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BLUE RIBBON – First Bites

Blue Ribbon’s challenge is proving to Las Vegas sushi-hounds that it has got the goods on the other estimable sushi joints on the Strip, including Shibuya, Nobu, Yellowtail, and, of course, Bar Masa. Its prices are too high to draw locals from favorite haunts like Hachi and Sen of Japan, and the menu is forbiddingly extensive to all but the most intrepid fish sniffers. But if you’ve got the time and the yen, you will find the Bromberg Brother’s oddball array of Japanese/Chinese/American food (both traditional and with a New York twist) highly compelling.

Not many Japanese restaurants we’ve been in offer beef bones, roasted then split to reveal gooey, rich marrow to be spread on toast with  a salty-sweet teriyaki jam, but there it is, calling to all carnivores, begging to be a starter to your evening’s meal. So you dive in and order some, along with some seaweed salad to counterbalance all that soft, fatty animal tissue, and you find both are terrific.

Then you say to yourself, “Self, I don’t know what I’m doing ordering Chinese shu mai dumplings at dinner?” But curiosity again gets the best of you, and once again, you find yourself swooning over the delicacy of the dough and the silkiness of the pork filling. They are so good, you find yourself abandoning the idea of eating anything Japanese on the menu — remembering that Blue Ribbon first made its name as a late night hangout/grill/bar for chefs in NYC in the mid-90s, and that the sushi part of the equation came later. So, thr0wing caution to the wind, you next dive into the the oxtail fried rice — studded through with sticky bits of tail and topped with a bone marrow “omelet” of uncommon unctuousness — and decide to scotch the idea of raw fish altogther. (Btw: the fried chicken-”Blue Ribbon-style” also helps with this decision.)

Munching your way though all these goodies, it somehow feels impolite not to a least try a sushi roll or two. So you do, and discover each is top drawer, but possessing nowhere near the wow factor that the other dishes brought to the party. The Phoenix roll (all vegetables) is gorgeous, and tasty, and almost impossible to eat, and the sushi rice on your assorted rolls is warm and scented one night, cold and plain another, while the sweet Japanese omelet known as tamago — perfectly serviceable by almost any sushi bar standards — isn’t the equal of Akira Back’s at Yellowtail. These are minor quibbles for the most part, since it is obvious Blue Ribbon is using great ingredients and employing an army of chefs to treat them properly.

So, since we haven’t had more than a few tastes of the aforementioned sushi and sashimi, we shan’t offer any further opinion until we experience the full, fishy Monty.

One light meal for two came to $120, the other was $137 — neither with any booze.

BLUE RIBBON SUSHI BAR & GRILL

In The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino

3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702.736.0808

http://www.blueribbonrestaurants.com/rests_sushiBarGrillLV_main.htm

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