Bluestar Kitchen Bar: Hip Fusion Dining Shines in Leland
Chef and Bluestar Kitchen Bar owner Stephen Harrington once again out-does himself with culinary creativity, using the simplest of local ingredients, and taking each dish to a satisfying conclusion of hip fusion.
Stephen – his friends know him as Steviemack – shepherds the creative process, from prep and plating, to the tableside reveal of each plate.
For the once small town of Leland, Bluestar Kitchen Bar is a hip, friendly addition that ups the ante in the food game on “the other side of the bridge.” Bluestar’s Asian fusion offerings, with Steviemack’s signature international touch, adds a new flavor to the Leland restaurant scene.
Leland North Carolina is a quaint and quiet town across the river from Wilmington NC. Leland, which was filled with plantations, then grew to a two-grocery store town, with a railroad station and a few churches, has quickly doubled in size. It is one of the fastest growing counties in the US. More restaurants and dining options are popping up in Leland, and it’s good to note that these are just a skip and a hop over the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.
Steviemack has built a loyal following of international food afficionados from the window of his Asian-fusion food truck Steviemacks’ International Food Company. The menu is a “brick and mortar” version of the dishes Steviemack has served from his food truck for the past few years. Bluestar Kitchen Bar has comfortably reworked the old Charlie Macgrooders location.
The restaurant – filled with diners and promising a short 20 minute wait on a Friday evening – offers a modern, light atmosphere. The bar, with beers from some of Wilmington’s finest breweries, a decent wine menu, and full bar, is a comfortable option that bypasses the wait. Staff are super friendly, super busy, and ready with suggestions about the dishes. We sipped wine, and sampled the Jalapeno Margarita.
To start, we shared the vegan Heart of Palm Ceviche. Served on a toasted corn tortilla, this is a starter that is light, fresh, slight tangy, and full of flavor. Tortillas are fresh and local (nod to Portillos), and it was a winner in my opinion.
On to the main course. I chose the Korean BBQ Brisket Tacos. Two hearty, generously stuffed soft-shell tacos boast flawless tender brisket, moderately spicy kimchi (not overpowering flavor), a fresh multi-colored mix of cherry tomatoes, a mild creamy sauce, and cilantro garnish. Served to the side was a hot bowl of perfectly balanced seasoned black beans. My side kick ordered Steviemack’s Thai fried rice, with fresh vegetables, basil, and an add-on of jumbo citrus shrimp. This meal is aesthetically pleasing with large shrimp, and flavors that are big on fresh, mixed with unique, and completely free of the stereotypical oil-laden sensibility that you often get with fried rice.
Although we were pleasantly full, we could not leave without indulging in Steviemack’s chocolate crème brûlée. This sinful twist on crème brûlée is an explosion of creamy, rich chocolate. This is how he got his wife to marry him, Steviemack tells us. We believe. If you want chocolate, this is, we promise you, one of the best desserts in Leland, or Wilmington. One of our dining buddies skipped the entree, and went straight to the Bananas Foster Sundae with Spiced Rum Sauce and Butter Pecan Ice Cream. It was divine too.
We told Steviemack that we see our future, and it includes late night stops for a nightcap and desserts. Which he promised was okay.
Bluestar Kitchen Bar is still figuring out hours, demand, what the community wants it to be. Steviemack will be staging SMIFCO food truck out of Bluestar, too, during season. With a catering/event space available adjacent to the restaurant, there are lots of balls in the air here. Leland can handle it.
Contributing blogger: Sarah Koob is a foodie, home cook, and lover of seafood, Bloody Marys, and is always up for any kind of food adventure.