Soft Opening of Park Slope Japanese restaurant features outstanding omakase
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.