Famous for the no-fuss greenmarket fare found in their sushi bars, bakeries, wine stations and brasserie-bistros, they’re now hanging their toques at downtown Manhattan’s wee-hours-friendly Thompson Lower East Side. Seconds, anyone?
Bruce and Eric Bromberg have just returned from yet another culinary tour, this time of Japan. It’s a typical sojourn for the Blue Ribbon patriarchs who are about to open the twelfth outpost of their trailblazing culinary empire in the Thompson Lower East Side. “We went there to get new inspiration” says Bruce, the younger of the two. He and Eric traveled to the Land of the Rising Sun and its many izakayas (the Japanese take on the traditional tavern) with their acclaimed sushi master Toshi Ueki. “I think it will definitely be an izakaya vibe,” he says of the new digs. “There will definitely be a lot of dishes along those lines, but it’s not a literal translation. Even Blue Ribbon Brasserie is not a real brasserie, but uses it as an inspiration. It’s our personal take on it.
Since opening their first restaurant in 1992, Sullivan Street’s flagship Blue Ribbon Sushi, the Jersey boys got famous for their “personal takes” on can’t-miss classics, culled from constant globetrotting and a gastronomically rich upbringing. A typical Blue Ribbon carte includes a gamut ranging from their mother’s matzoh ball soup to a modern spin on the pu-pu platters they first encountered as children at Oriental Yum Yum (a Chinese restaurant in a New Jersey strip mall). Anyone that’s ever had their wasabi-fried chicken at Blue Ribbon Bakery—where you can smell the freshly baking bread in the basement space blocks away—will attest they can even put a signature spin on the Southern staple. It’s the stuff of late-night taxi rides simply to get it takeout with the fixings (and a quick cabernet at the bar).
“We’ve always been about giving the customer something more, something different, but something that we would love to eat ourselves,” Bruce says of his eclectic-but-accessible menus. “It’s about giving them what we want, and our vision of the perfect dining experience.”
That vision, born during childhood and then sharpened at Paris’ famed Le Cordon Bleu (literally translated as “Blue Ribbon”), first by Eric, and then by Bruce years later, is at the foundation of all Blue Ribbon ventures. Likeminded, and in self-expression, says Bruce, “It’s very eerie for a lot of the family, because we sound a lot a like, we talk the same, and we definitely share the same ideals. It’s even a little scary for our wives.”
The Thompson Lower East Side hookup isn’t the first alliance they’ve shared with the luxury hotel group. Their cocktail bar, Above 6, is nestled on the rooftop of the 6 Columbus hotel. Of the Pomeranc brothers, who oversee Thompson, Bruce says, “We share common values. We’re not ultra mainstream, and I don’t think we’re 100 percent trying to be the mass-appeal place.” It also helps that Blue Ribbon’s flagship is just blocks away from the 60 Thompson, a coincidence not lost on Bruce. “Our customers would stay there, and their customers would come and dine at our place. We have a very similar sensibility, and a lot of similar experiences—likes and dislikes. We’re strongly aligned.”
STORY: Daniel Barna