Blue Ribbon Brasserie

I am the only person in New York who hasn't been to Blue Ribbon.

No, not the sushi place. And not Blue Ribbon Bakery. That doesn't count, my friends inform me. You have to eat at Blue Ribbon, the restaurant.

Lest you have trouble distinguishing between these various Blue Ribbons, as I did, it's called Blue Ribbon Brasserie, est. 1992, during Soho's waning glory days, and it's on Sullivan Street. The whole world seems to think it's the best thing since Sullivan Street Bakery bread, sliced or unsliced. People like to say they eat at Blue Ribbon because they like the food, but who really cares? They like Blue Ribbon because they think it's cool, and for the most part, it is.

Sadly, there was no table free for Les Moonves and Julie Chen on the night I finally visited Blue Ribbon, so they left. Vincent Gallo lurked around the bar area (though fortunately he did not offer to sell us his sperm). The lighting was flattering and the room humming.But after years of hearing the hype, I was disappointed that the interior looks like any other ordinary restaurant. I thought it was supposed to be...drum roll...Blue Ribbon.

The brasserie, which serves an eclectic mix of food, from pu pu platters to hummus, is famous for the fact that they stay open until 4 in the morning, a nice perk, but one that would have been more useful to me when I actually stayed up until 4 in the morning. It's also famous for the wait. On a Saturday night at 9pm, we were told it would be 2 1/2 hours until we could sit down. It turned out to be 1 1/2, which was fortunate because one of us was about to devour the maitre'd by then.

The first course was fantastic. A dozen oysters, half Kumamotos, half PEI Malpeques, were the best oysters I've had in New York in recent memory. They tasted as if they'd been plucked out of the sea just a minute before. Alongside this came a cucumber in the tiniest imaginable dice, tossed in a vinegary dressing as a gazpacho-like accompaniment. Very creative, and a perfect complement to the oysters. The sauteed calamari was so good we ordered it twice. A simple combination of extra-virgin olive oil, sauteed garlic, and thin ribbons of calamari, it came tossed together like bucatini in a bowl.

Why do they bother? I wondered. Blue Ribbon could coast by on reputation alone, but here they were turning out excellent starters. It may be the reason celebritrons have stuck around here but abandoned most of the other Soho places.

No wonder Blue Ribbon's raw bar is fantastic; they presumably share their purveyors with Blue Ribbon Sushi up the street. Alas, the second course was not as impressive as the first. Salmon was good but ho-hum, and weird planko-like potato flakes adorned the top of the mashed potatoes. The waiter recommended the fried chicken as one of the best entrees, but when the plate was set in front of me, I realized with slowly growing horror that I had ordered the exact same TV-dinner-esque meal featured in this highly disturbing Wonder Showzen video a friend showed me earlier that day. It was as if I'd walked out of Super Size Me and my subconscious directed me straight to McDonald's. That awful coincidence wasn't Blue Ribbon's fault. I did wish, however, that the fried chicken hadn't been so dry.

Something I never would have ordered, the tofu ravioli, was the best entree of the bunch. Made with rice flour, they were more dumplings than ravioli and came with two dressings, one of which was spicy. "Who thinks to do this for vegetarians?" my vegetarian friend cried.

We couldn't stay awake for dessert. It was 1 AM by then, and we had been at the restaurant for 4 hours. Goodnight, oysters. Goodnight, Vincent Gallo. Goodnight, Blue Ribbon.

Blue Ribbon Brasserie
97 Sullivan Street, between Prince and Spring


c said...

your sensibilities seem a bit more manhattan, but blue ribbon brooklyn doesn't have insane waits and the oysters are devine. no les moonves, tho.

Douglas Cress said...

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