Thursday, May 6, 2010
Dinner with a Fussy Eater at Blue Ribbon Brasserie
Last week I had plans for a celebratory birthday dinner with my good friend, AW. A fellow attorney working in Manhattan, AW and I met during law school and have stayed close in spite of having vastly differing personalities and preferences. One such discrepancy between us is food, as AW is far from what I'd consider a "foodie." I was given the particular task of choosing the restaurant and knowing some of her likes (frozen Yodels) as well as her dislikes (anything not Korean or steak), I opted for Blue Ribbon Brasserie. Open until 4 a.m. and being known as the preferred after-hours destination for many New York City chefs, Blue Ribbon boasts an impressive and well-executed menu that even AW would approve of, or so I hoped...
To avoid any lines AW and I met at the restaurant fairly early on a Friday evening. After exchanging pleasantries we entered the restaurant and were seated immediately. AW surprised me with a sign of approval on my restaurant selection after having heard positive reviews from several of her co-workers. We began, as we always do when meeting up, with drinks; a glass of wine for her and an Anchor Steam for me. As I took out my camera to take pictures of the freshly baked bread given to us by our waiter, I heard something like this:
Much to my chagrin, AW's laughter attracted the attention of the entire restaurant. As her laughter and mocking of my picture-taking tendencies eventually (and I do mean eventually) subsided, we finally were able to order. Not intrigued by the potato and caramelized onion filling of the perogies, AW had ordered the Foie Gras Terraine that was served with Pistachios, Julienned Apple and a plate of Toasted Bread. I thought the foie's rich flavor paired great with the sweet apple on the toasted homemade bread, whereas AW preferred her foie gras sans apple.
Having done some research on the restaurant I started with one Blue Ribbon's signature dishes, the Beef Marrow with Oxtail Marmalade. Knowing AW is not the most adventurous of all eaters, I was interested to see how she would take to this dish. Three large beef shanks filled with shimmering marrow sat next to pools of oxtail marmalade and even more toasted bread. AW pointed to the quivering pile of freshly harvested marrow, "You're going to actually eat that?" So instead of trying to convince her that bone marrow is like butter of the gods I smeared some on a piece of toast, scooped some of the beefy and sweet oxtail marmalade and sprinkled some sea salt and commanded her to eat it. No dice...turns out AW dislikes the sweet and savory combination that I love, which meant there was more for me!
For her entree AW chose the Duck Breast served with a Turnip Puree, Brussels Sprouts, Beets and an Orange Sauce. Although we didn't share dishes, I was able have several bites of her dish and thought the turnip puree was good and the duck was cooked well. However, despite properly cooking the duck, I felt that the orange sauce was cloyingly sweet and the brussels sprouts lacked flavor.
I wanted to try Blue Ribbon's famous Fried Chicken that was served with Mashed Potatoes and Collard Greens. After reading about the fried chicken in a Serious Eats article I was eager to sample it for myself. Unfortunately, I was unimpressed with the fried chicken and was left to wonder if this was another case of "anything tastes great when you're drunk at 3 p.m." While the crust was very crispy it was under-seasoned, tasting prominently of paprika. Both the white and dark meat were very moist, yet neither had a distinct flavor to them. The mashed potatoes were a bit lumpy (which doesn't bother me) and the greens were good but the dish left me wanting something more, especially at the $25 price point.
Stuffed from the rich appetizers and our generously-portioned entrees we were about to pass on dessert until AW and I heard the options. AW chose the Fresh Strawberries with Whipped Cream. This dish was as straight forward as you can get; fresh strawberries hulled and halved served with whipped cream. The berries were fresh but both AW and I thought the whipped cream tasted like it had come from a can of Reddi Whip instead of being homemade (a fact that wasn't confirmed).
I chose the Chocolate Bruno. Described as a flourless chocolate cake, it was incrediably dense, resembling a ganache more than a cake. It was served with both vanilla and chocolate ice cream and was topped with hot fudge. As good as this dish was, we were so full that we struggled to finish even a quarter of the plate.
Overall, my experience at Blue Ribbon Brasserie was inconsistent with some flashes of brilliance. Although I wasn't enamored with my food at the Bromberg brother's flagship restaurant, I enjoyed my dinner with with AW nonetheless. With successful dishes such as the beef marrow and oxtail marmalade and chocolate bruno, I feel that Blue Ribbon Brasserie succeeds in offering good but not great food at all hours in Soho at a premium price.
Blue Ribbon Brasserie
97 Sullivan Street
New York, NY 10012
To see all our pics, please click the flickr link.