Exploring the restaurants of Greenpoint’s Little Tokyo
This is me resisting the urge to use the “a [BLANK] grows in Brooklyn” cliché. I’ll say, instead, that there’s something afoot in Greenpoint, Brooklyn: a spate of Japanese restaurants and businesses that opened in the past few years in an industrial section of the neighborhood.
I’m not the first to spot this. In February, Devorah Lev-Tov, a freelance reporter for The Times, wrote a deep dive on the rise of this “Little Tokyo.” As she points out, many of the newer businesses are Japanese-owned and attract people looking for a North Brooklyn alternative to Japan Village in Sunset Park. But what of the food?
For bento boxes, mushroom skewers and yuzu ricotta …
To start, Rule of Thirds, which opened just weeks before the pandemic, managed to make it to the other side with a creative menu of Japanese-inspired dishes. This isn’t your sobo’s restaurant, but the founding team did cut its teeth at the beloved two-in-one restaurant Okonomi + Yuji Ramen, in Williamsburg.
Unlike that intimate, 12-seat restaurant, Rule of Thirds is downright huge. It has a brunch and dinner menu that runs from small plates to skewers to entrees, so it’s a great place for large groups. Here’s my ideal dinner order: a heavy yes to the crispy maitake mushroom skewers with herby gremolata, and to the mazemen (brothless ramen noodles) with yuzu ricotta to start.
I’m still dreaming about the summer tomatoes dressed in kimizu sauce (egg yolk and rice vinegar) and scattered with puffed rice and smoked trout roe. That was my first taste of this year’s tomato bounty, and I have to say, we’re in for a treat. I decided against the pork tonkatsu, because I always seem to go for pork. But next time I’ll make that my entree order and close it all out again with the delectable grilled mochi cake.
Then there’s Acre, a Japanese-owned lunch counter that’s nothing short of delightful. This restaurant serves exactly the kind of balanced, food-pyramid-friendly meals I crave after a week of over-the-top dining: bento boxes, garden salads, miso soup and Japanese egg salad sandwiches. This is where I got my tonkatsu fix, and it also makes a mean iced latte and has a little gift shop up front.
For a splurge (like nori-wrapped Wagyu beef tartare) …
If you’re looking for something more upscale, consider House Brooklyn or Restaurant Yuu. Both are French-inspired, omakase-style restaurants, though House Brooklyn is the more intimate of the two, serving just 16 diners over two seatings for $180 per person. It’s hidden at the back of 50 Norman Avenue, which is also home to Cibone, a design store, and Dashi Okume, where you can get ready-made dashi broth or have a custom blend made. (We really do have it all here.)
House is closed for the month of July and already sold out for August, but the eight-week-old Restaurant Yuu is a very worthy alterative. I usually find fine dining to be a bit cold and overly formal, but this 18-seat restaurant is the opposite. The service is professional but warm, and I got a real kick out of watching each of the 18 well-executed courses come together before my eyes — like nori-wrapped Wagyu beef tartare topped with sea urchin from Hokkaido and an exceptional eel and foie gras dish. (Note: I was informed that the entire menu was about to change after my dinner, but all the more reason to go back.) I also signed up for the $100 nonalcoholic pairing, all tea-based, and especially loved the restaurant’s take on an espresso martini with milky oolong. At $250 per person without drinks, it’s a splurge, but I can say with my whole chest that it’s worth it.
In Other News …
This week, Pete Wells reviews Mischa, Alex Stupak’s new Midtown restaurant. Much of the hype surrounding the restaurant hinges on its $29 hot dog, which Pete finds both “obnoxious” and “glorious.”
Openings: Alligator Pear, on West 30th Street, has tempura alligator bites and blue crab beignets on the menu; Lala’s Brooklyn Apizza will bring New Haven-style pizza to Grimm Artisanal Ales, in East Williamsburg, this Saturday; and a new location of MáLà Project will open in Greenpoint on Friday.
Soo Youn reports on the chefs and catering companies that feed hundreds of band members, backup dancers and crew members for touring musical acts like Beyoncé, Paul McCartney and Lizzo.
Martinis au poivre, chicken soup martinis, caprese martinis: These are just a few of the creative (and some might say, deranged) cocktails appearing at bars around New York City, Becky Hughes reports.