According to executive chef Junnajet "Jett" Hurapan, one of the main reasons he left Gigi's Asian Bistro was so that he could broaden his culinary repertoire beyond East Asian fare to dishes with global influences. That's what the chef did in New York as executive chef of Ruby Foo's and in Atlantic City at Buddakan, and that's the menu that Hurapan has created at Blu Restaurant and Lounge.
Tucked inside Sugar Land's massive Town Square complex, Blu has a smallish open floor plan, modern fixtures and a huge, illuminated bar spanning the length of the space — with the exception of the ubiquitous flat screen televisions (a leftover from the previous sports bar tenant) it's not hard to see how the restaurant morphs into a lounge in the late evening. But despite a vaguely clubbish style, Blu doesn't feel too slick.
It seems lately every new restaurant seems to lay claim to a vegetable with a dish that no one can match. Blu can lay claim to eggplant superiority.
On warm weekend evenings, the restaurant slides open the doors separating the interior from the patio and Hurapan grills tacos and sliders street-style.
The menu at Blu is described as "Euro-Asian" and includes everything from ceviche to falafel to polenta. Despite the variety, more than half of the entrees reflect Hurapan's South Asian origins, and it's those dishes that I was most excited to try.
I'm usually wary of samosas — I've found they have a tendency towards density when not prepared well — but the lamb samosa appetizer was just the right note to start. The flaky triangles were light, virtually bite-sized and paired with two outstanding homemade sauces offering varying degrees of spicy pain (in a good way).
I was less impressed with a mediocre version of oven-dried beef jerky with sriracha. The beef strips were a little too thick to make the texture workable, and the flavors were muted and totally overpowered by the chili sauce.
Ordered as an afterthought, the side of wok eggplant was the most beautiful dish of the night. Cooked eggplant is always pretty, but the purple has never seemed as vibrant as in this version, tossed in a chili basil sauce and served in a stainless steel bowl.
If the colors were lovely, the flavors were gorgeous. Softly sauteed, the eggplant's hint of sweetness was perfectly complemented by the chili sauce that managed to bring a light heat while balanced by the sweet soy, never letting the spice overpower the fresh notes of basil.
It seems lately every new restaurant seems to lay claim to a vegetable with a dish that no one can match, like Roost and cauliflower. I think Blu can lay claim to eggplant superiority.
If there was a low point in the meal, it was the quartet of edamame dumplings. The tapioca wrap combined with the mild flavor and texture of the soybeans was just a gelatinous mess.
In the entrees I quickly fell in love with the gooey flavors of the crispy fish. The plate features a nearly whole red snapper — head included — fried crispy and curved around a central repository of tomato, eggplant, onions and other veg, all tossed in a thick syrup of tamarind, chili and basil.
I found the snapper somewhat hard to eat. That is often my complaint when a fish on my plate has bones, because I'm delicate and impatient, but combined with a crispy skin it was particularly time-consuming to flake off the meat. Despite the extra effort required, the flavors and spices in the sauce were once again exceptional.
I also tried out the the mix-and-match wok bowls. Choosing between seven proteins (including scallops, beef and tofu) and five sauces, including pineapple red curry and the glorious Thai chili basil that was served with the eggplant. I paired chicken, served slightly dry, with a mild green curry that let notes of sweet, rich coconut take the lead.
At Blu, the inspiration and cultural origin behind many of the dishes is geographically diverse, but one thing they had in common was a particular focus on superb sauces with rich, bold flavors. Everything else on the plate served in a supporting role, and though the execution wasn't always perfect, most things worked.
When it comes to interesting dining destinations, Blu definitely brings something new to Sugar Land — something even Inner Loopers can appreciate.