Challah with golden-raisin butter at Shalom Japan
Matzo ball ramen at Shalom Japan
Jew Egg at Shalom Japan
Aburaage pouches at Shalom Japan
Lox bowl at Shalom Japan
Fusion cuisine—wrested from the dead by David Chang more than a few years back—is experiencing something of a heyday. Now less self-consciously serious, its increasing penchant for wackiness is evidenced in farcical creations such as the ramen burger and quirky restaurants like Chez Sardine.
One of NYC’s latest tongue-in-cheek cross-cultural projects is a rare conflation of Jewish and Japanese. Glowing on the corner of a sedate South Williamsburg block, Shalom Japan beckons like a bubbe. Its snug space displays trappings of a neighborhood hangout—warm brick walls and a sturdy wood bar backed by a genial tapster. No grandmothers slave behind the stove; that’s for young husband-and-wife chefs Aaron Israel (Torrisi Italian Specialties, Mile End Deli) and Sawako Okochi (Annisa, the Good Fork).
The most elegant expression of the Asian-Sephardic mash-up is a steaming mini challah made with nutty sake yeast and served with a sweet, heady spread of sake-soaked golden raisins. Yet sometimes conception outpaces execution. A Middle Eastern facsimile of a Scotch egg swaps falafel for sausage, its yielding chickpea shell lacking the meaty chew to contrast the soft egg inside.
Far more seductive is a bone-warming bowl of matzo ball ramen with a broth so chicken-y it ought to cluck. Propped on the thatch of thin noodles is a pleasantly dense matzo ball and a liver-rich dumpling of foie gras and chicken. The soup soothes, but the next fusion bombshell it is not. Like the restaurant itself, you’d do quite well to cozy up to it if you happened to be nearby, but it need not spur a devoted epicurean trek.
In the end, Shalom Japan comforts, but its brand of cross-border eats doesn’t transcend its cultural inspirations.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Meal highlights: The menu changes often, but recent standouts included challah, tuna tataki, matzo ball ramen and the lox bowl.
Behind the bar: The drinks list embraces the hybrid mission with a heavy dose of Eastern European wines, sake, shochu, Japanese-influenced cocktails and even Manischewitz.
Vibe: Gracious and homey, it heartens as a neighborhood spot should. Plunk down after a long day, or while away a mellow evening at the bar.
Cocktail chatter: The spot’s name sounds novel, but is actually lifted from a 1980s kosher Japanese cabaret-cum-restaurant in Soho.
Sound check: Quiet, aside from sporadic guffaws from the bar and the crash of utensils careening off the small tables.
|Venue name:||Shalom Japan||Contact:|
310 South 4th St
|Cross street:||at Rodney St|
|Opening hours:||Tue, Wed, Sun 5–10pm; Thu–Sat 5–11pm|
|Transport:||Subway: J, M to Marcy Ave|
|Price:||Average dish: $16. AmEx, DC, Disc, MC, V|
|Do you own this business?|
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Average User Rating
4.3 / 5
- 5 star:2
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One of the coolest restaurants in Williamsburg! Great vibe, and great service. Whenever someone asks me where to eat in Brooklyn, Shalom Japan is always at the top of my list. The matzohball ramen soup is the perfect blend of Jewish/Japenese cuisines -- how has nobody else thought of this before! Everything on the menu is delicious starting with the sake kasu challah all the way through the lox bowl. They have a reasonably priced omakase menu for $65/pp which the chef selects the 6 best dishes of the night. The only drawback to the omakase is that everyone in the group has to participate.
Just a note to Mr. Meyer...when you compare apples to oranges it's usually a poor comparison. So when you say fusion of Jewish and Japanese you have it confused...Jewish is a religion, Japanese is a culture...
I've been there twice and cannot wait to come back. The food is fabulous and very creative. The service is spectacular. The drinks are great, but make sure you save room for desert. My favorite dishes include the matzah ball ramen soup, the saki challah and the lox bowl.