Relaxed lunch spot by day and hip sushi lounge by night, Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya remains one of the most undervalued and underrated restaurants on the Lower East Side. In typical Blue Ribbon fashion, the restaurant has a mixed menu with an assortment of sushi and cooked items, including the Bromberg Brothers’ famous fried chicken. Located on the second floor next to the lobby of the SIXTY LES hotel, the restaurant feels distanced from the bustle of the nearby streets yet retains the area’s trendy feel and fun, casual vibe.
Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya differs from its sister restaurants in that it is open all day long, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. While the breakfast menu includes tradition American dishes such as yogurt and granola, a smoked salmon platter and buttermilk pancakes, the menu skews Japanese beginning at lunchtime. In addition to the full sushi menu, lunch offerings range from chicken and salmon teriyaki to steak salad and the Blue Ribbon Burger Deluxe. With a full roster of Japanese and American dishes, this is an ideal spot for a group with a wide range of tastes. Though the chefs bring out the izakaya-style dishes at dinner, the menu remains accessible and suitable for all types of diners.
Whether for lunch or dinner, one of the best ways to experience Blue Ribbon is through the sushi and sashimi platters. Starting at $26 for seven pieces of sushi and one roll, these platters can be modified to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences while at the same time showing off the best that the chefs have to offer. With a full blown sushi bar and its highly trained chefs taking center stage in the main dining room, it would be a mistake to leave without trying at least one of the numerous options.
Though the food involves little fanfare, Blue Ribbon has and continues to make a name for itself with simple, well executed dishes. A miso soup, for instance, is elevated by adding a do-it-yourself element. Unlike many restaurants, the chefs here serve the broth and miso paste separately, allowing diners to add as much or little as they like. This small difference pays dividends, as it makes for a more interesting experience and a dish that, quite frankly, simply tastes much better than its traditional counterparts. The chefs give a similar touch to sides such as the sautéed Chinese broccoli, which is completely unrecognizable in comparison to most renditions. Seasoned and sautéed to perfection, this simple dish magnifies the flavor of its few ingredients.
With the adjacent Blue Ribbon Beer Garden having just opened for the season, now is the best time to head for the Lower East Side to see all that the Blue Ribbon team has to offer. The space is ideal for a casual lunch, evening drinks or a group dinner, and the food – in typical Blue Ribbon fashion – never disappoints. It is best to move fast, though, as the arrival of warm weather will have evening and weekend crowds converging on this space in the coming weeks.
Location: 187 Orchard Street (bet Houston and Stanton)
Hours of Operation: Breakfast: Daily 7 to 11:30am, Lunch and Dinner: Mon-Sat noon to 2am, Sun noon to midnight