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Blue Bamboo Introduces Bistro-Inspired Asian Food, Mixed with Down Home Southern Cooking

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

Southern comfort food with an Asian twist is what makes Blue Bamboo so unlike other Asian food restaurants. From its Jacksonville location, Head Chef and owner Dennis Chan started his Asian-Southern fusion restaurant concept in 2005. This "Hip Asian Comfort Food" has won foodie awards and birthed a popular cookbook of the same name.

A Jacksonville native, Chef Chan grew up in the footsteps of his family's 12 successful restaurants. First learning in his grandfather's kitchen when young, then studying at both the University of Florida and the Culinary Institute of America and finally being the first to intern at celebrity chef Ming Tsai's pioneering Asian-fusion Blue Ginger restaurant, his cooking credentials tell of his skills. "Through my travels and experiences, both academic and exploratory, I've learned about a lot of similarities between the foods of our region and classic Asian ingredients and techniques," says Chan. "Some of them just taste so good together."

Blue Bamboo serves lunch and dinner with separate menus for each. Featuring a range of dishes from appetizers to salads to entrees unique to the restaurant, Chan's cookbook reflects these menu items, even pulling from older menus. "Our Red Curry Shrimp and Grits has become a signature dish," Chan says. "It has all of the intense flavor of a classic Southeast Asian red curry, and the soul-satisfying goodness of southern grits." Another popular dish is the Panko-Chicken Pot Pie, which Chan tells us is "finished with a southern Sherry Velouté then topped with a latticed pastry crust".

Craft bar cocktails, called "Social Lubricants" on the menu, are very creative and include the Lycheetini. Made from lychee fruit, this martini twist is described as "sweet and fragrant."

Catering and special event rentals (think Chinese weddings or birthdays) are available. You can also take private or themed group cooking classes from Chef Chan, as well as have a Sunday feast on Dim Sum Sundays held once a month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dim Sum features small plates or steam baskets of different types of Chinese dumplings and other savories.

Compared to the small plates of Spanish tapas or Japanese sushi, this is a not-to-miss cultural and taste experience of dishes not usually served on the Blue Bamboo menu. Items served a la carte include roast pork buns, turnip cakes, shrimp dumplings, pineapple buns and potstickers.

The cookbook "Hip Asian Comfort Food" is a collection of recipes from the restaurant. Chan explains, "Many of the recipes are still served at Blue Bamboo today, and oftentimes, we get requests to make what isn't on our current menu." A favorite cookbook dish of Chef Chan's that you can make at home with the recipe is Panko Fried Chicken with Creamed Peas. Whether you eat at the restaurant or purchase the cookbook, Chan concludes, "We are grateful to have a loyal following."

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