The Restaurant Blue by Eric Ripert at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman is the Caribbean’s only AAA Five Diamond Restaurant for good reason: The restaurant compares well against North America’s best. However, having dinner there could fall out of the price range for those on a budget. With a new monthly lunch offering, many more people will have an opportunity to experience Blue’s elegance, great food and great service.
I love the food options in New York City, everything from the delis and bagel shops to the fine dining restaurants. However, some of the best restaurants, those with the Michelin stars, can be quite expensive and although my wife and I try to dine at at least one great restaurant every trip, going to any more is out of our price range. At least, so we thought.
During our trip there in 2011, we learned that we could dine at some of New York’s finest restaurants and have a fantastic experience at half the cost, simply by going there for lunch instead of dinner.
Until recently, such an option didn’t exist at Cayman’s version of a top New York restaurant, Blue by Eric Ripert at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. As a result, except when I’ve covered events there for one of our publications, it has been a special occasion restaurant for my wife and me: We were engaged there, had our first married Valentine’s Day dinner there, and we’ve celebrated two anniversaries there.
Now, we can afford to go more often if we want. Starting on 23 February and continuing on the last Saturday of every month through August, Blue is open for lunch.
Blue’s lunch offering has two menu choices: A special three-course Prix Fixe menu and a Blue Tasting Menu.
Since I was dining with my wife, we decided to try one of each so we could really get a feel for what Blue was offering at lunch. Technically, the tasting menu is only available for full table service, but since I was writing about the experience, they let us order both options.
The Prix Fixe menu included a choice of nine appetizers, six main courses and five desserts for a price of only $69 including gratuities. Three of the appetizers – caviar, oysters and sea platter – came with supplement charges.
One item on the appetizer menu stood out to us: The sea platter with oysters, king crab, lobster and tuna tartare for a $15 price supplement. This huge seafood platter could have been a meal in itself and came with a trio of house-sauces – mignonette, citrus and bloody Mary – for the three oysters.
The key thing that stood out about the dish was the quality of the seafood. Although items like oysters and king crab can’t be sourced locally, Blue only gets top quality, fresh seafood no matter where it comes from. The oysters and the crab were absolutely divine, as was the tuna tartare and lobster.
The main course came with a choice of six dishes, three fish – cobia, tuna and snapper – one chicken, one beef and one pasta. We chose the fresh local yellow tail tuna with celery puree, topped with shaved Iberico cured ham and green peppercorn sauce. The seared tuna was so tender it virtually melted in our mouths.
My wife doesn’t like sweets very much so we were delighted to see a cheese plate offered as one of the dessert options. The artisan cheeses selected were all delicious, as were the accompaniments of honeycomb, Port cherries and apple, which added a touch of sweetness to the cheese.
The lunchtime Blue Tasting Menu was a scaled-down version of Blue’s six or seven-course dinner tasting menus, offering four courses for a price of $83 including gratuities.
The February tasting menu came with gazpacho soup made with local tomatoes, watermelon and sweet shrimp that were cooked to tender perfection.
Guests had a choice of appetizer; either Eric Ripert’s iconic Tuna-Foie Gras dish or Lobster, which was tender chunks of Maine lobster topped with a piece of avocado and served with fennel salad and yuzu vinaigrette. The Tuna-Foie Gras is a personal favourite of mine – a piece of local tuna pounded thin, placed over a toasted baguette plank, topped with foie gras, then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with minced chives. As much as I like that dish, I decided to try something new, so I opted for the lobster. I wasn’t disappointed with my choice.
The third course was local snapper served with a Puerto Rican Sancocho sauce with mini drums of sweet potato. One of the things that Blue continually gets right is the doneness of its fish. Blue’s Chef de Cuisine Luis Lujan has the process down to a science, as would be expected at any restaurant with Eric Ripert’s name attached.
Finishing up was a mini-mango cheese cake with passion fruit ice cream; a dish that blended sweetness and tartness.
Both the Prix Fixe and Blue Tasting Menu choices came with an optional wine pairing for additional cost. The wine pairing brought the cost of Prix Fixe menu to $95 including gratuities and cost of the Blue Tasting Menu – and its one additional course – to $110.
Although the pairings don’t involve expensive wines, they were all very good wines, thoughtfully chosen by The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s Head Sommelier Kristian Netis. This was not simply a pairing of wines that go well with seafood; these were pairings that were chosen to go well with specific kinds of seafood and the sauces with which they were served.
For me, the pairing of 2009 Tesch Deep Blue ‘White Pinot Noir’ – which was actually very light pink in colour – from the Nahe region of Germany with the lobster and yuzu vinaigrette was unbelievably good, bringing out the best in both the food and the wine.
For the Blue Tasting Menu, all of the dishes were paired with rosé wines, at least in colour. But the wines came from different places – Provence, France; Stellenbosch, South Africa and different parts of Germany – and were made from a variety of grapes, such as the unique Mulderbosch Rosé that is made from Cabernet Sauvignon. This made the wine pairings that much more interesting.
Several of the same wines were poured with the Prix Fixe, but the Seafood Platter called for a white wine instead of a rosé, so Netis poured a delicious Sancerre from the Loire Valley.
Both dessert courses were served with Menger-Krug, a méthode champenoise sparkling rosé from Germany that was a surprisingly appropriate pairing with both the cheese plate and the mango cheese cake.
Lunch at Blue also comes with many cost-free extras.
Soon after seating, guests were served a mini Katana cocktail, a refreshing start to the meal.
After the bread service, guests received a wonderful salmon rillettes dish with slices of crisp baguette.
Although the petit fours served with espresso after dessert weren’t as elaborate as they are with Blue’s dinner, they were still delicious and a nice way to end the meal.
There is, of course, the elegant ambience of the newly renovated Blue interior and the impeccable Blue service standard that is all part of the experience of having a meal at the restaurant. At a price of about half of what it would cost at dinner, Lunch at Blue is an offer that is well worth the money.