For the past several years, one of the best brunch spots in Los Angeles has been Blu Jam Café on Melrose. Their crunchy, Corn Flake-dipped French toast ranks as one of the best French Toasts in the city, and given that I’ve grown to consider myself a French toast expert, that certainly is high praise indeed. However, is there more to Blu Jam than an awesome French toast? Yes, naturally.
When the sun goes down, Blu Jam transitions from a brunchy café into a bistro of sorts, with a nice sized dinner menu full of shared plates. Recently, I was invited to a media-comped dinner to celebrate the restaurant’s sixth anniversary, and while I had been going to Blu Jam for several years, this was the first time I’d actually dropped in for dinner. Pics of the experience, including a terrifying face-to-face experience with one of my deepest fears, after the jump…
Things start off with a scallop carpaccio, featuring lime and mince jalapeños. It’s bright and fresh, and makes me want a margarita. Then again, few things don’t make me want a margarita.
Next is a shrimp ceviche. See above note about margaritas.
Burrata and strawberries. This was a problem for me because strawberries happen to be my mortal enemy. Everyone, however, enjoyed this dish quite a bit.
Luckily, if there’s been one consistent thing that Blu Jam has offered over the years, it’s great customer service (on occasion they will serve my friends and I a complimentary crepe if we’ve had to wait too long in the brunch line). In this case, the kitchen made me a strawberry-free burrata (served on grilled bread with balsamic reduction and microgreens). I was a very happy camper.
It was around this time that the table of diners insisted that I try the burrata with the strawberry too. Given that I hate strawberry and often want to gag at the smell of it, this was a big “ask” of me. However, I’m trying to broaden my palate so that I can officially call myself a foodie, and thus I begrudgingly tried the strawberry and burrata. To be honest, it wasn’t THAT BAD. Major hurdle for me. Patting myself on the back… for doing something very simple that everyone else in the world could and would do in a heartbeat. Oy.
Beet salad with currants, arugula, candied walnuts, fennel, and goat cheese. Fresh, lovely. Not making any headlines here for originality, but honestly, who the hell cares?
Perhaps my favorite dish of the night: warm cream of spinach soup with gorgonzola and walnuts. I think I went back for about five servings of this comforting soup. As Brad and Jane say on Happy Endings, YUMMBERS. (aaaand this is the moment when every Food PR person in Los Angeles drops me from their distribution lists).
Greetings, sautéed jumbo scallop. Is this a beauty or what? Not even my poor camera work could detract from the gorgeousness of that sear. Wow, I am sounding more and more pretentious by the syllable.
I believe this was called an “Italian Paella.” It reminded me more of risotto. Either way it was tasty and rich; although, I found it a touch salty.
Inspired by chef Kamil Majer’s Czech upbringing, this dish featured braised chicken and a red paprika-cream sauce as well as spaetzle. Definitely bold flavors here. Not for those seeking a dainty bite.
A surprise hit at the table was this broccolini, which came with garlic, ginger, lemon, olive oil, and chili. Pretty basic ingredients but wow did it pack a flavor punch. Bright, zingy, assertive — whatever words you want to describe it — it was gooooood.
I believe this was Surf & Turf — seared beef tenderloin over shrimp and chive mashed potatoes and a tarragon-chili butter. Sure, there may have been surf, but clearly the turf was the star here.
Sautéed okra. Good, but I’m not a huge okra guy; so this dish didn’t really make a strong impression on me.
Tres leches cake. As you can see, the strawberries on top proved to be someone prohibitive to me.
However, in the spirit of adventure — which I imagine is the spirit of Blu Jam, yes? — I decide to go in for a big ol’ piece of strawberry. This is history-making, folks.
You can see the anxiety in my eyes. The slice of strawberry that I had eaten earlier was just that — a mere slice. Plus, it was masked by a balsamic reduction. This was pretty much a giant chunk of strawberry in the NUDE.
Here goes nothing. (Simultaneously submitting this blog entry to the producers of “My Strange Phobia.”)
I understand that for most people, strawberries are the most delicious things in the world, but I can’t say that it’s a terribly easy experience for me to enjoy. However, I survive, and I learn something important: it wasn’t THAT bad! The cake, by the way, was lovely.
In the end, I’m much more at home with a slice of Blu Jam’s crispy brioche bites.
Bottom line: turns out Blu Jam does a pretty mean dinner too. Who knew?
Blu Jam Café
7371 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046