Blu, Italian for blue, is the colour of mystery. On the quiet eastern front of Yorkville, set back behind a brick façade, Blu is an Italian restaurant based on classic cuisine presents a warm and modern flare.
Warmly lit faux stone walls and grand mirrors surround cozy leather seating and dark wood tables. The 135-person room is part upscale bistro, part informal lounge, with a hip, urban ambiance. After 10pm, a ten by five foot stage is set for jazz on Thursday evenings, and somethin
g a little more upbeat on Friday and Saturday evenings. The music is not the main attraction though. It is one element of the ambiance, "for people that don't really want to go to clubs anymore, but want to have a night out, and have fun at the same time; go for dinner, and have live entertainment," says owner Alfredo Rodriquez.
The doors opened in October to a fanfare of food mavens, but the menu has since been refined from its Mediterranean concept to a strictly Northern Italian focus: simple and authentic. As star veteran chef Massimo Callovini points out, "We are very picky; very finicky." The addition of Callovini, who trained and seasoned in Italy, as well as having crafted a celebrated career in Toronto's restaurant scene, is just what Rodriquez needed to launch his vision of an Italian kitchen rooted in tradition, but representative of what Italian dining is now.
What to order is made as simple as closing my eyes and choosing the menu item on which my finger lands. Each classic dish tastes exactly how it should and does not disappoint. Fettuccine ($12) with seasonal vegetables, white wine and plum tomato sauce would make any nonna proud. Just as the pasta is al dente, so too are the red peppers, zucchini, and crisp asparagus tips, which combine to make this sauce fresh and full of gusto. Penne Gorgonzola ($16) with leek and arugula is another back-to-basics pasta. Hearty and robust, the Gorgonzola and Bourbon cream sauce will make you clean your plate unabashedly. Braised Lamb Shank ($22) is a generous portion that fills me up without weighing me down. It is slow cooked and softened while maintaining the meat's integrity. The peppercorn sauce gives a kick that scores, and an accompanying ratatouille is a tasty harvest of seasonal vegetables cooked crisp and clean. Red potatoes, light, sweet, and firm, are yet another example that ingredients cooked well do not need anything added to them.
Of the popular desserts, I only have eyes for Molten Chocolate Cake ($12). Adorned with caramel and berries, it requires up to 20 minutes to bake; rarely is this decadence so worth the wait. In the meantime the wine list is extensive, but it's the selection of $12 Blu martinis, concocted in-house, that tempt me.
It requires skill, care, and experience to make something seem so easy. Whether it is the sauce or the atmosphere, all the elements must combine together seamlessly, and here they do. Indeed the mystery of Blu is in its name only.