Restaurant Created Around Question, ‘What Does Norman Not Have?’ 7

Great Food, Hospitality Await Blu Patrons

Blu Restaurant

John Howell and his partners Jack and Lisa Hooper started formulating a vision for Blu in 2007 with one simple question: What does Norman not have?

“The answer we came up with was that Norman was missing a wine bar with shareable plates,” Howell said. “That’s how Blu happened! It was very collaborative, and it would not have happened without Jack and Lisa.”

Blu, which has expanded its cuisine from tapas to Mediterranean, pizza, fish, hearty beef dishes and one of the most extensive (and recently upgraded) wine, beer and cocktail menus I have come by, now prides itself in its eclecticism. No matter the occasion, the atmosphere is catered to the interests and expectations of each customer.

Hospitality is key here, with each server and bartender well-versed enough in the restaurant to impress any patron. Their all-black attire bodes well with the mood, allowing them to move unobtrusively.

While visiting, I was recommended a couple of pairings for my drinks and appetizer, the Mediterranean Plate, consisting of tapenade-a Mediterranean olive medley-goat cheese, spicy (but not too spicy!) hummus and toasted pita bread. I decided to pair my food with wine that night. Though their specialty cocktail menu is one to explore and their 14 beers on tap (including one solely dedicated to Founder’s Brewing Co.) are all down my alley, their new wine menu spoke to me and asked me to be creative.

The Crimson and Cream wine flight began with a crisp Charles and Charles Chardonnay, which paired well with the tapenade, cutting salt with citrus. The second glass on the flight displayed Underwood Pinot Noir, a delightfully sweet red that was hard to resist pairing with the goat cheese (in fact, I have adopted it as my new favorite red). Lastly was The Predator Zinfandel, with tones of black cherry that undeniably made for a zing when paired with the hummus. I recommend mixing and matching to find the right combination for you.

However enticing this appetizer may sound, it was nothing compared to my meal. On the menu is the Seasonal Catch, which varies almost daily. I chose the King Salmon and fresh vegetables. This choice was simple, especially when I heard the story behind the salmon. The Hawaiian fishery from where Blu receives its fish delivers them almost as soon as they are caught.

“Your salmon is delivered to your plate within 24 hours of its life in the sea, making this the freshest fish in the landlocked state,” manager Nikki Snider explains. This sealed the deal.

Of course to match the salt of the salmon, I needed something that would be sweet, but in no way overwhelming, so I ordered the Guns and Rosés wine flight. All three rosés paired well with the fish, although it was hard not to devour it all in one sitting!

During my stay from 7 to 10 p.m., I saw a formal job interview, an emotive family night, a first date, a group of informal friends at the bar and on the patio, and a student tucked away in the corner with his books and laptop. I heard Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong duet and Tony Bennett serenade, and when the lights turned low at about 8:30 p.m., I heard the music slowly transition to ambient alternative.

Blu is where you want to go for a graduation, for Mother’s Day, for a night out on the town, or just to hang out—it all relies on your mood, and Blu will adopt the atmosphere you choose, giving you the experience you prefer.

Blu Hours:

Monday–Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m.

Lunch Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Wine tastings every first and third Sunday at 4 p.m., where you can enjoy finger foods and sample their new wine menu.