You've heard us talk about Blue Ribbon and our love and adoration for it. Despite a fast and furious expansion plan that could have easily doomed the brand, it seems that each new opening from this group brings a positive new angle to the growing empire. They seem to really understand that the most important factor is the food, which is never compromised and always consistent. The fact of the matter is that the Blue Ribbon name is as reliable as Mariano in the ninth - before the shagging fly balls incident.
The last time we rolled into the Thompson Hotel on the LES for a meal, it was memorable in all the wrong ways. Shang was the previous tenant in this space, and it sucked as bad as you might imagine a restaurant named Shang would suck. It may have finally closed late last year, but that fish we ate that smelled like a sweaty sock will never be forgotten. That's why we're here at the new restaurant trying to make some fresh memories to block the old ones out.
Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya may be the most ambitious Blue Ribbon yet. The room reeks of hotel restaurant, but they've done a good job at minimizing the hoteliness and making the restaurant feel warm and friendly. The low rise communal tables and big booths make this an ideal destination to go with a huge crew of friends, as does the massive (maybe too massive) menu. The good news is that there is definitely something for everyone - vegetarians, sushi lovers and meat freaks alike. Our advice is to order a lot and make sure to cover all the important stuff - fried chicken, fried rice, skewers, chicken liver mousse and - wait for it - cold vegetables. That's right. Vegetables. Our doctor seems to think that eating those things occasionally will keep us from dying.
We were really impressed with the veggie spread that kicked off our meal. The Spicy Cucumbers with sour cream, garlic and habanero were hot, spicy and unlike any cucumber salad we've had before. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Momiji Moyashi, which are bean sprouts and chili paste. The Hearts Of Palm Kinpira with thin carrot skins are drenched in a tasty combo of sake and soy sauce, and Goma Ae (spinach with sesame sauce) is damn good too.
Go heavy on the skewers. We particularly freaked out over the Sea Scallop & Miso Butter on a stick. Those scallops are so sweet they could be on the dessert menu. The juicy Beef Short Rib & Garlic skewer is also awesome, as is the Rock Shrimp & Tomatillo.
These are the classic Blue Ribbon Sushi appetizers that we've eaten time after time over the years, and they never fail to satisfy. The hamachi dish is a nice little serving of yellowtail tartare with quail egg, and the kanpachi is thinly sliced amberjack with yuzu pepper sauce.
There are a lot of interesting items on the meats section of the appetizer menu including chicken feet, braised tripe, and beef tongue. But it's the Chicken Liver Mousse that cannot be missed. Even if you don't like chicken liver, please do us a favor and step out of your comfort zone. You'll thanks us later. This doesn't take anything like the chicken liver you eat at the Jewish deli with Grandma. This sh*t tastes like smooth, sweet, peanut buttery goodness. We couldn't eat it fast enough and are prepared to call it the second best dip on the LES behind the Freemans artichoke masterpiece.
Blue Ribbon's fried chicken is incredible. You already know that. But what's interesting is that the famous fried bird is now available for the first time as an order of wings. There aren't may better things in this world than juicy Blue Ribbon fried chicken wings dipped in a little bit of chili sauce and a little bit of wasabi honey. Get some.
These were short, stubby ribs that we found to be a little tough and a little chewy. We'd order them again though, just because the black vinegar sauce and scallion glaze could make a pile of rubber bands taste good.
One of Blue Ribbon's most well known specialties is their oxtail and bone marrow fried rice, which is the stuff dreams are made of. You'll find that here, but you will also find eight other flavors, including tongue and poached egg, which is the one you want.
Go nuts on the fresh fish. It may not be the best the city has to offer, but you'll never see us complain about eating sushi in a Blue Ribbon establishment.