BBF is the Killer New Japanese Resto NYC’s LES Seriously Needed

We’ve been around long enough to remember the Lower East Side of dingy, desolate streets, a Mexican joint dotted here and there, and a few old standbys where we’d already tried everything…twice. But without debating gentrification here, sometimes it does bring the things that make us happiest – like killer Japanese food.

Now, even in this new age of the LES there have been only limited Japanese options. So we are happy indeed for the understated chic of new kid on the block BBF, which opened in July on Ludlow. Although we walked past the discrete entrance one time, and then again, once inside, the white, low-lit interior instantaneously transported us to Tokyo, or maybe Osaka. The young Japanese crowd had great hair and effortless fashion worth a mention…but this place really is all about the food. 

BBF was born when Michelin-starred chef Chikara Sono (long time mastermind of the East Village’s Kyo Ya), teamed up with chef Makoto Suzuki (of Samurai Mama, Bozu, and Brooklyn Ball Factory). Add to this power duo a stellar cocktail list designed by Angel’s Share bartender Nana Shimosegawa, and an extensive sake list selected by sake sommelier Chisuko Niikawa, arguably NYC’s best.

Raisin Butter Old Fashioned anyone? Japanese Curry Fizz? Or perhaps a “Cloudy” Nigori Sake is more your taste. We tried all of the above, and seriously considered another round of each.

Perfectly paired drinks in hand, we started with the Anago Fish and Chips. This sea eel tempura was served wrapped in paper, Brit style, but with dashi sauce and sansho peppers – sometimes a combo of traditions beats tradition, hands down.The Sushi Party Bomb Platter was delectable, bite sized orbs of rice topped with delicately sliced avocado and melt-in-your-mouth fish. (BBF stands for Brooklyn Ball Factory btw, where the sushi also comes in charming little spheres.) This is what sushi is meant to be, and our only question was this: why doesn’t more sushi float to our mouths in perfect UFO shaped bits?

We also adored the Grilled Baby Spanish Mackeral, salted overnight and served on a bed of ratatouille. Dirty Finger Spare Ribs with garlic sauce were super wow, and Natoora’s Farm Salad was delightfully one of a kind. Served in a glass measuring cup, we ate the crunchy, palate-cleansing veggies with our fingers (was that rude?), first dipping them in delectable ginger dressing and garlic mayo. If sweets are your thing, the Mochi Shiratama with strawberry sauce and anko was genuinely next level, perhaps the most perfectly realized Japanese dessert we’ve ever tasted.. 

So yes, BBF is Japan meets the West at its best; and although it has a definite modernist spin, Chef Sono is deeply rooted in tradition and knows exactly how to experiment without pushing the envelope too far. He does, after all, have a solid background in Kaiseki (traditional multi-course Japanese meals).

And speaking of, we now officially cannot wait to try the Kaiseki bar Kappo Sono scheduled to open soon, serving omakase in an 8-seat private room at the back of the space.

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