After five years as Executive Chef at Somerville’s now-defunct Gargoyles on the Square, as well as a few months earning a second-place finish on Fox reality cooking show “Hell’s Kitchen,” Jason “Jay” Santos has opened up Blue Inc. in the Financial District, bringing over his signature duck dish and his recognizable bright blue hair. In its early months, Blue Inc. has already gained substantial buzz for its hints of molecular gastronomy – culinary magic tricks – and whimsical menu.
The cocktail menu, brainchild of bar manager Tricia LaCount, goes along with the theme with some bizarre combinations. The fat boyz margarita, for example, includes beef stock and smoked chili sea salt. I opted for the cheffy: Grand Marnier, a big blue rock, and orange glitter. More exciting on paper than in the glass, the cocktail was an unattractive blue-orange mess that tasted like straight Grand Marnier with a little bit of sugar added. And five cocktail straws. Not off to a great start – but I’d give some of the other cocktails a chance in the future. I’m not exactly sure what a “chilled chocolate afro puff – blonde or brunette? – with one giant marshmallow” means… but I want to find out.
We ordered a variety of appetizers for the table, and all were enjoyable, especially the scallion pancakes and the spicy tuna tacos. While the tacos were not actually spicy at all, they were cool, refreshing, and served well to whet our appetite for the main course.
One of my dining companions ordered the signature honey and hoisin-glazed duck confit (with sweet sticky rice, mango, cashews, and coconut milk), and it was just as I had remembered it from a long-ago visit to Gargoyles on the Square. This is a solid choice, and I hope it will remain on the menu, which changes frequently. My main course was excellent: cabernet-braised short ribs with St. Andre, pistachios, fresh figs, prosciutto crumbs, and crunchy onion rings. The meat was tender and full of flavor, and those onion rings? Delicious.
We had our hearts set on liquid nitrogen milkshakes for dessert. Turns out they’re actually only on the lunch menu, but we asked, and our wish was granted. While the liquid nitrogen is mainly a gimmick, one that we’d all seen before in college chem labs, it still made us “ooh” and “aah” – and it resulted in a light, fluffy, super-chilled milkshake. (As I waddled out of the restaurant, I realized that the milkshake wasn’t nearly as light as it initially seemed.)
Blue Inc.’s ambiance is predictably blue-themed, but subtly enough that the color doesn’t hit you over the head. The restaurant actually looks quite nice, a small and upbeat space. The noise level is high; pick this one for a fun night out with friends but probably not a first date.
Like the milkshakes, the overall experience at Blue Inc. is a little gimmicky, a little fluffy, but overall, definitely enjoyable. While my cocktail left something to be desired, on the food side, everything was good, and some things were great. Bonus points for the blue lollipops delivered with the check.
Hours: Mon-Fri Open at 11:30am
Dinner Service Begins at 5pm
Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit RachelBlumenthal.net.