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The 'Nino" Experience at BLUE, Venice Hotel

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At BLUE, dining is more then just an eating experience, but a life experience

When Food Becomes an Experience

If you have been around Shenzhen China a bit, you will quickly notice that finding something to fill your stomach with is not hard. Shenzhen is overcrowded with street vendors selling everything from fried bread, pork fat and roasted potatoes to steaks, roasted chickens, and kababs. Restaurants are on every street corner competing with one another to the point where finding a place to eat becomes difficult – not due to the lack of choice – but due to too many choices to choose from.

Street Foodies

Being busy like I am, I have found a love for Shenzhen street food – not because of its amazing taste but more so due to the fact that when I am in a rush, I do not have to stop and sit down at a restaurant to grab a quick bite. At the same time, I do not want to rely on a bag of chips, a soda or some other junk food to fill me up when I’m in a rush. Going this route will only slow me down in the long run once the sugar high goes away. That said, grabbing a quick cup of grilled potatoes, a Chinese burger, or some other quick street food becomes perfect for the sole purpose of keeping me from fainting and filling my stomach with something edible.

To fill or not to fill?

Thinking this through, it would appear that we can have multiple definitions of what food means to us. Food can be just a means to an end. This means that too many, food is nothing more than a reaction to the fact that your body is hungry thus – anything to fill your stomach and give you a sense of edible fulfillment. It would go without saying, that this is the case in many situations such as needing something to eat to give us enough energy to finish our job or even the above example of just needing something to keep us in motion when we are busy or just need something to fuel our energy.  The problem is that many can have a shallow conception of food when it is only defined in this manner. Food, in fact, can be something that stimulates more than just one organ but can also be a great experience for touch, sight, smell and taste.

There are certain establishments that thrive on the “fill them up and go” concept of food. They offer a fast service that fills you with a specific food item and such establishments have been very successful. A few examples are McDonalds or KFC. They don't focus on a gourmet meal but rather the convenience of getting your food fast and going about your day. Other restaurants are more personal offering a sit-down experience and thus moving a level higher than the fast food chains.  Going a bit higher, you run into chef-driven establishments who thrive on not just feeding their guests but creating an experience that the guest will remember and take home with them.

One such restaurant is BLUE at the Venice Raytour Hotel. This restaurant is lead by head chef Nino who thrives in creating dishes that stimulate more than an empty stomach.  Nino has been cooking most of his life and comes from a family of chefs. That said, he knows what he is doing in the kitchen and combines his Italian heritage with a unique artistic style only seen at a few locations such as BLUE.

Artistic and Imaginative Culinary Skills for Visual Consumption

As it was my first time eating at BLUE, I had some idea of the style of cooking that I would be expecting but could not expect what would come out first. The first dish (part of an eight course 688RMB special) was a foie gras topped with caviar and over a salad. The name of the dish was completely beside the point considering it was brought to the table in a glass box.  This totally threw me off and put me in a spin of thoughts as to what kind of situation did I get myself into. Immediately I knew that this was no longer a food for the stomach occasion but was now elevated to an artistic experience to the point where I did not want to ruin the dish by eating it.  The sheer amount of thought to go into a dish with this much thought and presentation says a lot about what goes on in the mind of the chef and brings a new meaning to the term “eye candy.”

 

 

Goose Liver with Strawberry

This brings me to the point of feeding the eyes. In Nino’s mind, the eyes are the first thing that eats a dish and can/will decide whether the stomach is full or empty based on presentation. It reminds me of the time when I was first offered rabbit heads here in China. My wife having hardly ate somehow found herself immediately full after taking one good look at the dish thus backing out and leaving me as the scapegoat. Visual preparation is key when you are a chef because your presentation will push the guest to either want to eat or loose their appetite. In this case, my appetite was sparked while at the same time – the visual appreciation stunned me for a bit.  The flavor was amazing, the foie gras as seared on both sides giving it a crunchy exterior while keeping the tender taste of the goose liver inside. It became one of my favorite dishes.

The next dish was just as visually stimulating. Being a seafood salad, Nino had the idea of serving it inside of a bottle suspended by chains. Once again, the concept of visual consumption comes into play. I was once again blown away and began to understand the interview with Nino where we spoke of feeding the eyes first.

Seafood Salad

Another salad dish offered features a bresaola stuffed with handmade ricotta cheese and truffles. This comes with a peg giving it the appeal of a closed bag (at least in my point of view). When this dish came to the table, It came with directions on how to eat it (one large bite). The overall experience is amazing. From the sight of the dish to the smell of the bresaola and the explosive taste.

stuffed bresaola 

Eleina, the Floor Manager would later theme the seafood salad “Message in a bottle”. This dish brought out two unique elements: the first being that visually it was amazing and demanded an appreciation from the guests (me included) and also it was themed very well. Seeing a seafood dish inside of a floating bottle gives a visual of a beach and smelling the seafood then brings the next element of Nino’s creations, which is the smell.

Culinary Fragrances that Stimulate Appetite

If you a foreigner and have been around China longer than a week, you will have smelled dishes that immediately took away your appetite such as stinky tofu (yes that's the real name) or – in some cases – durian. Certain foods may look great to the eyes but have a horrid smell that overrides our appetite and sends us running the other way.

“If it is fish, I want you to smell the ocean and if it is meat – you ought to smell the fields” – CHEF NINO, BLUE

In the world of fine-dining, the freshness of the ingredients are extremely important and it has a lot to do with the aroma of the ingredient once it’s cooked or offered. One such dish that gives a fresh aroma was my 4th dish the Beef Tartar. Nothing is more fresh than raw – and the beef tartar is offered on a bed of mashed potatoes adding the earthy theme of the beef and feeding the guests sense of smell. The hot egg on top and warm mashed potatoes at the bottom make this a warm dish and gives a pleasant aroma. The initial presentation of this dish definitely appeals to the visual senses and transforms once the egg is broken and a new visual experience is offered. This is definitely one of my personal favorites.

 

To go even further, the next two dishes featured a Japanese themed sushi dish featuring three hand-crafted nigiri by the chef himself. This is also a great example of look, smell, and taste. Sushi is a Japanese food, but it is also an art that takes a lot of studying to master. When done right, sushi will have the visual appeal, the fresh aroma of the sea and a great taste. A contrasted fried jumbo shrimp dish followed this up before receiving our main entrees.

The Flaming Risotto

While we were enjoying the seafood, I thought I had seen everything the chef had to offer but was mistaken by that notion when he had the light turned off and began to wheel in a half block of Parmigiano Reggiano. The middle of this block of cheese was hollowed out and filled with risotto. It was then lit on fire in an elaborate display of blue and orange flames of which Nino then cooked a parmesan risotto right in front of our table. This was without a doubt the best risotto I have tasted. Cooking it inside the cheese was an act of genius and created a risotto with a creamy texture topped with black truffle. This took an item that is usually uneventful such as a risotto and elevated it to an emotional experience that I will never forget.

 

Finally, our final dish was an amazing surf and turf featuring a seared cod topped with caviar and a perfectly cooked steak. By the time this dish came to the table, I had lost count of the dishes and wasn't sure if I could try another dish but quickly gained back my hunger after seeing this dish.  Nothing could have completed such an experience better than an amazing steak and fish final entrée. The evening was completed with a house made tiramisu served with mint and ice cream. The dessert was also extremely beautiful and a perfect way to end the evening.

 

In conclusion, being someone who is constantly trying new restaurants and looking for the next best tasting dishes, I must say that having dinner at BLUE gave a great experience that I will never forget. Whether you are looking for a romantic event or just a great dining experience, you must give this restaurant a try. I have returned multiple times since this first experience and have not left without experiencing something new and different.

Place Name: Blue意大利餐厅

Place Address: Level 3, The Venice Raytour Hotel Shenzhen, 9026 Shennan Road, Overseas Chinese Town Nanshan District, Shenzhen

深圳南山区华侨城深南大道9026号,深圳威尼斯睿途酒店3楼

Website: 
 Blue Italian Seafood & Grill Restaurant (The Venice Raytour Hotel Shenzhen)'s Website

Place Phone: (755) 2693 6888 Ext: 8022

Email: blue@szvenicehotel.com

 

 

 

 

 

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