Bleu Restaurant and Lounge recently opened in the Westin right off Beale Street, and I have to admit, it's been on my radar since well before it opened for business (thanks to a very creative marketing campaign that built suspense by introducing certain elements of the restaurant to come without even divulging the name). I actually managed to go twice in the span of a week, once for lunch and once for drinks and small plates.
For lunch, I met up with Seth Agranov of the Best Memphis Burger Blog and his friend Jesse. (You might remember Seth from a previous post about the Kooky Canuck Kookamonga Challenge. For lunch, I took advantage of the BYO (Build Your Own) option that allows diners to create their very own sandwich (or burger or wrap) from the ground up. Choose your protein (chicken, angus burger, catfish, tilapia, catfish, sirlion or portabella mushroom cap) bread (kaiser roll, whole wheat bun, poor boy, tortilla wrap, grilled cheese bun (exactly what it sounds like)), cheese (American yellow, aged cheddar, Jarlsberg Swiss, sharp provolone, bleu or local goat), toppings (options include arugula, pickles, cole slaw, Bermuda onions, jalapenos, caramelized onion, sauteed mushrooms and roasted red peppers) and sides (hand-cut fries, potato salad, fruit cup, sweet potato fries and cole slaw.
I chose to build a burger on a whole wheat bun with Swiss, lettuce, tomato, pickle and caramelized onions. I picked sweet potato fries for my side (which I selfishly forgot to share with my dining companions). My burger was perfectly cooked, and with the exception of my caramelized onions being more along the lines of "slightly sweated," I found the meal to be very enjoyable and a great value. Check out Seth's Bleu Restaurant blog entry for more details about our lunch.
The very next week, my friend Nikki and I, took on Bleu for dinner. What we didn't realize at the time was that there was a Grizzlies game at the FedEx Forum that very evening. This meant that Bleu was extremely busy and without a reservation, we were relegated to waiting 45 minutes for a table or sitting at the hotel lobby bar. Since most of the regular menu was available at the bar, we were more than happy to sit in the quieter bar area.
I decided to order a couple of small plates from the lounge menu. First, I chose the potstickers with sweet chili sauce. They were good - slightly elevated from the version served at your neighborhood Chinese restaurant. But, the smoked gouda mac and cheese was the real star.
This delightfully rich dish is served in a cast iron skillet and topped with citrus Panko crumbs. Obviously homemade in Bleu's kitchen, this is quite possibly the best macaroni and cheese I've ever eaten outside of my mom's house. And for the low, low price of $5, the portion you receive is absolutely massive. With a small side salad, it would have made a hearty meal.
We couldn't resist having two desserts. We started off with the molten chocolate cake with vanilla gelato. It was pretty tasty, but it didn't hold a candle to the mousse of the day.
Small servings of chocolate and cheesecake mousse with a raspberry coulis and chocolate chips...absolutely divine. This is the type of light, creamy dessert that you want after a meal.
Final Impressions: Bleu has a great vibe, and I really enjoy the atmosphere. Be sure to make a reservation if you want to dine during a Memphis Grizzlies or Memphis Tigers basketball game (the place empties out fairly quickly once the first whistle blows). If you eat in the dining room, ask for the lounge menu so you can indulge in their amazing macaroni and cheese. And don't worry about finding a downtown parking space as Bleu offers complimentary valet parking for 3 hours per visit; just make sure to get your ticket validated.
Bleu Restaurant and Lounge
221 South 3rd Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Average Appetizer Price: (Lunch) $6-$10 (Dinner) $8-$14
Average Sandwich Price: (Lunch Only) $8-$12
Average Entree Price: (Lunch) $10 (Dinner) $23-$30
Averave Dessert Price: $8-$10
Breakfast: Monday-Sunday 6:30am-11:00am
Lunch: Monday-Sunday 11:00am-4:00pm
Dinner: Monday-Wednesday 5:00pm-10:00pm Thursday-Sunday 5:00pm-11:00pm