Oct 25, 2009

A Little Blue over Blue Koi

Let me start by saying that there's a lot that I like about Blue Koi. What's unfortunate is that the food isn't foremost among them.

What draws me to Blue Koi are all the things that go into its atmosphere... It's close to my house, has a cozy, smallish dining room filled with a varied group of patrons and art from local artists featured on the walls. The service is amiable on average, above average when the owner is in. It's dark and, even when busy, the buzz of sound and activity from customers chatting, chefs cooking and servers serving only gives you and your companion(s) assuredness that you can speak freely without the people at the tables close-by  listening to the intimate details of your conversation.

In my history with Blue Koi, I've eaten several things on the menu. The Chinese Pot Roast (if I had a Chinese mom, this would taste like her pot roast) and Seafood Noodle Soup (a huge bowl full of noodles, squid, scallops, mussels, shrimp and more) are very decent... to the point that they would be my recommendations. And the dumplings are great, but nothing special compared to any other dumpling you can get in town, including at Po's just a few doors down (east).

On this trip we did enjoy the pork dumplings, pan fried, though a little too lightly fried this time, evidenced by the picture above in which you can see glistening, translucent skins and very little crispy brownness from flash-frying. A full portion is 8 dumplings, which is nice and filling (portions are another plus I concede to Blue Koi).

For dinner on this occasion I chose the braised pork with shiitake mushrooms wanting a savory, hearty dish. And it was, indeed, hearty - a good portion of well cooked rice came warm, and topped with a generous mound of large chunks of tender, nicely cooked pork and plenty of shiitake mushrooms, lots of sliced scallions and a garnish of artfully sliced cucumber. It looked great. But that's where the "greatness" ended, because here again, Blue Koi committed its perpetual misstep as far as my tastes go: too sweet!

I've encountered this recurring problem with other Blue Koi entrees such as the shrimp (chicken or tofu) with black bean sauce,  shrimp (chicken or tofu) with Chinese curry sauce and ants on a tree. In each case, the ingredients were cooked well, served warm and with a nice overall appearance, but were slovenly covered in gooey, sugary, sweet sauces.

Admittedly, I'm a salty guy who likes salty food, and I've found Chinese sauces sometimes do fall on the sweeter side of the spectrum of Asian cooking. But I'd be surprised if other Blue Koi patrons didn't agree that too many of the dishes on this menu are sweeter than they should be.

Oh, and before I forget, one other word of caution: most dishes at Blue Koi are served with the customer's choice of rice, noodles or as a soup. I love noodles. Especially Asian noodles - soba, udon, rice vermicelli, Lo Mein... but the thick noodles Blue Koi's entrees come with are the gummiest variety of noodle I have ever encountered (probably made gummier by the glucose-rich sauce in which they're served). So stick with rice or soup.

One can definitely enjoy a night out at Blue Koi. Good atmosphere and good service keep me coming back again and again. Just do what you can to avoid falling victim of their "sweet spot" and you should be okay.

Rating: one napkin

Blue Koi on Urbanspoon


Jared said...

Ok, Blue Koi gets one napkin (I would say 1 1/2 napkins). But, when are we going to see a four napkin restaurant? Does KC have any four napkin restaurants? Have you eaten at any four napkin restaurants? I'm lookin' for a four napkiner.

Foodie32 said...

Don't you worry. I've been to and photographed a place, recently, that is going to be a four napkin restaurant. Coming soon to the blog...

That said, I'm guessing I'll find fewer than 10 four napkin restaurants in the KC metropolitan area. It's a high standard :)

Jmeg said...

i recommend the china moon appetizer. its like a shrimp quesadilla - asian style and served with a nice plum sauce. just my 2 cents. i agree on the gummy noodles, but sometimes i like that sort of thing. good review!

Amy said...

It's interesting you think Blue Koi's food is too sweet. I am currently in Asia, and GOD... you wouldn't survive! Everything here is ridiculously sweet, I would say Blue Koi has taken authentic and "toned it down" so the american's don't get cavities! Blue Koi is one of the restaurants I consistently miss from home, and it seems your draw backs are my pluses! (I love the gooey noodles, and haven't yet found a replacement for them outside of Blue Koi) and I really enjoy all their sauces.

Foodie32 said...

Amy, you're exposing my ignorance! Thanks for the fantastic perspective. You must be right, though... the authentic food you're eating probably wouldn't sit all that well with me. I'm guilty of being a fan of the tex-mex of Chinese food, I guess :)

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