The chef invested $2.2 million to transform a former law office in Mandarin into a restaurant.
Dennis Chan is starting the new year with the new Blue Bamboo Canton Bistro in Mandarin, continuing 16 years of the Asian restaurant’s operations.
The new Blue Bamboo now is open for dinner 5-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Starting Jan. 4, Blue Bamboo will open for lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday and adjust dinner hours to 4-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
It is closed Sundays but might open for lunch later.
As of Dec. 23, Chan was waiting for the liquor license to sell alcohol.
Chan closed the original Blue Bamboo in Southside on Dec. 11. The building, at 3820 Southside Blvd., is for sale.
Chan bought, renovated and expanded a former law office at 10110 San Jose Blvd. in Mandarin, investing an estimated $2.2 million.
The original building was about 4,300 square feet. He expanded the structure to 6,800 square feet for the kitchen, bar and restrooms in the back of the building.
The restaurant is allowed to seat 198 among the dining room, three private dining rooms and the bar and lounge area.
During the pandemic, the dining room is limited to 48 seats among 12 tables for customer comfort.
The three private areas can be combined for 115 patrons. The largest of the three is a glass “tower” that Chan will use for his cooking classes.
The bar seats 12 and the lounge area can accommodate about 20 patrons.
That area features three large wall photos – Chan’s father’s family photo; his father in his first job as a waiter in London; and his father, now 82, as a young man with two friends from high school.
Chan, 48, said the photos represent family, service and friendships.
“It’s how Blue Bamboo has survived the past 16 years,” he said.
Chan’s family has had 12 Chinese restaurants in Jacksonville during his lifetime. His grandfather’s first restaurant, Eng’s Chop Suey, was in LaVilla.
Chan studied and trained in the industry, including with the family restaurants. He started Blue Bamboo in 2005.
New at Blue Bamboo, there is a space for Jacksonville pastry chef Suzy McGrath to create chocolate confections in a display workspace.
The space will feature the workbench from Downtown’s Worman’s Bakery and Deli, which was closed in 2009 and demolished in 2012.
A friend who is a contractor bought the table when Worman’s closed.
The Blue Bamboo menu is classic Cantonese-American food. Chan said comfort food favorites like shrimp with lobster sauce, chow mein and chop suey anchor the new menu.
“We fill in the gaps with the specialty dishes that we’re known for. Our guests will find red curry shrimp and grits alongside our Chinese barbecue spareribs,” he said.
Outside, there are 65 parking spaces. Customers can choose one of two entrances to the building. There are dedicated host and takeout stations.
Chan said more than half of the 35 employees are new.
The Southside restaurant seated 80 for dining, four at the bar and 100 in the private dining room. It employed 20 people.
Chan bought the Mandarin property for $899,000 in November 2019. It was built in 1978. Renovations took longer than expected.
Chan said to build what he calls his “dream restaurant” in Mandarin, he needed to make some sacrifices, and that meant closing the original site.
Colliers International is listing the original 7,398-square-foot building for $1.5 million. Chan said his 90-year-old uncle owns the building and does not want to worry about managing it.
The former building comprised 4,268 square feet for the restaurant and the rest was banquet space. Chan said the new location will be more efficient.
At the new Blue Bamboo, Meek Development Group Inc. managed the project and brought in a team that includes Doherty Sommers Architects Engineers and EnVision Design + Engineering.
The Angelo Group Inc. is the contractor and Tom Ranney designed the interior.
Because of the pandemic, Chan made some changes to the designs.
“But in the end, we’ll get this wonderful, usable space that really is our dream restaurant.”