Entries in Blue Ribbon (4)


Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill

blueribbon_inside1.jpgI dropped by Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill the other day for a snack. A pulled pork appetizer from the daily specials list, at $12.25, was impressive. I didn’t note the details, but it was essentially a cross between American barbecue and miso soup.

I was seated at the end of the sushi bar, where a huge fish head was staring at me. Initially, I wasn’t sure if it was real, but it surely was. Periodically, a chef would pour a bucket of ice cubes into the mouth—without which it would turn foul in a hurry.

blueribbon02a.jpg blueribbon02b.jpg

Service was a little helter-skelter, as one expects in this type of restaurant. I wasn’t impressed the last time I visited, but the pulled pork appetizer persuaded me that perhaps Blue Ribbon Sushi is worthy of more attention.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill (308 W. 58th Street in the Thompson Hotel, 6 Columbus Circle)


The Payoff: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill

Yesterday, Frank Bruni delivered two gift-wrapped stars to Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill.

Few of his ratings have surprised me more. The sushi and sashimi here “aren’t among the very best in town,” but “In terms of basic deliciousness, the fried chicken, made with matzo meal in the crunchy coating and seasoned with paprika and sansho pepper, may well be.”

Basic deliciousness? Is Restaurant Girl ghost-writing for the Times nowadays?

We were wrong once again. We lose $1 on our hypothetical bet, while Eater wins $3.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $63.50   $79.67
Gain/Loss +3.00   –1.00
Total $65.50   $78.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 28–11   28–11

Rolling the Dice: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, the latest chain restaurant to invade the mall at Columbus Circle—it’s actually across the street, but that’s beside the point. The Eater oddsmakers have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 5-1
One Star: 2-1
Two Stars: 3-1 √√
Three Stars: 50-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: In our view, all the BruniTrends® point to one star. Like most people, Bruni has been fairly cynical about the Columbus Circle restaurants. (His reviews of Masa and Per Se were raves, but those for V Steakhouse, Café Gray, Porter House, and Landmarc were anything but.)

On top of that, critical response to the latest Blue Ribbon has been muted—I gave it one star—and Bruni seldom bucks consensus. Bruni isn’t fond of restaurants with overly long menus, and at 168 items Blue Ribbon’s is as long as they come. Bruni has never been fond of chain restaurants. This Blue Ribbon is much larger than the others, and the restaurant will probably suffer for it.

I also think that sushi restaurants of approximately this quality (or better) are a commodity in New York, and a restaurant needs to be a lot more intriguing than this to warrant two stars. It certainly isn’t cheap enough to warrant two stars on price alone. That’s just my view, but I believe Frank Bruni would say the same.

Eater does make an intriguing point: it seems a little pointless to waste a review on the 8th Blue Ribbon restaurant “if it’s just going to be for a single star.” But it seemed a little pointless last week to review Barbuto, when it hasn’t changed since the last review, and the only seriously recommendable dish is the chicken. Signor Bruni did just that. The fact is that we’re in a rather slow season for new restaurants, but Bruni still needs to find something to review every week.

The Bet: For the second week in a review, we disagree with Eater, and bet that Frank Bruni will award one star to Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill.


Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill

Note: Click here for a more recent review of Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill has recently opened in the Thompson Hotel at 6 Columbus Circle. It’s the latest in a chain of eight sushi houses, brasseries, and bakeries in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Blue Ribbon Sushi on Sullivan Streeet in SoHo is an intimate place, to which Ruth Reichl awarded two stars in 1998. It does not accept reservations. Eager beavers line up around the block for one of the few, coveted seats. Its late hours make it a beloved haunt for chefs all over town.

But Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill is a cynical affair built to capitalize on the name, dressed for the big dance and tricked out in a slightly smaller version of the modern big-box Asian style.


Ryan Sutton, reviewing for bloomberg.com, counted 168 items on the menu. Bravo for Sutton, as he saved me the trouble. All I know is that we were overwhelmed. My son and I each ordered a selection of rolls ($28; photo above), my girlfriend the sushi deluxe ($29.50). We found both dishes competently prepared, but underwhelming. “Pedestrian” was the word that came to mind. With 166 other choices remaining, who’s to know whether this is typical? The choice of sakes was impressive, but expensive.

The address is a tease, by the way: you’ll search in vain for the hotel on Columbus Circle: it’s actually on 58th Street, across from the mall, several doors down from the circle.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill (308 W. 58th Street in the Thompson Hotel, 6 Columbus Circle)

Food: *
Service: *
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *