One of the best New York restaurants my friend John Weiler has introduced to me is the Blue Ribbon Brasserie, which got its start way back in 1992. Strangely, I don't mind the near-three dimensional stacking of patrons atop one another, the tiny tables, the (usually brief) wait. The service brings me back, as does the food.
This visit was on Halloween night when -- after an abandoned taxi to Washington Square, a sudden squall of rain, a mad dash down 6th past crowds and floats and costumed denizens of the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, and a slow walk through the damp charming side streets -- we finally arrived at the door. Of a very full restaurant and bar. And were promptly seated at the same table where I'd been seated with John on my previous visit. Thank you gods of tired and wet diners. We owe you, big time.
As will happen in a restaurant with such proximity amongst patrons, immediately we were pulled into the conversations on either side of us: to the left, two men of near-60 discussed the major milestones of their lives and debated whether or not each had been worth achieving; to the right, one of those dozens, maybe hundreds, of couples pretending to be Isabel and Ruben Toledo (dressed a little bit like Dali and Gala; speaking just a little too loudly; accents of unknown origin; alluding to talismans of wealth: "When we go to the house this weekend." and "Have you called Bentley?").
Our first course consisted of fruits de mer in the form of one dozen Hood Canal oysters and a chilled half lobster, washed down with Santenay-Gravieres 2005 from Domaine Jessiaume. Sue me.
Blue Ribbon's menu is at once breathtaking and...breathtaking. In the former sense for its audacity (pigeon with toasted barley, sweet potato and apple! Really?!? Pigeon, in THIS city?) paired with some really rather gorgeous set-ups and, in the latter sense, for the inevitable discovery that something in this Mad Hatter's Tea Party won't be done as well as it might have been done if focus had been a bit more in attendance.
Nonetheless, tonight's entrées generally impressed one much more often than not. My rack of lamb with spinach and potato cake was an over-serving of meat, in my opinion. Two racks of that size would have looked more gracious instead of the cluttery trio. Nonetheless, one rises to certain occasions and with no lagging I did dispatch that rack and its two friends. And spinach. And potato cake. The lamb was served splendidly medium, as requested, and the sides, while not terribly memorable, did nothing whatsoever to detract as one might witness below. Call them neutral sides. All very Swiss, somehow.
I had a few glasses of Tempranillo, Vina Sastre, Roble, 2003 and it was entirely serviceable to the situation.
By the time we'd finished dining and slipped out the front door, into the rainwater-sheen streets, the two to our left -- after a titanic row over credit cards -- had already departed, having fully assessed their lives. And Isabel and her Ruben were still there, on the right, desperately trying to create one.