199 Grand St, Williamsburg, 718-782-1424
Price Range: $15-$25 Rating:3L's
My L train ends at First Avenue, and not just because of service interruptions. Luckily, on the night I ventured to that hip western tip of Long Island called Williamsburg, the trains were running. Walking down Grand Street, I was struck by its incongruous name. Low buildings, dim and quiet on a brisk Wednesday night, were littered with the usual suspects: sushi, pizza, hipster lounges. The lights of Manhattan twinkled in the distance…
But I had work to do, damn it, and no borough was going to get in my way. A block later, large windows lit the street in neon beer-sign-glow. This was the place. Stringent geometry, high ceilings, globe lights, and expansive Japanese wooden benches rimming futuristic tabletop grills. It was new, but familiar, like a high school cafeteria from a forgotten anime dream.
Seated at one of the tabletop grills, we ordered a round of Rogue Dead Guy Ale ($6). Spicy panchan of bean sprout, radish, and kimchi came next. As we devoured them, Fried Pork Gyoza ($4), and a Seafood Pancake arrived ($6). The portions weren’t huge, but the golden, glistening morsels were enough to sate us.
Our entrees were brought next by our vivacious, if not terribly fluent, server. She took pains to carefully explain how to eat the Bulgohki Shabu-Shabu ($17), shoving a scalding sliver of meat into my mouth. The dish is lot of fun to eat, but shouldn’t be ordered by an individual. The components were plentiful: greens, rice noodles, udon noodles, brown mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, and, of course, paper-thin strips of prime beef (to be dunked into the boiling stock and then the dipping sauces: traditional ponzu and fusion peanut). Yet, there wasn’t enough meat to create the rich broth drunk at the end. With five or six people around the table, this would be amazing.
Another entrée, seafood BiBimBahp in a hot stone pot ($10), glistened red under a glaze of red chili paste, but was unimpressive. Tiny bits of shellfish, few veggies, and no raw egg could be forgiven, but the pot didn’t sizzle. Thus, the best part of the dish, the crunchy golden crust of rice at the bottom, just wasn’t there. Unforgivable.
After a quick bite of terrific homemade Fig and Chocolate Ice Creams ($2.50), we bid the adorable staff adieu, hopped on the L train, and I wondered… Maybe there’s something to this Brooklyn thing after all.