When Hieu Luong thinks of the color blue, he pictures the ocean and the magical and relaxing effects that being close to water can have. It inspired him to add the color to the name of his new restaurant, Blue Taro (942 Monroe Avenue) that has opened in the building that used to house Le Lemon Grass.
Luong owned Le Lemon Grass for eight years; he opened the Vietnamese restaurant in 2001. After going through a self-described midlife crisis, he closed the restaurant and retired. Luong owns the building and let it sit empty for eight years, even though he had offers from interested renters, explaining that he feared people wouldn't properly care for the building.
Five years ago, Luong bought a farm in Gates and planned to re-open the restaurant and source the ingredients directly from his farm, a model that has become more popular in recent years due to the success of restaurants like Blue Hill in Manhattan. The farm plan didn't end up working out, but Luong decided to re-open the restaurant anyway, just five years later than planned.
Luong says he is happy to see his former customers from Le Lemon Grass return to Blue Taro. The menu is similar, but with more of a focus on organic ingredients — he is sourcing grass-fed beef from local farms — and with options for gluten-free and vegan diets.
The house-made pot stickers ($5.95 for four) are filled with ground pork, green onion, garlic, ginger, shallots, and cabbage and served with a soy dipping sauce on the side. Tofu strips ($6.65) are fried and then sautéed with garlic and lemon grass. The Pho Bo ($10.50 for vegetarian and $17.99 for the "OG") is served Hanoi Style with rice noodles, brisket, filet mignon, Thai basil, green and red onion, cilantro, black pepper, and bean sprouts.
Even though Blue Taro just opened at the start of December, Luong is already looking ahead to his next project. He plans to renovate a space for take-out at Blue Taro, and he purchased a building near the Rochester Public Market twenty years ago and plans on opening an art gallery and a restaurant in the mixed-use space.
"I hope I inspire others," he says. "Whatever you want to do, if you're creative, you can do it. Maybe I'm just eccentric."
Blue Taro is located at 942 Monroe Avenue, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 434-4497. Find them on Facebook at Blue Taro.
The Rochester Museum and Science Center (657 East Avenue) will host Uncorked & On Tap on Saturday, February 10, from 6 to 10 p.m. The annual fundraising event features local food, craft beer, and spirit vendors as well as live music and access to exhibits on all three floors of the museum. Tickets are $55 for RMSC members, $65 for the general public, and include a tasting glass, a tote bag with a Black Button Distilling Tour Pass, and unlimited food and beverage tastings. More information at rmsc.org.
Laughing Gull Chocolates (1868 East Main Street) held its grand opening and ribbon cutting last weekend. Owner Lindsay Tarnoff creates chocolates made from locally and ethically sourced ingredients. The shop sells truffles, chocolate barks, and offers chocolate making workshops. More information at laughinggullchocolates.com.
Joey's (561 East Main Street) will host Single, Sad, and Still Want Chocolate on Friday, February 10, from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. The event features six choices of Chocolate and Vines truffles paired with a six-ounce beer. Visit the event page on Facebook for more information.
Shengjing Garden has opened at 695 Park Avenue.
Naan-Tastic has opened at 100 Marketplace Drive.
Wood Kettle Brewing (1192 Manitou Road) has opened in Hilton.
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to correct the date of RMSC's Uncorked and On Tap event.