Last night Liz and I, and our friends Simon and Vicki, attended a high school alumni event at Blue Ginger in Wellesley which doubled as a celebration of their newly renovated function hall. A 4 course dinner with wine pairing and Ming Tsai was on hand to talk about it all. Here is the menu:

Shiitake- Leek Springrolls with Three-Chile Dipping Sauce, Crispy Calamari with Thai Dipping Sauce N.V. Chateau Moncontour Sparkling Vouvray

Sake-Miso Marinated Alaskan Butterfish, Wasabi Oil, Soy-Lime Syrup and Vegetarian Soba Noodle Sushi 2005 Qupe “Y Block” Chardonnay

Aromatic Braised Beef Shortrib, Scallion Mashed Potatoes and Green Papaya- Thai Basil Salad 2004 Bodegas Nieto-Sentiner “Don Nicanor”

Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee and Bittersweet Chocolate Cake 2004 Jorge Ordonez Co #1 Seleccion Especial Moscatel

Every dish is served in the restaurant except for the shortrib, so most of my ramblings will be relevant to an experience in the main dining room. Everyone enjoyed the spring rolls and calamari, but primarily because of the incredible dipping sauces. Both had a soupy consistency, which I much prefer to a thicker dipping sauce, but packed as much flavor as even the most reduced sauce. The spring rolls and calamari themselves were more of a conduit for these truly delicious sauces. I thought the calamari were a bit too far removed from the fryer to be great, but I am sure this is a result of the fact that they were serving a party of 85, and a normal dining experience would have the food go from stove to table much quicker. The Vouvray was interesting on its own but lost something with the food. I’m not sure that any other pairing would have worked, however, seeing as there were so many flavors packed into those sauces (we kept them after the empty plates had been taken away to have on their own).

On to the butterfish. This dish was perfect. Ming came out of the kitchen to describe the evolution of the dish – a concept he borrowed from Nobu Matsuhisa. It was hearty, and delicate, and interesting and absolutely delicious. Every plate was cleaned. I strongly recommend someone at your table getting it should you go, and it alone is worth the ride to Wellesley. From the silky texture of the fish, to the wasabi oil, to the roe, to the surprisingly good noodle-sushi, there is nothing I would change about it and I hope it stays on the menu indefinitely. Meh on the chardonnay. When people describe the stereotypical california chardonnay this wine is what I picture- buttery, oaky. The fish made it taste better, but the fish made water taste better too.

The shortrib with mashed potatoes was solid, but nothing special. You can’t really go wrong by braising a shortrib, but there’s a ceiling on what simply braising can do for you. I like a melt in your mouth tender piece of meat as much as the next person, but it was a much simpler creation and so a bit of a downer, at least relative to the butterfish. Also, I am beginning to wonder about the texture of short ribs in general. Often times when I have had it in restuarants, or made it myself, the short ribs have layers of fat not surrounding the meat, but within the meat. I’m not sure if this is the norm, or if the fattiness of a short rib is a signal of quality. The wine was a cabernet sauvignon and malbec blend, so great with the braised meat.

The desserts satisfied. Not much to say about them. The bittersweet chocolate cake wasn’t overwhelming, as they often times are, which I appreciated. Likewise for the creme brulee – not as viscous as most creams so a bit more refreshing than your typical creme brulee.

Overall, Blue Ginger is definitely worth the time and effort to get there from the city (traffic can be horrible on route 9 and 16 particularly from 4 to 7). Stick with the fish dishes and you can’t go wrong. For example, in glancing at the menu you see things like hangar steak with red wine sauce and new zealand rack of lamb with garlic demi glace. I am sure these are good, but they look like throw ins to satisfy the meat-eaters and will not be what brings you back to Blue Ginger.

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