Blue Ribbon Izakaya is a sleek, sexy, swanky little sushi-ya in NYC’s Lower East Side, a super “hipster” part of town. It is NOTHING like their sibling sushi restaurants, BLUE RIBBON SUSHI on Sullivan St, or Blue Ribbon or Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill on 58th St. Comparatively, I would say the one on 58th is more of the Theatre District and business crowd, the one on Sullivan, more traditional, casual crowd, and Izakaya, the more chic, trendy and party crowd, I see many a bachelor/bachelorette/birthday celebrations here. Note that Izakaya is actually a Hotel Restaurant, which comes with its own stigmas. When coming here, you almost feel the need to step it up a notch with your attire, maybe put on some mascara, and definitely slap on a pair of heels. My man and I prefer to be rebels though, and rock on in our super casual gear, and my crocs! Don’t judge!
Generally speaking, the sushi bar at the Blue Ribbon restaurants does not get much play, or in plainer words, respect. The reason is simple and justified. Folks that frequent Blue Ribbons know that even if you get omakase, you’re not getting traditional omakase, you get platters. Izakaya is the exception! Here, when you sit at the sushi bar, you DO get served piece by piece! They DON’T force a platter on you. Unfortunately, because few know this, you get tons of really irritating patrons that will hog up a bar seat, and order rolls, or worse, a teriyaki of sorts. Those people should be slapped. Yes, slapped! I think I have a violent streak…
It has been three months since our last visit, the longest we’ve spent without a meal prepared by Chef Tsuyoshi Takahashi, and boy do we miss him! Blue Ribbon Izakaya is like home to us, where we feel most comfortable (and why we are OK walking in underdressed!). It’s like Cheers, the pub show. We go in, everyone remembers us, they don’t do the unnecessary spiels about the menu or the specials, they know what we like to drink, the seats that we want, everything, the fact that my man will give me my sake, so please don’t reach over to me, all the nitty gritty! It’s just so comfortable. And Chef is SO amazing! Let’s get onto our meal…
- TOFU CHAWANMUSHI topped with TARABA-GANI and HOKKAIDO UNI – I LOVE chawanmushi! But the only time I would want served as part of my omakase, is if they top it with something extra special. Special like TARABA-GANI (king crab) and HOKKAIDO UNI! Small shotglass portion, marvelous!
- GRILLED SQUID with summer veggies, ginger & fish sauce dressing and spicy mayo topping – LOVED IT! Squids are such interesting fish! We make LOTS of squid at home. They are available year round, so inexpensive, yet they are so good. It’s really hard to mess up squid, I mean unless you don’t clean it properly or totally overcook it, it is always delicious. This “salad” was fantastic.
- ISE EBI – Lobster sashimi! Next to live UNI from Santa Barbara, this is boyfriend’s favorite dish. I definitely enjoy it, (and this is going to sound so uppity, and we really aren’t, so please don’t get the wrong idea) but we have so much lobster all the time, that I’m just not as great of a fan. That said, it really is good. Blue Ribbon makes the best Lobster Sashimi. They make it “three ways”. The tail into Sashimi, and the rest poached, the claws are served as is, while the body is made into a sushi roll with an egg wrapping (as opposed to seaweed), all served with Miso Butter, which is just an awesome compliment.
- AJI – Big fan of AJIs. But it’s a widely available fish in NYC, which makes it slightly less desirable as an omakase serving. However, if you get the whole AJI, you get a whole lot more of it, AND you get the whole set of bones fried later. Who can complain about that?
- KAKI – West coast oyster from who know where. Served with some seaweed, radish, and vinaigrette. DELISH!
- NAMADAKO – THIS IS HOW I LIKE MY NAMADAKO! The Squid leg sliced super thin, served with some citrus juice & salt, while the suction cups slightly grilled. This was perfect.
- CHUTORO – Chef’s CHUTORO is super fresh, super fatty, super sweet, super delicious. The cuts are ginormous too!
- SMELT – Chef always likes to do one deep fried item to mix up the flavors & textures of what you’re having. This was very good.
SUSHI (My favorite part! The sushi!):
- KINMEDAI – One of my top three white fishes! Again, my favorite way to have this fish, slightly ABURIed on the skin only, and dressed with a little bit of sea salt. Today, he used a green seaweed salt. So great! So happy!
- IWASHI – Look how beautiful this fish is? My last silver was at Sushi of Gari, where they gave me some sweet miso topping, that was so confusing, so meh. THIS is the way to make your silvers! Scored, dressed with soy, and topped with chopped mild onions and scallions. This was perfect!
- BOTAN EBI – This was LIVE of course and so sweet! I forgot to photograph the fried head, but you see one, you’ve seen them all. Just scrumptious.
- MIRUGAI – Giant geoduck clam. Scored and dressed with plain soy. This had a tiny tinge of the sea (as there should be), and was delish. Loved the crunch.
- HAGASHI-TORO – Very few Chefs make this! HAGASHI-TORO is likely my favorite of all TOROs. It’s actually not a belly cut, it’s a cut towards the tail of the fish that requires the chef to cut through and between all the tendon and sinew, yielding just the fatty goodness. It’s a good amount of effort, so few chefs try/bother, but when done correctly, this is GREAT. I love this chef!
- HOKKAIDO UNI – Another marvelous piece!
- KINTOKIDAI – No AKAMUTSU tonight, but there is KINTOKIDAI! They’re similar. Again, served with just a touch of seaweed salt and topped with some citrus. Delish!
- SHIMA AJI – So fresh that there was a tiny crunch! This was dressed plainly with just a tiny bit of Chef’s soy, super delish!
- ENGAWA – Another piece that no one does better than Chef. Scored, and slightly ABURIed, topped with a tiny bit of citrus and some seaweed salt. Another marvelous piece.
- OYSTER – The first oyster was so great, we went for round two. This one was with ponzu, and MOMIJI OROSHI, and scallions. It’s possible this was better than the first! YUM!
- NEGITORO hand roll – Chef asked if we wanted anything else, but perhaps because we spent so much time drinking and chatting, both amongst ourselves and with the chef, that we ended up eating super slow, and the fullness is hitting us hard. Man I want more food!!! We threw in the white flag, and had our final, but delicious negitoro hand roll.
Three months between visits is much too long! Chef Takahashi does everything to perfection! I robbed him of his near perfect score last time because I didn’t want to tip the scale, but with this visit, it is clear. He rocks!!! Overall rating of 34 out of 35! ROCKSTAR!!!