A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Monday, April 11, 2005

Apr. 11.




Dinner
-

Blue Ribbon Brooklyn - 280 Fifth Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn
Asparagus and potato soup, Cornish hen with brussel sprouts, chocolate chip bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, a half dozen Caraquet oysters (complimentary), Anchor steam beer, Graham's Six Grapes port
$48

You win some, you lose some. That axiom can apply to practically anything in life, but it seems particularly apt when it comes to eating out. With so many variables involved, even if you choose the right restaurant at the right time and order the right dishes and drinks, one chef, waiter or sommelier having a bad night can easily derail the experience. Still, not having had a bad meal since Mar. 27th, I was starting to feel a little invincible. Dinner at Blue Ribbon Brooklyn put an end to that.

For years, I’ve been highly anticipating the opportunity to visit Blue Ribbon and try their famous beef marrow with oxtail marmalade. But because the restaurant doesn’t take reservations and I’ve always had other places higher on my to-do list, I’d never gone. Now with the second annual Brooklyn restaurant week, Dine in Brooklyn, kicking off this week, I had the perfect excuse to check out the outer-borough offshoot at the much-reduced rate of $19.55.

Blue Ribbon Brooklyn's menu is quite similar to the original West Village location, though the Park Slope space is much larger. But the location is also nothing special, generic and forgettable, which according to what Pat and I ate, is actually quite fitting.

The first symptom of danger was the Restaurant Week menu, the worst that I’ve seen to date. It featured a choice of two mildly interesting appetizers and two boring entrees (it’s always a bad sign when the appetizers and entrees are not on the regular menu), along with only one dessert. Underneath, it stated in a large font that there would be no substitutions. No wonder, with choices like that, they’d need to emphasize that point.

It’s all the more baffling at a place like Blue Ribbon that prides itself on its eclecticism. Scanning the list of appetizers and entrees quickly reveals the offbeat mission of the restaurant. For example, escargot, chorizo, pu pu platter, hummus, pierogies and chicken wings are some of the options to start with, and main courses include catfish, lobster, pigeon and paella. Instead, they offer us amateur fare like a Cornish hen with brussel sprouts.

Another big disappointment came soon thereafter. The kitchen was out of four appetizers that night, one of which was the beef marrow I’ve been waiting so long to sample. I didn’t even bother to hide my frustration. Wanting to add something else to the blasé prix-fixe, Pat and I perused the appetizers that were still available. We settled for oysters, because I knew Blue Ribbon’s raw bar had a good reputation. Surprisingly, they were only serving three kinds that night.

The disappointment kept coming. The asparagus and potato soup I started with was pleasant and light, but nothing special. Similarly, Pat’s pork belly crostini was good, but lacked any strong flavor. These unfortunately ended up as the highlights. My Cornish hen with brussel sprouts was not only ordinary and uninteresting, but oversalted and dry. The sprouts were also overcooked, making it hard for me to generate the enthusiasm to keep eating. I didn’t try Pat’s barbecue ribs, but he complained that the sauce was too sweet and too heavily flavored with anise.

At this point, Pat asked our waiter if our caraquets were still coming. The waiter realized he’d forgotten them and offered to bring them out next. He rightly comped them, but having the oysters after the entrees still threw the meal out of whack. Also, deferring to Pat, the oyster expert among us, he rated these Prince Edward Island variety as just okay. They were mild and lacked any distinguishing attributes. They weren’t out-and-out bad like the hen, but still failed to provide any sign of a high point.

Finally, as if determined to dampen the evening, the chocolate chip bread pudding with vanilla ice cream arrived. As the only thing from the Restaurant Week menu to actually appear on the everyday menu, the bread pudding should’ve been at least mildly enjoyable. Instead, I’d suggest that the kitchen take it away until they can learn how to make it. The pudding was soft in some spots and hard and almost burnt in others. It was also essentially tasteless.

The nicest thing I can say about my meal at Blue Ribbon Brooklyn is that at least it was consistent. But as I said before, you win some and you lose some. And if the occasional loss makes you appreciate the amazing meals you have later, then that’s one more thing I can heartily praise Blue Ribbon for doing. 3/10

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