It took a while before Tao Chen felt York County was ready for authentic Asian cuisine.

Chen, 40, moved from China to Westminster, Md., for college in 1996 and worked in the restaurant industry to pay her tuition. She relocated to Hanover 10 years ago and brought her restaurant experience with her. She started out small eight years ago by incorporating a sushi bar at a Chinese buffet in Hanover. Four years later, she opened Full Moon in Hanover, which served only sushi.

Three weeks ago, she added Blue Koi to her culinary resumé. Chef Moon Law has been with her along the way.

The Hanover restaurant specializes in sushi, Chinese and Thai cuisines - some of her favorites.

"I like to bring more variety to the town," she said.

I ate lunch recently at Blue Koi. Its neon blue sign sets it apart from other vendors in the Baltimore Street strip mall. Inside, the atmosphere is chic, yet simple - with dim lighting, New Age music and an earth-toned décor.

I struggled to decide on my order because all three cuisines are at the top of my list. I mulled over Thai basil, ginger stir-fry and sushi combinations. I'm partial to sushi, so I picked the maki lunch special. I chose a spicy tuna roll and a shrimp cucumber roll, which came with miso soup.

My server delivered the meal quickly. The bright colors of the fish and veggies popped from a white plate. I could almost see its freshness. The sushi tasted flavorful and well prepared.

Law cooks all dishes made to order, and Chen said he puts his heart into the food he makes.

"We serve the food we eat," she said.

She said that although many people might have never been to China, Japan or Thailand, it's important to educate people.

"You should show people the real thing," Chen said.

She said her focus is to always provide fresh, healthy food to her customers, many of whom have followed her from restaurant to restaurant.

A Blue Koi specialty roll is the Black Diamond, which includes seared black pepper tuna, spicy scallops and scallions, topped off with a row of black
A Blue Koi specialty roll is the Black Diamond, which includes seared black pepper tuna, spicy scallops and scallions, topped off with a row of black caviar. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS CLARE BECKER)

She knew it would take time for customers to get acquainted with her food because it was totally different from what they were used to.

"People generally think Hanover is a couple years behind," Chen said, adding that there are a lot of restaurant chains and buffets. "I ventured out. Someone has to do it."

Chen said business has been strong since the opening, with a packed house on the weekends. She said she feels well-embraced by the Hanover community.

"I feel so lucky," Chen said. "They're ready for this."

Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants with meals for less than $10. Suggestions are welcome. Reach Leigh Zaleski at 771-2101, lzaleski@ydr.com.

If you go

LOCATION: Blue Koi, 805 Baltimore St., Hanover

CUISINE: Chinese, Japanese and Thai

LEIGH'S PICK: Maki combo lunch special: Spicy tuna, and shrimp and cucumber rolls, with miso soup ($8.95)

PARKING: Yes

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday; noon to 10:30 p.m. Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday

PRICE RANGE: $2 to $30

ALCOHOL: BYOB

SMOKING: No

ACCEPTS: Cash and credit cards

TAKEOUT: Yes

KID'S MENU: No

DETAILS: Call 630-8898 or visit www.bluekoi.biz

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