Japanese restaurant Blue Ribbon Sushi arrives in Kenmore Square on June 23, courtesy of acclaimed New York-based hospitality group Blue Ribbon Restaurants (no relation to the Greater Boston mini-chain of Blue Ribbon barbecue joints). It’s the first of three Blue Ribbon projects set to open at the Hotel Commonwealth, taking over the spaces that previously housed the iconic neighborhood trio of Island Creek Oyster Bar, the Hawthorne, and Eastern Standard.
Blue Ribbon Restaurants chef-owners Bruce and Eric Bromberg opened the first Blue Ribbon Sushi location in New York City in 1995 with late partner master sushi chef Toshi Ueki; they’ve since opened versions of it elsewhere in New York City as well as in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Miami. They’ve already been working with New England seafood purveyors for the past three decades, so opening in Boston “is a homecoming of sorts,” Bruce Bromberg said via a press release.
With this opening, they’re bringing some Boston industry vets into the fold as well: Dan Bazzinotti and Keith Pooler are onboard as chefs of the three Boston Blue Ribbon restaurants, and the general manager of Blue Ribbon Sushi’s Kenmore Square location, Allan Tidd, is a Boston native. Keith Pooler was chef and owner of now-closed but beloved restaurants Bergamot in Somerville and Bisq in Cambridge; Bazzinotti worked at both, including as the opening executive chef at Bisq, before heading over to Eataly and, most recently, Premiere on Broadway. He’s particularly known for his charcuterie skills.
At Blue Ribbon Sushi, the team is serving a variety of sushi, sashimi, maki, and more, featuring seafood from New England, Japan, and beyond; there’s an extensive a la carte menu, as well as omakase, which starts at $145 per person.
To drink, there’s a particular focus on sake, including several of Blue Ribbon’s own proprietary offerings, as well as Japanese beer and whisky. Wines come from Italy, France, and California, and a succinct cocktail selection includes Blue Ribbon classics like a lychee martini.
Here’s the full opening menu (click here to load PDF if it doesn’t appear below):
Blue Ribbon Sushi fits 120 seats into the intimate former home of the cocktail bar the Hawthorne at 500a Commonwealth Avenue; there’s a 14-seat sushi counter and six-seat cocktail bar as well as dining room space, including a 50-seat private room available for events. It’s not the only Japanese dining option within the Hotel Commonwealth as Japan-based udon chain Tsurutontan opened there two and a half years ago.
Around fall 2022 and 2023, the remaining two Blue Ribbon restaurants are expected to open at the hotel. Per previous reports, the one opening in the former Eastern Standard space will be a brasserie while the one opening in the old Island Creek Oyster Bar space will be a seafood spot — the previous formulas worked well — but the Blue Ribbon team isn’t sharing additional details at this time.
The loss of the former trio of restaurants from Boston hospitality mainstay Garrett Harker has been a tough pill to swallow for local diners, but fans can take comfort in the fact that Harker has four new projects in the works nearby, with longtime collaborator Jackson Cannon reportedly onboard to head up the beverage program. So while it might be initially hard to snack on spicy lobster rolls and seared salmon belly where you once drank carefully made cocktails with a side of steak tartare, know that the former team is working on some big things right down the street. Meanwhile, the Blue Ribbon crew has thirty years of a solid reputation in New York and beyond and has added some strong Boston talent to the mix for these new Kenmore Square openings.
Starting June 23, Blue Ribbon Sushi will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; extended hours and lunch will launch later. Reservations are available online.