Decided to try out the new restaurant in town and had a great monday night dinner at Blue Cilantro (bluecilantrocayman.com). 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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