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Soft Opening of Park Slope Japanese restaurant features outstanding omakase

famdoc Oct 31, 2013 04:04 AM

Katsuei, located in the space located at the northwest corner of Seventh Ave. and Third St., soft-opened on Monday. We visited on Wednesday night. Completely redesigned since its Casa Ventura days, the space is done in shades of white, right down to the pickled wood beams overhead.
There is a two-station sushi bar and about a dozen tables. We were directed to sit at the sushi bar and presented with an abbreviated "soft-opening" menu, consisting of three omakase choices, three soups and several appetizers. Omakase choices included a "miniature" omakase of six pieces plus a roll for $25, a regular omakase and a deluxe omakase with appetizer.

We chose a red miso/mushroom soup, a salad and a chicken appetizer and the miniature omakase. The sushi chef, who has more than 20 years of experience at various Manhattan sushi outposts, was beyond generous in his choices for us. Highlights included a Japanese red snapper (madai), a squid, a seared tuna, uni, a fatty tuna roll and a few others whose identity I cannot recall. The ingredients were all impressively fresh and even more impressively prepared. The chef used several sauces in place of the traditional soy, including a house-made ginger dressing, Japanese sea salt, a wasabi-infused dressing and a marinated seaweed dressing. We were given soy only for the fatty tuna roll.

Omakase dinner options are available at a few other Park Slope Japanese restaurants, including Geido. But, I found Katsuei's omakase delightful, generous, and fresh and our interactions with the chef added to the experience.

Katsuei is not yet licensed to serve alcohol and has not determined whether BYO will be permitted. The menu says "cash only", but they have installed a credit card machine, which gave the hostess some problems when we attempted to pay. There is little to indicate that the address is the home of a Japanese restaurant, save for a small sign in the window and a view of the sushi bar from the window. In a neighborhood replete with Japanese restaurants, including two within two blocks, Katsuei's owners are going to have to make an extra effort to attract Park Slope's fickle crowds. I'm going to step out on a limb here and say that Katsuei, along with Geido, represents the best there is and recommend it very highly. A full menu, including non-sushi items, a la carte sushi and sushi combinations, will be introduced next week.

  1. Peter Cuce Oct 31, 2013 04:23 AM

    Thanks for the report. It may be a neighborhood replete with Japanese restaurants, but nearly all are crappy, Chinese-run spots.

    1. David11238 Nov 2, 2013 04:09 AM

      I went there last night. The uni alone, both San Diego and Maine, is very much worth the price of admission. Both were the best I've had in the states, so far. And I've been to some very high end places: Morimoto, Makato, Gari, Taro, Yasuda, etc. Katsuei has it in Spades. The only other place I can think of that comes close is Takashi. And Takashi is mostly a beef place.

      Even their lean tuna (I always forget the translation) was just a fantastic, organic blend of fresh fish and raw beef. Ya'll need to get their and let the sushi chef omakase your ass.

      1. famdoc Nov 7, 2013 07:42 PM

        Second visit every bit as wonderful as the first. Full menu. No more $25 mini-omakase. It'll now cost you $45.

        How many times have you been in a restaurant where nearly every guest leaves uttering the words "this is the best sushi I've ever had"? Three groups leaving while we were sitting at the sushi bar told the hostess some variation of this statement.

        BYO is permitted now. Credit card machine now working. No Amex, however.

        1. f
          foodwhisperer Nov 25, 2013 07:19 PM

          Sushi Katsuei is a welcome sight in Park Slope. There is no good sushi in the area, IMO including Geido.
          I opted for the sashimi and sushi omakase. All the fish was excellent. I also added an order of ankimo, the mushroom miso soup, shumai. All the additional food was very good.
          The fish was delicious, the shari perfect. The sashimi/sushi omakase is $65, but only 6 pieces of sushi plus a toro-oshinko hand roll. I got 6 extra pieces. Every piece of fish was top tier level. My favorites ( and that is hard to pick out as they all were good) , Kohada, saba, aoyagi ( clam), The squid legs were also terrific.
          The service excellent, the sushi chef quite skilled, very humble, very accommodating, and very patient patient in dealing with clientele that doesn't know much about sushi. They do accommodate that crowd with the "mundane" dishes like california roll ( but made with real crab), spicy tuna, etc. Oh one thing they have that I haven't had in awhile is salmon skin hand roll.
          The restaurant doesn't not use fresh wasabi. I let that slide, because the clientele ordering spicy tuna rolls doesn't really need that.
          That being said, the place is excellent. If it were in Manhattan I would still consider it excellent. There is no "superstar" attitude here. Like the spot in Williamsburgh 0/8 or something like that ( i forget). This is a really good place. They are optimistic on doing plenty of business with several tables to dine at, and an outdoor space. I guess one NYT review and they will be packed. Very serene atmosphere and Japanese staff ( at least they all speak Japanese, so i'm assuming they all are Japanese). Check out Katsuei. You can buy beer a block away.

          3 Replies
          1. re: foodwhisperer
            famdoc Nov 25, 2013 07:37 PM

            Particularly glad that you, foodwhisperer, enjoyed Katsuei. We've now been there three times and each time left us feeling happy and well taken care of. They expect their wine license in three weeks, so enjoy the BYO while you can.

            Yes, as soon as Katsuei is discovered, perhaps with a mention in the Times or another publication, it'll be hard to get into. In the meanwhile, I'm pleased that so many of us realize how truly special it is.

            1. re: foodwhisperer
              Miss Needle Nov 25, 2013 07:39 PM

              Yes, I really liked the crunchiness of the squid legs. The chef did ask me if I was okay with them before he started making them. There were quite a bit of california rolls and chicken teriyaki coming out -- perfectly understandable because I think you need to have that for a restaurant like this to survive in this neighborhood.

              So happy to have a place like this in Park Slope. Finally!

              Here's a link to a blog post with the menu.

              http://www.heresparkslope.com/home/20...

              1. re: Miss Needle
                f
                foodwhisperer Nov 25, 2013 08:30 PM

                Thanks for the link. In the link it said no Otoro, tonite they had Otoro, Chu toro, and marinated tuna. All excellent. The color of the sushi bar reminds me of 15 East's .

            2. famdoc Dec 27, 2013 10:53 AM

              We've now made regular visits to Katsuei and it remains a delightful place to enjoy top-quality sushi. There's no excuse not to get Chef Manu's omakase, priced very fairly at $45 for 9 pieces and a hand roll. The omakase with sushi and sashimi is comprised of 6 pieces with a selection of sashimi. Katsuei now has its liquor license and features a broad selection of well-priced sakes. While the omakase changes according to what's in the market, the constants have been the madai (Japanese red snapper), fatty tuna, squid and mackerel. Other highlights have been scallop, live shrimp (with the shrimp head deep fried) and medium fatty tuna.

              Highly recommended.

              1. Miss Needle Feb 9, 2014 07:05 PM

                They have some off-the-menu items such as milt and geoduck right now. Hopefully more people will order it so they will keep it around.

                16 Replies
                1. re: Miss Needle
                  f
                  foodwhisperer Feb 9, 2014 08:37 PM

                  Thanks for the info, i'll be there later this week. I love shirk and mirugai.

                  1. re: Miss Needle
                    famdoc Feb 10, 2014 07:05 AM

                    This is an example of how valuable knowledgeable chowhounds can help the rest of us: I'm a great fan of gooey-duck and would not have known katsuei has it off-menu had miss needle not mentioned it. I'll be there again later this week (thanks to my kid's generous gift of a gift certificate to katsuei) and will ask for it!

                    1. re: famdoc
                      Miss Needle Feb 10, 2014 07:21 AM

                      The sushi chef only mentioned the milt and the baby squid specials to me -- though he called the milt cod "eggs." But he didn't mention the geoduck -- I just saw it sitting out there and asked him about it towards the end our meal. Once he confirmed I was so ecstatic because it's been not easy to find these days at sushi restaurants. The last few times I've asked (at other places) they would tell me they're sold out.

                      Please order and enjoy the geoduck! It's so nice to have a sushi restaurant in Park Slope that carries quite the assortment Katsuei does.

                      1. re: Miss Needle
                        famdoc Feb 10, 2014 07:25 AM

                        How much did they charge you for each of the above off-menu items?

                        1. re: famdoc
                          Miss Needle Feb 10, 2014 07:38 AM

                          I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't know. We ordered a la carte which makes it a bit more difficult to track everything. I just glanced at the check to make sure we weren't charged for a couple of kitchen items that we never received. But our bill was higher than the other times we've been there. So I have a feeling the specials may have been on the higher side.

                          We did learn a lesson from this experience. We need to be more vigilant about making sure we get everything we ordered. We never received our two kitchen orders (but we weren't charged for them either). DH realized later on that he never got his two orders of octopus sushi. I remembered him ordering it but either the waitress forgot to write it down or the chef forgot to make it. Not sure at this point whether we were charged for it.

                          I was thinking of carrying pics of their menu on my phone. So I'll probably go through the menus while I'm sitting there to make sure we receive everything. The menus will help to jog my memory.

                          1. re: Miss Needle
                            famdoc Feb 10, 2014 07:52 AM

                            When we've done the omakase at Katsuei, we've often ordered an additional piece of a particular item we really liked. They have tended to charge $5 for those extra items.

                            I'm pleased to see that they are fairly packed on Friday evenings (as, I'm sure they are on Saturday). They've quietly built a word-of-mouth reputation without employing the methods of many other new restaurants (hiring a publicist, kissing the behinds of local bloggers, etc.).

                            1. re: famdoc
                              Miss Needle Feb 10, 2014 08:42 AM

                              I've been there on different days but the last time I was there (Saturday night) it was only 60% full. Not sure if it's an off night or it may be that the cold weather is making people crave more hearty stick to your ribs fare than sushi. Other times I've been there have been pretty crowded.

                              They've added another chef at the sushi bar. He works adjacent to the bar. This will be especially helpful when the weather gets nicer and they open the outdoor portion of the restaurant.

                        2. re: Miss Needle
                          t
                          TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis Feb 11, 2014 06:20 PM

                          Tara shirako and mirugai ... on 7th Ave.
                          Sure, what next, konawata gunkan.
                          As much as I would like to believe this, please.
                          Hype, hype ... that taper, that taper ... it's here ... it's coming.

                          1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis
                            famdoc Feb 12, 2014 05:58 PM

                            Now, you've done it. Made me Google each of your references and, ultimately, spend a pretty penny (literally, .01 for the book, $3.99 for shipping) to buy a book that will make future obscure references less obscure.

                            http://amzn.to/1hdT6Te

                            1. re: famdoc
                              d
                              debinqueens Feb 12, 2014 06:13 PM

                              doggone it, amazon prime doesn't kick in for free shipping on a one penny book :)

                              1. re: famdoc
                                t
                                TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis Feb 25, 2014 06:14 PM

                                That .01 may provide a better return over your premiums ... but then again.

                                1. re: famdoc
                                  t
                                  TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis Feb 25, 2014 06:33 PM

                                  btw
                                  paying .01 for "content"
                                  and 3.99 for "postage"
                                  make u whose ...

                                2. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis
                                  famdoc Feb 14, 2014 06:36 AM

                                  Last evening's off-menu special: orange clam (aoyagi, $3.50). Chewy and oceanic.

                                   
                                  1. re: famdoc
                                    f
                                    foodwhisperer Mar 12, 2014 09:52 PM

                                    Went tonite for omakase, it was very good. The grilled aoyagi on skewer were excellent. The ankimo was delicious and the sashimi and sushi all fantastic.
                                    Unfortunately, the restaurant was packed. I couldn't get a seat at sushi bar. I hate eating sushi at a table, but the staff is so nice and service great. Also, they serve you 3 pieces of sushi at a time at the table, which is great. I really , really hate when they give you all your sushi at once. It's not as good as one at a time at the sushi bar , but it makes it a bit more special doing it in 3's and then a hand roll.
                                    I guess that NYT review has had an impact already.

                                    1. re: foodwhisperer
                                      famdoc Mar 13, 2014 06:13 AM

                                      The reality is that word is out on Katsuei and you will need to book a table in advance most nights. Sushi bar seating is going to be even more precious, particularly if your party is any more than 2 people. Look for sushi bar seating to be for regulars only. Whatever...it's our neighborhood gem and worth the extra effort to enjoy. We're headed back tonight to celebrate a friend's birthday...his first visit to Katsuei.

                                      1. re: famdoc
                                        t
                                        TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis Mar 20, 2014 06:05 PM

                                        This thread is beginning to read a lot like the culinary equivalent of the real estate-backed rags I grab headed to subways ... skip the news and head straight for the ...

                          2. famdoc Mar 6, 2014 08:38 PM

                            The New York Times' "Hungry City" columnist, Ligaya Mishan, has discovered Katsuei:

                            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/din...

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: famdoc
                              f
                              foodwhisperer Mar 10, 2014 09:33 PM

                              Nice review by NYT. I hope that doesn't make it impossible to get a seat at the sushi bar now. I love this place.

                              1. re: foodwhisperer
                                t
                                tex.s.toast Mar 13, 2014 07:47 PM

                                we called in the mid/late afternoon same day and were able to get a reservation at the bar (i wasnt the one who called, i think we had to agree to omakase on the phone, but then were asked what we wanted when we were seated). The place was jammed the whole time we were there but the pacing was still pretty on point (it took a minute for our sashimi to come out, which was the first part of the $65 sashimi and sushi omakase, but the chef apologized/noted he was plating a couple of rolls for the dining room and would have food out in a minute).

                                overall it was a really great meal - all the fish ranged from good to fantastic, and the value is really outstanding. im normally an all sashimi guy and if i had to go out of my way to find a negative point it was that i wish the slices could have been a tiny bit thicker.

                                the amount of care was apparent through every bite throughout the meal. watching the guys work was delightful.

                                can we talk about how good the rice is? when we got our negi-hama hand rolls as part of the omakase (with my wife instructed to eat hers first, without waiting for mine to be made) it was very possibly the most synergistic bite ive eaten all year - the perfectly crisp nori with the yellow tail and green onion each complementing each other and then that rice . . . barely holding together, beautifully seasoned, and just barely above room temperature.

                                they seemed to be selling a good number of rolls at tables, but even those looked substantially above average (a california roll w huge pieces of king crab legs was enough to make me consider straying from the more authentic items, if only for a second).

                                we dont often go to top tier places in manhattan, but i felt like katsuei was every bit as good, probably half a step better even, than our go-to Kanoyama, and at a lower price point to boot.

                                1. re: tex.s.toast
                                  famdoc Mar 14, 2014 04:20 AM

                                  I believe we were seated to your left, arriving about a third of the way through your omakase. You and your wife seemed to be enjoying your meal immensely (and made an excellent choice in ordering the unfiltered sake). Didn't quite catch what Mano-San invited you back to enjoy next week, however.

                                  1. re: famdoc
                                    t
                                    tex.s.toast Mar 14, 2014 05:38 AM

                                    alas, my wife does not enjoy sake (though i agree that the summer snow/Kamoizumi is a great drink).

                                    i saw the couple you are referring to and i cant disagree with your assessment.

                                    after sleeping on the meal ill say the fatty tuna nigiri was outstanding (but as i said to my wife, thats sort of like saying "bacon is tasty") but the mackerel with marinated seaweed sheet was the bite that made me thing "man, these guys know what theyre doing here"

                                    1. re: tex.s.toast
                                      famdoc Mar 14, 2014 07:26 AM

                                      Did you have the fried oyster? Brings back great memories of fried clam strips along the New England coast. By the way, Mano recommended the uni he received from Japan. It was, perhaps the most tasty, subtle uni I've ever had ($8). Won't last long: that tray was small.

                                      1. re: famdoc
                                        t
                                        tex.s.toast Mar 14, 2014 09:00 AM

                                        had the maine uni (served whole/in shell, and a bite of california off the tray) but no japanese stuff (if i had known/asked i might have gotten it for comparisons sake).

                                        we did not get the fried oyster but we did remark on how many of them were getting sent out while we were sitting at the bar.

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