We’ve been here long enough to remember the Lower East Side, with its dingy, desolate streets, a scattered Mexican eatery, and a few old emergency services where we’d tried everything … twice. But without discussing gentrification here, it sometimes brings up the things that make us happiest – like killer Japanese food.
Now, even in this new age of LES there were limited Japanese options. So we’re really excited about the subtle chic of New Kid on the Block BBFwhich opened on Ludlow in July. Although we passed the discreet entrance once and then back inside, the white, dimly lit interior immediately transported us to Tokyo or perhaps Osaka. The young Japanese crowd had great hair and effortless fashion worth mentioning … but this is really all about the food.
BBF was born as a star chef Chikara Sono (longtime thought leader of Kyo Ya in the East Village), has teamed up with Chef Makoto Suzuki (from Samurai Mama, Bozu and Brooklyn Ball Factory). Add a standout cocktail list to this power duo made by. was designed Angel share barman Nana Shimosegawa, and an extensive sake list selected by sake sommelier Chisuko Niikawa, arguably the best in NYC.
Raisin Butter Old Fashioned Anyone? Japanese curry fizz? Or maybe a “Cloudy” Nigori Sake is more your taste. We tried all of the above options and seriously thought about another round.
Perfectly balanced drinks in hand, we started with the Anago Fish and Chips. This sea eel tempura was served wrapped in paper the British way, but with dashi sauce and sansho peppers – sometimes a combination of traditions undoubtedly beats tradition. The sushi party bomb platter was delicious, bite-sized rice balls with delicately sliced avocado and fish to melt in your mouth. (BBF stands for Brooklyn Ball Factory By the way, where sushi is also available in charming little balls.) This is how sushi should be, and our only question was: Why don’t we have sushi in our mouths in perfect UFO-shaped pieces anymore?
We also loved the grilled Spanish baby mackerel, which was salted overnight and served on a bed of ratatouille. Dirty Finger Spare Ribs with garlic sauce were great wow and Natoora’s Farm Salad was wonderfully unique. Served in a glass measuring cup, we ate the crispy, palate-cleansing vegetables with our fingers (was that rude?) And first dipped them in delicious ginger dressing and garlic mayo. If sweets are your thing, the Mochi Shiratama with Strawberry Sauce and Anko was really the next level, maybe the most perfectly made Japanese dessert we’ve ever tried.
So yes, BBF is Japan meets the west at its best; and although it has a distinctly modernist twist, Chef Sono is deeply rooted in tradition and knows exactly how to experiment without pushing the envelope. He has a solid background in, after all Kaiseki (traditional multi-course Japanese dishes).
Speaking of which, we officially can’t wait to try out the kaiseki bar Kappo Sono, which is about to open and serves Omakase in an 8-seater private room at the back of the room.