Chinese and Taiwanese cuisines blend in Leawood’s Blue Koi

10/15/2013 4:34 PM

10/15/2013 4:36 PM

Back in 2007, Blue Koi’s second location in Leawood was one of two restaurants in the brand-new Mission Farms development.

Now the restaurant-dense center is home to seven places to eat. Among them: Blanc Burgers & Bottles, Rye, Room 39 and Tavern at Mission Farms.

Despite the increase in competition, Blue Koi remains beloved and bustling. On a recent Saturday night, customers happily waited up to half an hour for a seat in the dining room, which has bold blue walls, a wide-open kitchen and local art that rotates monthly.

Blue Koi’s atmosphere is cool but comfortable. It’s the kind of place where diners in T-shirts sit next to a table full of high school students all dressed up for a dance. Everyone comes together over Blue Koi’s signature blend of Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine.

Jane Chang, who co-owns Blue Koi with her brother and two sisters, says her father is from China and her mother from Taiwan. The Chang family’s recipes make up Blue Koi’s diverse menu, which mixes seafood-centric Taiwanese specialties with Chinese comfort foods like dumplings and noodle dishes. The drink menu puts loose-leaf tea from China next to fruity bubble tea from Taiwan.

The Leawood Blue Koi shares a menu with the original location, which opened in 2002 at 1803 W. 39th St., but it has its own specials. The latest costs $18 and features a pan-seared fillet of sustainable Atlantic salmon on a big bed of soy-sauced rice studded with edamame and dried cranberries. The bowl of broth on the side brims with sliced mushrooms and julienned vegetables. The salmon is crispy-gold on the outside and buttery on the inside. The fillet is bigger than a checkbook — and ample enough for leftovers.

Health-conscious diners have plenty of options at Blue Koi, which serves up several vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes. The Black Bean Tofu ($13.50) is a filling mix of sauteed bell peppers, portabella mushrooms and tofu cubes that’s hearty enough for a meat-eater. Vegan Delights ($13) is a soul-satisfying bowl of vegan broth and veggies loaded with daikon, cabbage, carrot and tofu. Chang says Blue Koi’s cooks can customize recipes to suit customers’ dietary needs. “They tell us what they like and we will create it,” Chang says. “We make sure they’re happy.”

A couple weeks ago, the Chang family catered to a famous customer — Guy Fieri. “You know the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives?” Chang says. The Food Network show filmed a segment at Blue Koi’s 39th Street location.

Chang says Fieri picked three dishes from Blue Koi’s menu.

Chili Pepper Wontons ($8) are steamed or pan-fried dumplings filled with a mix of shrimp, pork and chicken (there’s a vegetarian version, too). The wontons are topped with cilantro, scallions and chili sauce.

China Moon ($8) is a crispy flatbread sandwich stuffed with lots of marinated minced shrimp and served with Chang’s mother’s recipe for sweet plum sauce.

Fire Bird Chicken ($14) is one of the spiciest dishes on Blue Koi’s menu. It featuresboneless chicken (or duck, or tofu) sauteed with chili peppers, scallions and bamboo strips and served with plenty of sticky white rice.

“This bird is on fire,” the menu reads. And so is Blue Koi.

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