171 Grand Street at Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, New York 11249
Cuisine: Japanese, robata style cuisine, Sushi, small plates
Our Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ Great
Cards: All major
Price: small plates $8-$15, large plates $18-$30
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Booze: Full bar
Subway: L train to Bedford
Time Out says:
Jiro Iida (Aburiya Kinnosuke) wields fire and salt to boost locally sourced produce, Wagyu beef and imported catches (Scottish salmon, Madagascar prawn) at his robata-focused den. Using a traditional Japanese charcoal grill, he slow-roasts whole fish, tsukune (chicken meatballs) and even skewered gizzards over glowing imported oak coals. “Nature makes the ingredients,” he says. “Salt and charcoal make them delicious.” For each fired dish, he chooses an array of salts, including Japan’s preferred umi no ko from the Goto Islands. Off the embers, Iida offers house-made tofu, sashimi and a slew of salads (kale Caesar, seaweed) from his open kitchen. At the bar, the namesake margarita is sprinkled with charcoal-infused salt and a dash of jalapeño, while sake and shochu selections, along with the wine list, are chosen by a sommelier.
Village Voice says:
With a focus on small plates (some large plates are also available), many of which are grilled on a robata, the eatery aims to expand diners’ frame of knowledge on Japanese fare. The idea stems from chef/partner Jiro Iida, who previously worked as executive chef at Aburiya Kinnosuke in midtown. After seeing the success of the robata-style offerings there, he teamed up with a childhood friend from Japan, Teruyuki Takayama, and his current business partner, Kei Sugimoto. (Takayama and Sugimoto also own a film production company, TK Digital.) Given the owners’ background in visual arts, it’s no surprise the restaurant places a large emphasis on presentation and decor. The fare is presented on handpicked Japanese rustic-style plates, and Salt + Charcoal boasts a comfortable ambiance, with exposed-brick walls, vintage pendant lamps, and museum-quality photographs behind the bar — they were shot by Sugimoto’s famous father, Hiroshi Sugimoto; other pieces from the series are currently on display at the Met, Guggenheim, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The menu includes a section of sashimi and a few sushi roll options, like the $14.50 salmon trio (three pairs of nigiri topped with salmon roe, shiso leaf, sliced wasabi, and kombu seaweed), but the raw fish is just a backdrop. Iida has four generations of sushi chefs in his family, so he prefers to prepare different fare from his forebears. “It’s partly because of that, and being in America, he wanted to show people that Japanese is not just sushi,” says Sugimoto.