Blue Ice Martini Lounge warms up to South American cuisine

Blue Ice Martini Lounge just hired a new executive chef -- and with the hire, got a new feature: South American food. "We do food from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Colombia," says chef Jose Santiago. "We have comfort food, and every weekend we are going to try to do a dish from another Latin country. This weekend we are serving a chile poblano chicken, with chipotle rice and inside the chicken there will be green chili."

And Santiago isn't just serving up South American food -- he's also booking South American music at Blue Ice."I want to give better prices and better quality," he explains. "I want to bring this place to life again, bring in people and make it a nice place for people to come in and have an appetizer or meal and have a good time."

To make sure they're having a good time, he adds, "Whenever I'm not busy I will go out and talk to the customers and treat them not only like customers, but treat them like they are at home. Hopefully we are going to do live bands, too -- we have a live band tonight."

In fact, it was music that first brought Santiago to the owner's attention. "I used to DJ here and have events like the Puerto Rican festival and traditional Christmas festival," he says. "That's why I caught his eye for the kitchen, because I have a large clientele."

But being popular with customers wasn't the only thing Blue Ice's owner liked about Santiago. "He tried my food, too, and he said it was good," says Santiago, who recently enrolled in culinary school. "I have acquired more knowledge and the feedback is that customers can see the difference in the plating and the flavors."

But while school has added to his skills, it's cut back on the time he can give to Blue Ice -- so the kitchen isn't open all the time. "I only open four days out of the week: Thursday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays 2 p.m. to 8 p.m," he says.

Still, whenever Santiago's there, Blue Ice should be cooking.

Tonight, Los Lunaticos is scheduled to come on after the kitchen closes at 9. "They are a very young group and they play tropical music based out of the Dominican Republic," says Santiago. "We are trying to get something different here but, it's also like 'come celebrate and dance with me because you asked for it and I'm back here.'"

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