Who the hell is Gena Lee? And what’s this brand of shallow fun doing in Sacramento, anyway?!
That’s right, Blue Cue. Though others might fit the shoe, I mean you!
Most days, I’ve gotta hand it to the Paragary machine, proud inventor of Centro Cocina Mexicana, Cafe Bernardo, Esquire Grill and the eponymous Paragary’s Bar and Oven, among others. These restaurants feel anywhere from precious to pretentious, but the food, generally speaking, is good—quite good, which is all that really matters.
So, what on earth happened to Blue Cue, that Paragary anchor tenant of Midtown nightlife?
To be sure, Blue Cue is not a restaurant per se, though it may say “restaurant, billiards, bar” in that order. If my sources are correct, it serves up more single men and women in their 20s and 30s than it does billiards or brewpub fare. (For a serious game of pool, go to Round Corner. For a top-notch brewpub meal and experience, go to Cato’s Ale House—in Oakland.)
One shouldn’t go to Blue Cue expecting anything fancy or sock-knocking—that much is obvious. But given its Paragary pedigree, you’d expect some good grub, no?
No. Here are the top five reasons one would go to Blue Cue: (5) Kick off a bachelorette party. (4) Pay $12 for an hour of pool. (3) Have a drink with the suffix “-tini” tacked onto the end—e.g., chocotini, apple-tini, grape-tini, espresso mar-tini. (2) Pretend you’re in a Coors commercial. (1) Lose something ending in “inity,” like vegetarian-inity. Or recurring virg-inity.
These are all perfectly legit reasons to go. But otherwise, don’t bother. You’ll rue the Cue.
Take the calamari, for example. The appetizer came hot and crunchy, but it was practically all fry. Once it cooled, the crunch gave way to a rubber-band-like texture, most displeasing. It’s one thing to eat something that’s bad for you because it tastes good. It’s another thing to eat something that’s bad for you that tastes like an office-supply item.
The onion rings fared better, but not much. Sliced so ethereally, the effect was onion-flavored fry bits, not the breaded, deep-fried rings of sliced onion that one magically hopes will appear, after saying, “I’ll have the onion rings.”
The international version of the fried food was no better. The crispy rock-shrimp spring rolls with “spice [sic] garlic sauce,” a Southeast Asian rendition, sounded great but fell flat. The spring rolls spanned the diameter of a fat pinky finger. Not much you can stuff in there when it’s already so thick with—fry!
Even the un-fried foods had problems. The roasted turkey-breast sandwich, served on a baguette with white cheddar, was clearly a $4.50 sandwich masquerading as an $8.25 sandwich. And the Blue Burger, “grilled ground sirloin smothered with bleu chese [sic, sic],” seemed strangely dry and greasy at the same time. The melted blue added flavor and wetness, but the meat itself lacked seasoning and most definitely was overcooked. (Hint: Next time, try asking how the customer wants it.)
To give credit where it’s due, the one item that was unequivocally delicious and not overcooked (or over-fried) was the “skinny fries,” the shoestring french fries that came crisp and sprinkled with liberal amounts of salt and garlic. The flavor was somewhat reminiscent of the canned shoestring “fries,” found in the Asian ethnic section of some grocery stores. This, however, was a plus.
Of the cocktails, one was particularly encouraging. The Mojito, the Cuban successor to the cosmo as the cocktail du jour, was refreshingly tasty. Rum, mint, lime juice and sugar … a tad on the delicate side, but not bad if dexterity is the aim.
If cosmic order can be invoked, it’s not incorrect to say that Blue Cue stands alongside those establishments that can be considered “good” because they serve food. Cosmic order dictates that places that serve food are always better than places that don’t, like, say, your auto-repair shop or office-supply store. But, if you are going to serve food, at least try to be better than the hot-dog vendor down the street, especially if you’re part of a vast Sacramento culinary empire. It shouldn’t be that hard to live up to. Try some recipes with roux. Chicken cordon bleu. Or Japanese tonkatsu. Just something new!