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Blu

Al Parker - November 10th, 2008
Veteran chef Randy Chamberlain has been working for others in the restaurant business ever since he was knee-high to a spatula.
In June, the son of noted Traverse City restaurateur Charlie Chamberlain, finally opened Blu, his own “contemporary American” eatery on the shore of Lake Michigan in Glen Arbor.
“The summer was fabulous, just fabulous,” says Chamberlain of the restaurant’s debut. “We opened June 19 and the buzz around town was strong. We had a full restaurant the first night. It was a good night.”
Chamberlain has worked the kitchens of several Traverse City area
eateries, including his family’s and most notably at the M-22 landmark, Windows. Chamberlain operates Blu with his wife, Mari, who serves as the restaurant’s sommelier and oversees the front of the house, while Randy prepares the food.
“We met at Windows; she was a server and I was a sous chef, and we didn’t really get along,” he recalls. “But now we’re a great team. She runs the front and I’m in the back. It’s really a perfect match.”
Blu is located in the former home of Windows at Le Bear. It offers visitors a clean, stylish interior with about a dozen tables and booth seating. Tasteful, appropriate artwork lines the white walls, but the most eye-catching feature is the panoramic vista of Lake Michigan that can be seen from about three-fourths of the restaurant’s 50 seats.

CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN
But Blu’s most attractive feature is its eclectic, ever-changing menu.
“We call it contemporary American,” explains Chamberlain. “The daily changing menu reflects the freshest possible local and specialty ingredients available.”
One recent menu offers a glimpse of the delicious diversity that Blu provides its guests.
The wide-ranging appetizer list includes lobster bisque ($8), blue crab puffs with a Creole Menuire sauce ($12), escargot with butter and garlic ($8), grilled shrimp with risotto and parmesan cheese ($11) and fried green tomatoes with tomato-rosemary cream and capers ($9).
The salad selection is less diverse with one selection of field greens topped with a creamy peppercorn vinaigrette, parmesan cheese and red onion ($6) and another choice of rocket arugula with honey crisp apples and pecans, served with a maple-mustard seed vinaigrette ($8). While the salad choices are limited, the flavor is plentiful.
On any given night there are about a dozen entrees, many that are seldom seen in Northern Michigan eateries.
Beef lovers will want to try the grilled Steak Delmonico, with a leek confit, sautéed mushrooms, Burgundy jus and whipped potato ($37). Another beef choice is Steak Diane, a pan-roasted eye of choice sirloin, served with a tasty Dijon-shallot sauce and mushrooms ($28).
There’s also a hearty duck confit, with passion fruit jus, butternut squash and whipped sweet potato ($27). “The duck is probably the dish that I’m most proud of,” says Chamberlain. “It’s done in a traditional, classic French preparation with accompaniments.”
He offers an interesting take on a classic veal scallopini, with a shiitake-crimini mushroom cream sauce and gnocchi ($36). There’s also an impressive pan-roasted rack of lamb with an herbs de Provence marinade, roasted garlic and gnocchi ($40).
Those seeking a rainbow of flavors will want to sample the mixed grill, featuring a petit sirloin filet, duck confit, and lamb chops with a mushroom demi-glace ($40).
Even something as basic as a grilled chicken breast is treated with imagination and respect when Chamberlain accompanies it with plum tomatoes, garlic, couscous and Calabrese sausage ($23).
Vegetarian diners will enjoy the butternut squash ravioli featuring pine nuts, browned butter, parsley and garlic ($20).

WINE & DINE
If you’re confused about choosing the right wine from Blu’s inventory of 300 to 400 choices to accompany your meal, Mari is there to help. She is planning to offer a basic Wine 101 class for those interested in learning more about wines.
In addition to several Northern Michigan selections, there are wines from Italy, France, South Africa and more.
Blu’s dessert choices include a simple raspberry sorbet with berries and cookies ($8), a chocolate mousse ($10), a vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate sauce ($8) and more.
Many times the restaurant’s daily menu is not decided until about an hour before Blu’s 5 p.m. opening.
“Each season helps determine our menu,” explains Chamberlain. “In July, we were serving halibut, but now it’s done. In November and December it’s root vegetables, squashes, braised veal shank, osso bucco – heavier things that I want to eat.”
When he gets a break from the kitchen, Chamberlain likes to visit with his guests and ask their opinions on menu items.
“I try to approach every table during the evening and talk to them about the food, get feedback from our guests,” he says. “And if a guest has a favorite meal and they give us advance notice, we’ll be glad to prepare it for them. I have many memories of going out myself and having a great meal. I respect that.”

Located at 5705 Lake Street in Glen Arbor, Blu is open during the winter Thursday through Sunday 5 to 10 p.m. For more information, call (231) 334-2530 or go to www.glenarborblu.com.



 
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