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Blue Fish combines culinary influences

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Medford Hawaiian fusion eatery helmed by Latin owners
Coconut shrimp comes as a Hawaiian-style plate lunch at Blue Fish in Medford. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Kalua pig rolls come with mango salsa for dipping at Medford’s Blue Fish. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Saimin is Hawaii’s traditional noodle soup served at Medford’s Blue Fish. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Pina coladas come virgin or with rum at Medford’s Blue Fish. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Macaroni salad, right, and steamed white rice are staple side dishes of Hawaiian dishes, including coconut shrimp. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Kalua pig rolls come with mango salsa at Medford’s Blue Fish. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Char siu pork is the protein in Hawaiian saimin at Medford’s Blue Fish. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Given the deep influence of Mexican heritage in Southern Oregon and growing presence of Pacific Island culture, the two cuisines’ intersection was only a matter of time.

Blue Fish in west Medford’s Albertson’s shopping plaza adds to the growing ranks of Hawaiian fusion eateries. But the latest, which opened in March, is the region’s only establishment touting a Latin influence and vibe, not to mention family-friendly atmosphere.

The kids, my partner and I agreed, would gravitate to Blue Fish’s fruity drinks, lightly seasoned, meaty dishes and television screens tuned to sportscasts. A menu for diners under 10 offers teriyaki chicken, along with fish ’n’ chips, chicken fingers and a hamburger with fries ($7-$8).

But I know my older son would plead for baby back ribs or teriyaki steak. Coming at lunchtime pares the prices down by several dollars to $13. In classic Hawaiian style, nearly all entrees are served with steamed white rice and house-made macaroni salad.

Fans of the islands’ indispensable “plate lunch” will find kalua pig — prepared “lau lau” style by slow-roasting in banana leaves — under the menu’s “Hawaiian favorites” heading. There’s also “loco moco,” hamburger steak, chicken katsu and a “mix plate,” priced from $11 for lunch portions to $18 for dinner.

Beef patties and kalua pig do double duty as sandwiches with fries ($10-$12). Yakisoba and “volcano pasta” ($11-$16) reconfigure the meat and starch format while several salads ($10-$13) appeal to veggie lovers. For soups, Blue Fish simmers Hawaii’s saimin and its own take on ramen ($8-$13).

Nursing a cold for much of the week, I came to Blue Fish primed for a steaming-hot vat of noodle soup. While I like egg in ramen, I wasn’t so sold on teriyaki chicken in Blue Fish’s version. So I selected the plainer recipe with the single protein of char sui pork, garnished with scallions.

Coconut shrimp jumped out at my partner, but he wondered if an appetizer portion would suffice for his meal. The server confirmed that coconut shrimp were available not only as a starter but also a plate ($14 for lunch $18 for dinner) with side dishes.

Also under the menu’s seafood heading are a shrimp stir-fry ($13-$16), Kona beer-battered fish ’n’ chips ($13-$16) and fish tacos ($13-$16). The last of those dishes, along with Blue Fish’s cocktail list is the most obvious expression of Cynthia Witzil’s and Israel Solis’ Latin roots. Emphasizing the partners’ craving for “a great party,” according to the Blue Fish website, a half-dozen variations on the Margarita anchor a beverage menu also offering mojitos, palomas, mai tais, “mules” and coladas.

Nonalcoholic pina coladas also are available, but my partner opted for the rum ($8). Served in a tongue-in-cheek tiki god glass, topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry, the drink played more like dessert on our palates, causing my partner to comment he had a hard time detecting any alcohol. But for the relatively low price, the drink’s composition and size were appropriate.

I was more interested in our appetizer of kalua pig rolls ($11), a true fusion dish that wraps Hawaii’s favorite pork in a flour tortilla for frying like an eggroll — or flauta. We only wish the rolls had been a bit hotter.

Regardless of culinary influence, the accompanying mango salsa was a simply sublime sauce. A perfect combination of sweet and heat, the salsa benefited from fruit that was nearly minced in its consistency, making for easy, enthusiastic dipping.

A double dose of the salsa, also served with his coconut shrimp, suited my partner just fine. His plate displayed five large, tail-on, butterflied shrimp, their crunchy batter not as sweet as some I’ve tried but nicely adhered to the shellfish.

Typically underwhelmed by white rice, my partner favored the macaroni salad, which I agreed was exceptional, even stacked against recipes I’ve sampled in Hawaii. I pointed out the liberally incorporated mayonnaise was key, citing the Hawaiian cookbook my partner gifted me for Christmas, which confers food group status upon mayonnaise — no mere condiment.

In that same book, “Cook Real Hawai’i,” chef Sheldon Simeon reveals the depths of authentic saimin, which I have attempted to replicate at home. Let’s just say the results don’t really indicate how involved the process truly can be.

Saimin is a humble dish, and that’s how Blue Fish presents it: just noodles, a few slices of pork and a clear broth. A single-serving stockpot with lid adds an element of drama to this otherwise straightforward recipe.

Don’t expect the rich, dense savor of traditional tonkotsu ramen broth. Blue Fish’s is light but redolent of dashi.

While both broth and noodles tasted commercially made, the noodles were high-quality and conscientiously cooked until just done. The pork, likewise, was fairly standard but still tender and flavorful. While I often can’t polish off noodle soups served in many restaurants, this was a thoughtful portion for the very fair price of $8.

I yearned for a slice of coconut cream pie, but my partner and I agreed it — or the guava cake — would have to wait until next time.

Located at 2382 W. Main St., Suites F and G, Blue Fish is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Order at bluefishhawaiianfusion.com or call 458-226-2028.

Reach features editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or slemon@rosebudmedia.com