Take a close look around Red Rock Resort’s new Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, which opens on Friday, and you might recognize more than a few touches from the Strip restaurant of the same name that closed in January 2017.
“We have all the old tables, the bars, the sushi bar,” owner Bruce Bromberg says of the items that made the move from the original location to the new. “The walnut wood counters are all from the old place. A fair amount of the seating. Some of the booths.”
In fact, Bromberg says those reclaimed pieces are part of the reason he and his brother Eric abandoned an early plan to use Red Rock as a showcase for the first Las Vegas incarnation of the Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya they operate on New York’s Lower East Side. Another was the number of requests they received from longtime customers and friends, asking them to offer favorite dishes from the original.
“We heard from people (saying) you have to have this and that. And in the end, it just made more sense to bring back Sushi Bar & Grill.”
The Las Vegas original
The first local Blue Ribbon venture, also a Sushi Bar & Grill, was part of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ original restaurant lineup. Like several other chefs and restaurateurs who opened the resort in December 2010, Bruce and Eric Bromberg’s Blue Ribbon brand was an established name with multiple successful restaurants in top North American markets, that had never operated in Las Vegas. While the Brombergs ran a successful lineup of diverse bars and restaurants in New York, they chose this combination of sushi and fusion comfort food to break into the local market.
The restaurant quickly found a loyal clientele among both tourists and local foodies. They came for pristine sushi, as well as signature hot dishes such as fried rice with oxtail and bone marrow and the Brombergs’ signature fried chicken spiced with a touch of wasabi.
When the Cosmo embarked on a dining reboot, however, it was time for a change. The addition of internationally acclaimed Japanese chain Zuma left little room for another sushi restaurant. The Brombergs repositioned their space as a French brasserie.
“It was a little bittersweet, but at the end of the day it was a positive move for us,” Bromberg says tactfully, noting that after a challenging start, Blue Ribbon Brasserie has built a loyal clientele of its own.
But, he’s quick to add, “I think we’ve always known that we would revisit sushi in Vegas at some point.”
What’s in a name?
When the brothers were approached by Red Rock, Bruce says “it was kind of the same thing that happened eight years ago at Cosmo, where it just kind of felt like the right fit at the right time.” But when they saw the space, which was most recently home to Libre Mexican Cantina, they thought it might be a better fit for a combination sushi bar and izakaya (Japanese pub) concept they had developed in Manhattan.
“The room was a very awkward room. It was a very long, narrow room and it kind of reminded us more of (our) Izakaya than of the other Sushi Bar & Grills we have. So we thought that it kind of fit into that mold.”
As word spread, however, longtime customers became concerned the decision might mean the absence of some of their favorite dishes.
“I’d get calls from people and the first thing they said is ‘Are you going to have the fried chicken?’ or ‘Are you gonna have the bone marrow fried rice?’ ”
When the restaurant opens its doors Friday, its menu will include both, along with other popular dishes such as Duroc pork ribs with crispy rice and bacon bits, and salt and pepper shrimp with lemon ponzu. There will also be a few izakaya items sprinkled in for variety. And of course, there will be sushi. But don’t expect a collection of Americanized rolls packed with countless varieties of fish and sauces. The most nontraditional offering will likely be spicy tuna on crispy rice.
“We’ve never been the place that is throwing out 100 things and just imaging new rolls every single day,” Bromberg explains. “In general we take a pretty straight approach to sushi and just try to buy the freshest fish, make the best rice, serve it with extraordinarily good soy sauce and fresh wasabi.”
He also hopes a much more important feature will be noticeable to both new and returning guests.
“One thing we try to do in every single place is have the same approach, dedication and level of hospitality. And at the end of the day, the best thing I ever hear, is when people say to me it just feels like a Blue Ribbon.”