Japanese Comfort Food in Downtown BrooklynBy Sophia Hsu Photos by Amit Chaffee
Tucked away behind a gas station on Gold Street, Jun Shokudo is an unassuming Japanese cafe from the exterior. Once you enter, though, you are transported to a cozy spot near a Tokyo subway stop. The air is filled with the warm scents of a Japanese grandmother’s kitchen, the smell of broiled mackerel and long-simmered broth, delicate pickles and fresh vegetables. The lunch crowd is mostly office workers, and the evenings and weekends are filled with neighborhood locals in search of comfort food.
Chef Tony Leung talks about his history with Japanese food, his journey in the food industry, and serves up his three favorite dishes. His first introduction to the restaurant business began at a small, traditional Japanese restaurant right here in New York. He realized that he wanted to create dishes that celebrated traditional cuisine; however, at the time, there were no Japanese culinary schools in New York, so he advanced his training at the what is now known as the International Culinary Center and got his feet wet at the now shuttered L’Ecole. Chef Leung says he was extremely lucky to have worked with so many visiting Japanese chefs and masters of sushi who took him under their wings and introduced him to the traditional methods of Japanese cooking. His path to Jun Shokudo, where he is now the executive chef, is littered with well-recognized names like Tao and Haru. Why leave such fast-paced giants in the restaurant industry to open a 24-seat Japanese cafe in Brooklyn? The desire to slow down and enjoy creating mouthwatering dishes that invoke nostalgia and bring joy and comfort with each bite.
The first dish Chef Leung presents is the spicy miso seafood udon. You won’t see this on the menu just yet, but with the chill really settling into the air and the smell of snow eminent, the hot miso broth will help warm those winter bones. Perfectly cooked giant prawns, clams, and whole scallops are utterly messy to handle and extremely fun to eat. The thick udon noodles soak up every bit of goodness from the broth and are super easy to slurp up.
A plate of the freshest and most beautifully arranged sashimi and nigiri arrives from the sushi bar. Thick, sweet slices of salmon and tuna, fresh shrimp, and shiny bubbles of caviar tickle the palate. You almost don’t need the wasabi or pickled ginger because every cut is so well-balanced.
One of Chef Leung’s favorite dishes to prepare is the broiled mackerel marinated in a very simple, classic miso sauce. It is the main feature of the lunch set. Miso soup, rice seasoned with seaweed sprinkles, house pickles, and a vegetable side dish round out the lunch set. The featured vegetable side dish is a delicate collection of freshly blanched greens and purple sweet potato dressed in a homemade tofu sauce flavored with dashi similar to mayonnaise without being mayonnaise at all. The tofu for the sauce is made in house, sweet and delicately flavored.
Tip: If you dine at Jun Shokudo, bring the receipt to Urban Uncorked next door to receive 10% off your purchase. Follow Jun Shokudo on social media. You can even order online at junshokudo.com.