt about Blue Ginger. It is as if there may have once been creativity in the dishes when they were perhaps flawlessly executed and the most choice ingredients chosen but from my experience last night I found the food to be very formulaic and poorly executed. The fois gras shu mai were in a French onion soup reduction that was so salty it was almost inedible and the fois gras and shitake mushroom flavors so bland possibly from having been sitting in the steamer for way too long (we were seated at 8:30Pm and didn't get our appetizers until around 9:30PM, the wait staff, while not too bad was often gone so long that I had to ask the bus girl to find them for us, also what was with all the reaching across plates etc and saying "excuse me" after the fact, not the most consummate service).
The leek spring roll concoction was over cooked (burnt) though probably would have been good otherwise. While the calamari were better than at most Italian American places where they are so rubbery and over battered/breaded they were nothing special, the batter could have been much lighter and the dipping sauce was a few herbs and dash of lemon juice away from what I imagine they might serve at a place like red lobster, still they weren't rubber rings so I suppose that is something but for someone who grew up on the delicate preparation of calamari in Italy and Spain these were really below average and certainly not what I would have expected from a restaurant that is apparently so well regarded.
The wine list was not bad but some bottles were just ridiculously marked up and for a place that has all sorts of accolades from wine spectator there was nary a sommelier in sight so I choose our wines and for a table of 6 we spent about $3-400 on 4 bottles (remember this). Our waitress did not appear to know much about wine service and had I not asked she would have left our reds unopened until our main course arrived. The highlight of the evening was a fabulous brunello though at $175 the huge mark up from retail on that bottle alone was a little irksome.
The other highlight of the evening was the rack of lamb and I have to say that the lobster was cooked well though it was much too over herbed and the herbs were burnt and possibly not that fresh to begin with. The bass too was cooked well but again over herbed. No finesse, no synergy, the flavors were so strong and in the case of the herbs so pungent because they were burnt that there was no synergy possible and that is the essence of fusion cuisine. The accompanying edamame pesto risotto was amateur night, the rice tasted as thought it was day old and not particularly good quality to begin with. The clams were good and well executed.
I didn't even bother with dessert.
I can see how this restaurant came by its good reputation as each dish had potential (though frankly the creative aspects of the fusion cuisine are about average compared to fusion restaurants in Seattle and San Fran) but at least last night execution was very poor, they type of execution you might expect from an amateur chef who is trying to reach far beyond his technical ability. I did not see Ming so perhaps it is better when he is around.
Final annoyance was the bill. Rather than allow a patron to decide upon the tip a tip was prefigured and below it was an area for one to add an additional tip. Given that about 30% of the check was our wine and that I had had to manage that solo and service was sub par in that respect I was not especially happy with this. I understand and condone the practice of prefiguring a minimum tip in restaurants that are truly impeccable in every respect with commensurate, professional, knowledgeable, and experienced waiters but for a restaurant that is not at that level to do it is just arrogance and/or pretension.
Very disappointed with the whole experience, I had been hoping for so much more even though I knew that a celebrity chef joint that has been open for a while was a risk.