By Rachael Carnes

When you open the doors to the recently opened Blu Mist Restaurant & Bar you’ll be transported to a sunny clime where international flavors mingle in a friendly atmosphere.

Located in a new mixed-use building across the street from the Valley River Center, Blu Mist makes a great pre-movie date-night destination or a fun spot for friends and family. Eugene needed a good local restaurant in this part of town.

“My vision was to create an upscale fine-to-a-little-casual dining experience with nice, clean interiors but with some cool rustic reclaimed wood and interesting dishes,” says owner Arna Khongkhaning. He’s been planning the new digs for a few years.

Khongkhaning has made good on his vision. From the get-go, Blu Mist’s airy feel greets patrons, with soft lighting and deep blue and gray tones in the dining room. The environment is welcoming, with good acoustics and a cosmopolitan (but unfussy) vibe.

Since 2004, locals have been hooked on Khongkhaning’s home-style Thai restaurant, Ta Ra Rin (with popular locations in Eugene and Springfield), and Blu Mist is destined to become another landmark.

Complimentary toasted coconut curry popcorn appears upon your arrival, and your taste buds are off and running. This stuff is addictive—salty and sweet, with just a little kick.

But Blu Mist head chef Eric Nelson is just warming up.

A bruschetta duo offers hearty little slabs of sweet eggplant puree paired with refreshing apple slaw, next to a summery oyster, mushroom, tomato, and cucumber salad piled on nicely toasted bread.

Next it’s Pacific Northwest seared scallops with tobiko (a flying fish roe), black sesame seeds, and a ginger aioli. The dish has a lovely presentation; the tender scallops provide a decadent combination of oceanic earthiness. With a melt-in-your-mouth array of textures and tastes, the caramelized seafood pairs exceptionally well with the cool microgreens and the tangy sauce—our party nearly stabbed each other going in for the last nibbles.

“Chef Nelson has 20 years of experience with French, Thai, and Japanese cuisine in California,” Khongkhaning says. “I hired him to help me create all-new and exciting dishes back in August 2016, and we have been cooking and testing the food at my house in my own kitchen prior to Blu Mist opening. Eric has a really good understanding of Thai and Asian ingredients.”

The signature Blu Mist salad features bright greens tossed with a refreshing coriander dressing, studded with fried shallots, which—when you add the optional seared, smoked pork belly—elevates the dish to comfort-food dimensions.

The seared duck breast has a delectable peppery crust, and the meat is fresh and juicy, with a complexity of flavor. Swirled in a drizzle of not-too-sweet spicy honey Asian barbecue sauce and creamy mashed kabocha squash with seasonal sautéed greens and braised cabbage, it’s like a bite of Thai Thanksgiving dinner. Almost gilding the lily, this dish is taken to even greater heights by the duck meatballs, made from in-house sausage unexpectedly flavored with lemongrass, kaffir, and cilantro. It’s also used to stuff the starter dumplings, which we vow to return for.

And a house-smoked bone-in pork chop sitting on a bed of roasted carrots, parsnips, red onions, red bell peppers, and sautéed kale is topped with extraordinary pears that have been prepared with bold berbere spice, a key ingredient in Ethiopian and Eritrea cuisine. This unique spice mixture usually includes chili pepper, garlic, ginger, basil, and less familiar flavors like koramina, rue, ajwain, nigella, and fenugreek. Imagine a fusion of Thai by way of North Africa. Who knows what alchemy Chef Nelson has created in his spice combination, but know this: If you attempt to share this plate, you and your dining companions may erupt into an argument over who gets the last morsel.

With the thoughtful hospitality and consistent kitchen that diners have come to appreciate and expect at Ta Ra Rin coupled with an exciting and creative chef, Blu Mist has a winning recipe.

Blu Mist is located at 1400 Valley River Drive and is open 11am-Midnight, Monday through Sunday, with a daily Happy Hour from 4-6pm and 10pm-Midnight. 541.636.3306,