Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened (as well as some of your favorite) restaurants.
This time, we’re taking a look at House Brooklyn, an intimate eight-seat counter in Greenpoint where chef and owner Yuji Tani takes diners through a thoughtful multi-course tasting menu ($150 per person) that’s inherently French, Japanese, and a little New York, too.
1. House Brooklyn has been a long time in the making.
Tani had originally intended to open House Brooklyn in 2020 but, as we all know, that wasn’t meant to be, thanks to the pandemic. In 2019, the Kyoto native, who gained acclaim in Tokyo working at House Nishiazabu, decided to make the move to the U.S. with his family.
“I wanted to open [a restaurant] outside of Japan, and cook somewhere that is more diverse and multicultural,” he says. “I am curious to see how my food will be received. New York was perfect and I chose Brooklyn specifically since it was a little more laid back than Manhattan. At my restaurant, House, we want our guests to feel like they’re visiting their friend (me!)’s house, and Brooklyn was a great match for what I wanted to do here.”
2. Yuji Tani is a known master of Japanese French cuisine today, but he wasn’t always a chef.
Before he became an acclaimed chef, Tani was a salesman for a futon company. And unlike many chefs in Japan, he also sports two full sleeves of tattoos (although that’s not so uncommon here in New York among chefs). Eventually, Tani started working in a French restaurant in his hometown of Kyoto, which led to a move to Tokyo where he worked in several restaurants before opening House in Tokyo’s Nishi-Abazu neighborhood in 2017. Two years later, he became a full owner of the restaurant and it’s at House where he established himself as a leading chef in Tokyo’s food scene.
At House in Tokyo, which is still open and serving guests, Tani was known for his playful and inventive twists on French cuisine, with food that appears simple, but is actually much more complex. He loves taking hyperseasonal ingredients rooted in Kyoto and French traditions, and finding ways to present them in new ways.
House is also known for its hospitality: warm and friendly, relaxed and comfortable — just like you’d expect when visiting the home of a loved one.
Says Tani, “Japanese French cuisine might sound a little mysterious, but I hope guests will enjoy my cuisine. It is not straightforward Japanese food, but I hope guests will enjoy the nuances.”
A Closer Look at Dishes From House Brooklyn
3. If you’ve been to House Nishiazabu, you’ll recognize some things, but not everything.
Tani says that the overall feeling he wants guests to have at House Brooklyn is the same as what he had at House Nishiazabu, but the biggest difference between both experiences is that the Tokyo location is larger and has table seating. In Brooklyn, there are only eight seats at a marble countertop where diners have a full view of everything that goes on inside the open kitchen as Tani works with his chefs to prepare each meal.
In Tokyo, Tani sourced his ingredients from all over Japan but here in Brooklyn, it’s a mix of both ingredients from Japan and some local ingredients. Case in point: During a recent preview meal, Tani used fresh local corn in two different dishes: a delicate consommé made by boiling corn husks in a dashi, and a broiled corn dish seemingly inspired by Guatemalan garnachas, with a crisp corn tortilla topped with poached corn, spicy soy sauce, olive oil, cashew nut cream, and Parmesan cheese.
4. Pay special attention to every little design detail during your meal there.
… And we mean everything. The moment you step inside and hang up your coat near the counter, you’ll see a handsome wooden cabinet right next to it, along with another at the far end of the counter. Tani got both vintage pieces of furniture from Japan in the Gunma prefecture, near the borders of Nagano, and drove all the way from Tokyo to see them and eventually bring them all the way to Brooklyn.
The kitchen space itself is also designed to feel more like a home kitchen than a professional restaurant kitchen, with its whitewashed brick walls and expansive wooden island for plating.
All of the ceramics that Tani plates his food on were made by Hiroshima-based artist Yoshio Kangawa. He jokes that his dishwasher is afraid to break them because they’re so delicate.
And during a Wagyu steak course, Tani asks each diner to choose their own steak knife, presenting them with a tray of unique, hand-carved cherry wood-handled knives that he got from the Southern Honshu region of Japan, in Tottori prefecture.
5. Save room for the foie gras pilaf, and the strawberry burrata.
The seven-course tasting menu at House Brooklyn will always change, but Tani hopes that New Yorkers will embrace two of his signature dishes in particular: the strawberry burrata and the foie gras pilaf.
“They’ve been loved by the diners in Tokyo, and I hope guests here will enjoy them, too,” he says. “It has evolved a little and people who had them in Japan might notice some differences.”
The strawberry burrata dish resembles an architectural sculpture, with shards of strawberry meringue obscuring a light-as-air burrata underneath, laced with a black currant sauce, pomegranate seeds, olive oil, and black pepper, sprinkled with freeze-dried strawberry powder.
The foie gras pilaf, served with miso soup, is rich but balanced thanks to the housemade pickles Tani strews throughout the rice, a nod to the pickles for which his hometown of Kyoto is famous.
6. House Brooklyn shares space with two other straight-from-Japan brands you’ll definitely want to check out, too.
House Brooklyn is located inside 50 Norman, a new multi-use retail/dining space next door to Nura in Greenpoint that’s home to two other Japanese brands that complement the dining experience you’ll have at the restaurant: The first is Cibone, a Japanese retailer that sells hard-to-find Japanese ceramics, art, and housewares, and the second is Dashi Okume, where you can purchase premium dashi packets or even create your own custom blend. Dashi Okume also sells a variety of Japanese foodstuffs, from miso and soy sauce to tea and snacks.
Tani hopes diners who come to House will also stop by both: “Cibone and Dashi Okume are both open until 8 p.m., so I totally encourage my guests to arrive early so they can spend some time at 50 Norman before entering House.”
7. … If you want to dine at House Brooklyn, be sure to plan ahead.
Because there are only eight seats at the counter and a limited number of seatings from Wednesdays to Saturdays only, reservations are a requirement. When House Brooklyn opens on Dec. 1 for its first service, it’ll likely offer just one seating nightly, and then eventually expand to two nightly seatings.
House Brooklyn is open for dinner Wednesdays through Saturdays. Reservations drop on Oct. 22 for dates beginning on Dec. 1.