A new culinary experience has arrived at The Grove with the opening of Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill.
We’ve got the back-story of how this acclaimed eatery came to be straight from one of the founders, Bruce Bromberg.
“So, I bet you are wondering how a couple of Jewish kids from Jersey got the idea of opening a sushi restaurant in SoHo, way back when you just didn’t do that. Well, it’s a bit Benihana infatuation, a part Dad’s obsession with all-things-delicious, and a fateful chilly Sunday night that led us to a quiet little sushi bar on Lexington Avenue and 29th Street in New York City over 20 years ago.
Lobster Rolls in Maine, Cheese Fondue in Colorado and Pupu Platters at our local Chinese restaurant, solidly lie at the foundation of everything we do from a culinary perspective. College in New Orleans and our eventual migration to the epicenter of the culinary world as we know it, Paris, France, solidified our future in the restaurant world.
Eric went to Paris first. In 1985, he packed his bags and set out into uncharted waters. Despite the lack of support from outsiders and naysayers, Eric excelled and became the first-ever American to teach a class at the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. After a lengthy apprenticeship in one of Paris’ most traditional and fabled kitchens, Eric returned to New York City to continue to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. I followed in Eric’s footsteps every inch of the way.
Eric and I, along with a team of 14 dedicated cooks, waiters, and dishwashers who still work side-by-side today, some 23 years later and run our nearly 20 restaurants, opened a 48-seat neighborhood eatery on November 3, 1992. We had no preconceived notions of what we were making. It was just another great project we could work on together, and this one was a big one for sure.
We were not making a French restaurant, nor a Spanish restaurant, not a fancy restaurant or even an American joint. We just wanted a good place to eat and drink with friends and a place that was fun to work at. We set out to change all preconceived notions of what a restaurant should be. We stayed open until 4am, paying homage to our favorite restaurant from Paris, Au Pied de Cochon, and soon we were filled until the wee hours of the morning with every chef and restaurateur the tiny enclave could hold. It seemed as though, overnight, we changed the way New Yorkers thought about food.
The success of Blue Ribbon and its devout consumer base brought about the opportunity and desire to continue and grow. We began to look for new opportunities, but we had no space. We had never dreamed of being this busy. We reached out to our landlord and asked if there were any potential spaces on the street that we might be able to use/rent to deal with the overflow. It turned out that there was just the space.
However, cooking was not an option in this small space due to lack of ventilation. Then a light bulb went off, “How about a sushi bar?!” In NYC in 1993, there were high-end Japanese sushi places and low-end, all-you-can-eat dives, but not a lot in between.
Just one problem: while we could prepare a perfectly acceptable Blanquette de Veau or a slightly more complex Tournados Rossini, we didn’t know the first thing about how to make a California Roll, let alone start up a sushi restaurant. From uptown to downtown, fancy to common, we tried every sushi restaurant in NYC. One night, months into the project, we headed to the eponymous Sushi Sey. Sushi Sey was top tier in both price and quality at that time in NYC. Way out of our league. We ordered carefully and maneuvered our way through the complicated menu with little help from the staff. At the end, we felt inadequate and disappointed. Service was pretentious and the food was just OK.
Eric and I headed home, but we decided to take the longer route back to our Murray Hill residence so we could talk things through. Right then, we passed a little hole-in-the-wall spot called Mishima. It was late and we were tired, but one hand roll and a hot sake or two couldn’t hurt. The first bite of the Spicy Scallop Roll was a revelation like no other. Our search was over. Toshi Ueki became our partner, our spiritual leader and our mentor. Together, over the past 20 years, we have opened izakayas, sake bars, and full-scale Japanese-inspired Sushi Bar & Grills all under the Blue Ribbon moniker.
So, why The Grove?
After years of eying the ‘other’ coast and countless requests to head West, we have finally found our home in Los Angeles. The excitement of creating Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill at The Grove and introducing our cuisine to the LA dining scene brings back the amazing feelings of opening the original Blue Ribbon Sushi in 1995.
The journey has been great, the learning has been constant, and the project just never seems to end…but that is just fine by us!”