|Ming Tsai; photo by Anthony Tieuli|
Zagat: How’s Blue Dragon coming along?
Tsai: I was just talking to Jasper White [Summer Shack] about the false illusion that the second one would be easier. If I didn’t have a TV show, if I didn’t have kids, if I had nothing else on my plate…I can’t complain.
Zagat: Why open now and in this neighborhood?
Tsai: As a restaurant owner, there’s an investment I made to people. Tom “Woody” Woods started as an intern - to lose him to someone else is almost stupid. [Woods is the chef de cuisine at Blue Ginger and will be the chef de cuisine at Blue Dragon.] And the neighborhood is spectacular. There’s almost as many cranes here as there are in Shanghai right now. Condos being built - they all need to eat somewhere.
Zagat: Tell me about the build out.
Tsai: It’s 2,000 square feet, red brick. It’s a place for industry people to get a good bite at 11:30 PM, come for a beer. We’ll have PBR 16-ounce tall boys. Please come in jeans - don’t come dressed up to Blue Dragon. We’ll have a beautiful open kitchen; it’s part of the show. We’ll have 80 seats. It’s an Asian pub so we want it to be a neighborhood joint. I’ve yet to find another Asian gastropub in the country. We’ll have good music, good rock.
We have the most amazing general contractor, John Childs of Building Restoration Services. He helped renovate Ken Oringer’s condo, and he did Coppa. [He also built out Granary Tavern.] He’s not trying to cut corners but he is trying to save us money. That’s made the process more enjoyable.
Zagat: What about using feng shui - the Chinese art of placement - as you’ve done at Blue Ginger? Tsai: Our feng shui master, Natalia Kaylin, lists everything we need to do – our fire corner has fire, water corner has water. We’ll have visible feng shui elements.
Zagat: What’s on the menu?
Tsai: Dumplings, Indonesian curried lamb shepherds pie, panko-crusted fish and chips with a black vinegar tartar sauce - very approachable food, certainly simpler food [than Blue Ginger]. We’re going to have $1 Asian sloppy Joe sliders at the bar, 3-5 PM. [The recipe is his mother’s, shredded beef.] We’ll have plates you can get really quickly, $3 snacks, our version of hacked Peking duck - we’re still playing around with it. I feel bad for the duck population, a prime rump roast two to four people can share. We don’t want to break the bank, right? People want value. Doesn’t matter how great it is, if you can’t afford it, you won’t come back. [Small plates will be $6-$12; larger platters to share will be $35-$45.]
We’ve got local brews, Cisco, Harpoon, draft wine – a nice high quality. I don’t want to compete with Drink. Drink is great, that’s not what we do. But we’ll have the Blue Dragon Bowl, our version of the mai tai with big straws. [It will be on fire.]"
Zagat: Tell me about the lunch to-go program.
Tsai: You know I like technology - the Micros at Ming.com is set up to order online in advance. Say an administrator for a law firm sends out an email with our menu; we get one order from that law firm that goes directly to the person making the 10 bánh mìs. It’s efficient – we’re building a separate sandwich unit in the basement. We tested all sorts of bread and we’re using Iggy’s baguette, we’ll make our own plate of roast pork, cabbage salad. We’ll have turkey and shrimp bánh mìs.
Zagat: What about Blue Ginger?
Tsai: I’ll split my time - but in the beginning I’m going to be at Blue Dragon. If [Blue Ginger] goes down 1%, I’m a failure.
Zagat: Best for last: Are you serving dessert?
Tsai: We’ll have one dessert.
Zagat: And it’s….?
Tsai: I don’t want to spoil it! It’s going to satisfy everyone - one bite, two bites. I’ve been playing around with this a long time. It’s hot and cold. I’ll leave it at that.