Q&A: Bruce Bromberg
New York-based restaurateur brothers Bruce and Eric Bromberg are known for crafting deliciously comfortable culinary experiences spiced up with French and Asian flair. When they opened their first venue outside New York City on the Las Vegas Strip eight years ago, the exposure provided a big jump for their Blue Ribbon brand, according to Bruce, who relocated to Sin City for five years.
“I don’t think you can understand Las Vegas until you operate here,” he said. “There’s always a lot of hearsay about what Vegas is and people have opinions good and bad, but when you come out and do business you really see what a dynamic food town it is and that’s when it dawned on me that there was something special here and a lot of potential.”
Now the Brombergs have brought that original Vegas restaurant, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, to Summerlin at the Red Rock Resort, proving they were right about the dining scene’s potential.
How have you seen the Las Vegas restaurant landscape change since you first opened Blue Ribbon Sushi & Grill at the Cosmopolitan in 2010?
We arrived at a really interesting point. It was just after the [economic] crash and everybody was still recovering and Vegas was a bit slower than other places in the country. There was this turn to what I think is the honesty of cooking and food, and I think it transitioned Vegas into a more conscientious culinary environment. You had to exceed expectations on a daily basis. It wasn’t just about a crazy party and the most expensive thing on the menu is what sells all the time. It was an important time in creating that landscape and now you can see how the culinary world has evolved in Las Vegas because you have great homegrown chefs and chefs from other places doing things off the Strip, really interesting concepts downtown and on and off the Strip. It’s been growing for quite some time but in the last few years Vegas has really turned into a great culinary city.
You moved from New York City and really got involved in the food community, including helping put together the first Life Is Beautiful Festival downtown and its strong culinary components.
I’ve always believed in this town and always been attracted to the neighborhoods as well as the Strip. That’s what LIB was about, the depth of everything here and the fact that Las Vegas has its own vibe. A lot of the Strip stuff shows that Vegas has borrowed the vibe, that it has a history of replicating other places, but there was such an authenticity that wasn’t being recognized. We wanted to bring that front and center, and now, being able to be in the neighborhood [at Red Rock] and connect with the locals that way is a super-cool thing.
How similar is the new Blue Ribbon Sushi to the original on the Strip?
I think it embodies the same spirit. The menu is similar but there are a few modifications. If you’ve been to our original sushi place in New York, you know it’s 11 feet wide at its widest point, so it’s kind of an awkward space. But we like awkward spaces. The new one is also long and narrow and evokes that same feeling. It’s funky. It has a Tokyo street vibe to it and these sort of activations as you walk through, from the sushi bar to the drink bar to the outdoor beer garden.
From the fried chicken with wasabi honey to the oxtail rice with bone marrow, there were a lot of beloved dishes on that old menu. Was it difficult to choose the list of dishes for the new version?
It was funny. At the first menu meeting we all sat down and discussed whether it should be exactly the same or a little bit different. By the end we decided we can change things up, but there are a lot of dishes that we just knew, we have to have that, and that, and all those.
You operate the renovated Blue Ribbon brasserie at the Cosmo as well as Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken on the Strip and the menu at Brooklyn Bowl at the Linq Promenade. You guys have really become known for great fried chicken.
My dad always would say he could have saved a lot of money sending us to France (to study) if he knew it was going to be all about fried chicken. But it is interesting the way people are attached to that dish, whether it’s at Blue Ribbon at the Cosmo or Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken at the Grand Bazaar Shops (at Bally’s). People have a real visceral attachment to that dish.