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Rebecca Charles on Bivalve Bliss: Blue Ribbon

Blue Ribbon Sky August 2010

Courtesy of Blue Ribbon

When the original Blue Ribbon restaurant opened in 1992, it became an instant favorite with downtown denizens.

The locale: 97 Sullivan Street, Manhattan

The vibe: When the original Blue Ribbon restaurant opened in 1992, it became an instant favorite with downtown denizens, chefs and celebs who went there late after they got off work. Since then, the ambitious owners have opened several more urban restaurants with an undeniable neighborhood feel, including Blue Ribbon Bakery and Blue Ribbon Sushi. Purists still adore the original for its straightforward menu that features fresh seafood (fresh oysters, clams, crab legs) and brasserie classics such as beef marrow, hanger steak and fried chicken with mashed potatoes.

Personal history: “When I was a kid, I wondered, ‘How can anyone eat raw oysters?’ ” laughs Charles. “Then I grew up and learned that martinis and cigarettes and oysters were good . . . OK,  not completely good for you, but good.” In particular, Charles loves the various rituals of eating oysters. “There are purists who say a squeeze of lemon will suffice,” Charles says, “and then there are others like me who enjoy sauces of all kinds, from the classic American cocktail sauce to mignonette, an addictively acidic shallot-and-vinegar concoction.”

Oyster riffs: “After Pearl, Blue Ribbon has the best fried oysters in New York,” says Charles. Their approach is a riff on oysters Rockefeller (the classic preparation of oysters on the halfshell topped with creamed spinach, cheese and bread crumbs, then baked or broiled). The crispy fried oyster returns to a shell to rest on a pool of perfect creamed spinach and a little bit of roasted beet and cucumber. “It’s just delicious,” Charles says.

This article has been adapted from the original, which appeared in the August 2010 issue of Sky.

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