By Cathy Kiley

Blue has been a shining star on the Lehigh Valley dining scene for nearly a decade. Since opening in 2002, locals and business travelers have embraced Blue as a favorite destination for not only dining and corporate meetings, but as a lively, friendly meeting place. Now, with recent renovations completed, one cannot help but notice the painstaking attention to detail given by owner George Paxos in making Blue even more appealingly upscale. Blue takes on a “fire and ice” feel as you approach the front door with flaming torches lighting the way near the entrance. Clean lines of the foyer maintain the façade leading to the bar. While  there, I met with enthusiastic Restaurant Manager Kathleen Brown who explained many of the changes: All flooring and wall coverings as well as tables, chairs and accessories have been replaced. New, oversized barstools are attractively upholstered and extremely comfortable. Blue Venetian plaster walls adorn the bar and surrounding area and new artwork, metallics and blown glass throughout have all been imported from Italy. Blue’s décor has always been beautiful but it is truly a work of art after the renovations. The most obvious interior design change is the new Fireplace Dining Room, where the outdoor patio once was. This room offers seating for around 40 and a blazing “retro chic” fireplace adds to the ambience. While the basic design of the main dining room remains the same—because of Blue’s exquisite millwork—blue glass accessories have replaced most of the white. The soft blue wall sconces are new but the alabaster chandeliers overhead remain the same, perfectly illuminating the room. Leather and wood banquettes and tables are well-spaced and allow for intimate personal or business conversations. Excellent acoustics tamper the noise which is not overbearing to begin with and tasteful background music is kept at a pleasant volume. The well-appointed wine bar and comfortable surroundings are a happening place to unwind. There is seating for at least 30 to 35 people at the bar itself with the attractive lounge area offering additional seating. The ongoing construction of the outdoor bar complex promises to bring even more exciting celebrations to Blue lovers in the spring.

The wine room, holding Blue’s extensive selection of both imported and domestic wines, serves as the backdrop as does the lovely fireplace which, in season, is always ablaze. Christopher Heath, Corporate Chef for the Paxos Group, oversaw the planning of Blue’s new menu.

My husband, Tom and I are big fans of Blue’s bar and love to stop in for a drink and appetizers after shopping or a movie. Kathleen Brown pointed out new appetizer and light fare additions which are a huge hit. Raw bar selections of Hand Shucked Oysters, Little Neck Clams or Poached Jumbo Shrimp, as well as Kobe Steak Sliders, Flatbreads, Lobster Ravioli or mild Hamachi Carpaccio would suffice to satisfy hungry patrons enjoying a drink with friends or serve as a mouth-watering first course to Blue’s dinner selections.

After being shown to our table and meeting Jennifer, our attentive server, I chose a new appetizer selection of Saganaki, a mild Greek cheese, pan-seared and served with tapenade vinaigrette. The  presentation was delicious and the tangy tapenade created a new slant on one of my old favorites. Tom’s Foie Gras Galantine was somewhat different than expected. The delicate liver paté was accompanied by fig jam, balsamic reduction and toasted pistachios and was quite satisfying. Warm, tasty bread from TriBeca Bakery (out of North Jersey) was served with sweet, creamy butter and we tried a 2010 Johnson Family Pinot Noir to accompany our meal, which was served at the perfect temperature. We felt it was a bit young and reminded us more of a Beaujolais than a Pinot Noir, but enjoyed it just the same. I should note that the wine list is extensive and we were unfamiliar with many wines from the smaller domestic vineyards. I suggest that you ask your server for recommendations if you and your dining partners are unsure of selections.

Blue’s steak and chop menu features Rib-Eyes and New York Strips, Filet Mignon as well as pork, veal and lamb chops all cooked to your preference and served upon request with a choice of six sauces-Béarnaise, red wine, peppercorn, ginger-soy, herb butter or horseradish cream. Entree specialties include Grilled Big-Eye Tuna,  Herb Breadcrumb Encrusted Grouper,  Jumbo Shrimp and Chips, Pan Roasted Sea Scallops  and Grilled Salmon. Baby Back Ribs, Grilled Chicken Breast and Vegetable Penne Pasta are also on the menu.

Tom ordered the 6 oz. Center Cut Filet Mignon with the red wine sauce and I ordered the Pan Roasted Sea Scallops. Tom enjoyed his entrée as the richly prepared, slightly sweet red wine sauce enhanced the taste of the filet which, as is customary at Blue, was tender, juicy and flavorful. My scallops were terrific. A generous portion of lightly seared sea scallops were served atop fresh baby spinach that wilted slightly under the warm bacon-raisin sauce. The sweet, rich taste was deliciously different and entirely too much to finish in one sitting. (I must also mention that on a previous visit, I tasted the Grilled Big-Eye Tuna and this too is a wonderful selection if you are in the mood for seafood.) We selected sides of asparagus with Hollandaise and sautéed mushrooms that were perfect with our entrees. Other available side dishes are Baked Jumbo Potatoes with all of the fixings, Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Tri-Color Roasted Potatoes or French Fries.

We were far too sated to order dessert but I can attest that both the Dark Chocolate Cake with peanut butter ganache is to die for as is the Seasonal Fruit Cobbler served with vanilla ice cream that we enjoyed on a previous occasion. Executive Pastry Chef Diana Penn overseas all of Blue’s beautiful desserts and, together with a specialty coffee and cognac they are a great ending to a satisfying meal. Service at Blue is professional and friendly and not at all rushed. We dined on a Wednesday evening and both the bar and dining room were quite busy at that time. I asked about Executive Chef Mark Franklin, who has been at Blue practically from the beginning. He trained in the military and most of his culinary skills are self-taught. Sous Chef Pat Barber worked in many Lehigh Valley area restaurants prior to joining the Blue kitchen team three years ago. I had the opportunity to meet both Franklin and Barber–who oversee a large kitchen team–when Kathleen Brown graciously offered to show me their bustling yet immaculate kitchen during an afternoon interview. It takes great pride and assurance to show a food reviewer your kitchen unannounced, especially one of this size. I was impressed by Kathleen’s invitation and even more so by what I saw. Blue is now open for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM and Sunday Brunch (with a full à la carte menu) from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.  Dinner hours are 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM Monday to Thursday, Friday and Saturday 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM and Sunday 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM. If you haven’t already done so, make it a point to visit the new Blue. It is relaxed, friendly and close to home. Our food was excellent and the experience delightful. Blue’s atmosphere is unique—a totally chic Metropolitan meeting and dining spot right in the middle of the Lehigh Valley. Located at 4331 Easton Avenue in Bethlehem, Blue is easily accessible from Routes 22, 78 and 33.  The restaurant is handicapped accessible and there is an abundance of on-site parking. Reservations are suggested at 610-691-8400.  Visit for their complete menu and other information regarding pricing and available facilities for private or corporate events.

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