It would be easy to stroll past the black door at AKA Wall Street on William Street in the Financial District that hides the recently opened Blue Ribbon Federal Grill. So I’m going to go ahead let you know now that it’s worth looking for.
The un-presumptuous 98-seat eatery is the latest effort from Bruce and Eric Bromberg, the restauranteurs behind Blue Ribbon Restaurants (you know, the sushi and fried chicken spots). But don’t expect chicken on the refreshingly creative dinner menu at 84 William Street.
The menu is divided into into three categories: “Pasture,” Sea,” and “Field.” And those categories are arranged by size from top (smallest) to bottom (largest). There are also small plates, fruits de mer and sides, which are not to be ignored here. Order the spicy tandoori cauliflower cooked like a steak with cool yogurt sauce and the crispy sautéed mushrooms.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the menu is “Caviar & Eggs” — a section of deviled eggs topped with crab, trout roe or Osetra caviar. I started with the crab and it was a refreshing bite best enjoyed with something cold and preferably stiff — as was the smoked mackerel.
Speaking of, the cocktail menu is also laid out in an unusual graph style, with drinks labeled along a sort of “strengh-axis.” The cocktails labeled strong and “adventurous” tended to be the best, like the “Rich Corinthian Leather” and the “Freddie Kreuger.”
The mains, however, are where the restaurant’s strengths really lie. The daikon and mushroom broth surrounding the Arctic Char and celery root was rich and bright, and I’ve thought back on it fondly since. And where ravioli is often a sore spot on a menu — too few pieces of lightly filled blobs of chewy pasta — Blue Ribbon got there kabocha squash ravioli sage and macadamia pesto dead right. They even managed to present the dish reasonably well, not an easy feat as white-ish sauces often look unappetizing,
The restaurant itself, designed by Asfour-Guzy Architects, is dim and casual and looks out over Louise Nevelson Plaza. Inside, the restaurant’s wine is on display near the large oak bar. If anything, it looks perhaps too generic and casual for a restaurant serving such carefully and well-planned dishes. Or maybe, that’s the point? Walking in, I had no idea I was about to have as memorable of a meal as I got.