New York City probably has too many speakeasy bars at this point and my favorites tend to be the ones that have been around for a while now (Angel’s Share, Raines Law Room, etc.). Most of these bars that are hidden behind some secret entrances usually serve alcohol only without food options (maybe some light snack options at the most). Karasu, which recently opened in Fort Greene, is a new speakeasy bar located in the back area of Walters, a casual looking American restaurant, that also serves casual izakaya-inspired Japanese dishes. I was certainly intrigued by the pedigree of the bartender (formerly at ZZ’s Clam Bar) and the chef (formerly at Shuko), and was hoping that Karasu could deliver a major surprise of my culinary journey in Brooklyn. Overall, I felt the cocktails were at a higher level than the food.
The concise menu at Karasu consists of snacks, appetizers and larger dishes, mostly ideal for sharing if you are with a decent number of people in your party. My particular issue with food at Karasu is that it seems to purposely go for the heavy, salty flavor that caters to Americans without preserving the authentic feel to the refined Japanese cuisine that emphasizes the moderate use of seasoning and focuses on the freshness of ingredients. Sesame katsuo (skipjack tuna) sashimi, for instance, was tasty, but the addition of garlic oil and ginger felt like an overkill. Tonkatsu also had nice texture to the juicy, tender Berkshire pork chop, but why is the sauce on top of the meat all over the place, whereas typically the sauce is on the side so you can control the flavor while savoring the texture of the meat?
Handmade pasta with uni and mentaiko (marinated cod roe) was a bit more moderate in flavor to my liking, but this time the texture of the noodle was an issue. I felt having a regular thick pasta noodle instead of the thin one that I typically see in Asian rice noodle dishes could’ve made this dish a lot more wonderful. The most satisfying dish of the night was daigaku imo, an assortment of soy glazed kabocha squash and sweet potato that my girlfriend and I enjoyed quite a lot, reminiscing about our childhood memory when a similar dish was quite popular in Korea.
The space at Karasu is relatively small and it was close to fully packed in the course of our dinner, so I would suggest booking in advance. I did really like the cocktail selections from the bar where there are unexpected mixes of ingredients to create powerful libations. The dining space looks like a typical neighborhood joint in Brooklyn, not quite as magical for a speakeasy compared to, say, Raines Law Room. Karasu seems like a better option for a drink or two of cocktails while you are in Brooklyn; as someone who has known and tasted authentic Japanese dishes, the kitchen’s direction was not quite agreeable to me.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 7.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 7.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 166 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Telephone: (347) 223-4811