Finding a Japanese restaurant in Brooklyn hasn’t been much of a challenge since the ’80s. But our current trend towards food halls and their democratized accessibility to specialty cuisines did not extend to Japanese fare—until now.
Taking over an expanse of 20,000 square feet in Sunset Park’s Industry City, Japan Village promises to cover all your Japanese gastronomic needs, be they lobster tails served with yuzu butter, or pickled burdock you didn’t realize your fridge was desperately missing. Currently still in its soft-open phase, the space will be home to 11 vendors via food stalls once it’s fully functioning, as well as a Japanese liquor store by the name of Kuraichi; and Wakuwaku, an Izakaya restaurant and cocktail bar. It’s also the newest addition to the Sunrise Mart grocery chain, which has served the city since 1995.
As you approach the space from its 3rd Avenue entrance, you’ll notice a row of windows lit red and white with paper lanterns, illuminating the giant golden Koi swimming across the face of the building—a welcome sight on this formerly bleak stretch beneath the BQE. Upon entering you may find yourself overwhelmed by the possibilities laid before you. It’s what I call menu-blindness, except this one involves nearly a dozen booths, a veil of ramen steam, and a maze of counters and wooden stools. Take your time deciding. At one end you’ll be met with Setagaya, offering Mt. Fuji Ramen, heaping bowl of noodles in pork bone broth, rimmed with chili tomato espuma with a mound of freshly grated parmesan (yes, parmesan), set to resemble, you guessed it, Mt. Fuji. At the other beckons the promise of Okonomiyaki, a savory cabbage pancake, dressed in kewpie mayo, ketchup, and its eponymous condiment that’s reminiscent of a sweeter, stickier, Worcestershire sauce. In between the two, there are pastries and coffee, onigiri and bento boxes, tempura and yakitori, udon, soba, sauteed beef tendons, Omakase sushi, Agedashi tofu, and a juice bar. Pause. Follow the neon sign that simply says “BAR,” have a Sapporo on tap and think about what it is you truly crave. Remember, once you’re full-up on udon and beef tripe, the likelihood of having a second dinner is slipping away quicker than the slurp of a tonkotsu soaked noodle.
Once you’re good and full, waddle over to Sunrise Mart and explore their aisles for Kashiwa mochi, and matcha roll cakes, a rainbow of Pocky, lychee gummies, and all the standard snacks you’ve come to associate with Japan. Marvel at the variety of canned coffee drinks, and remember to bring home enough to share, because nothing makes a morning colder than a partner you’ve neglected to caffeinate.
Stock up on gyoza and ramen for the long winter ahead, and chat up the butcher to help decide what you need for your broth base, and what simply needs to be broiled and slathered in miso-butter. At present the fishmongers booth stands vacant, but the promise of its seafood beckons from a refrigerated section of thick salmon steaks, grimacing whole fish, and burly twists of tentacles.
Dress the dinners you’re dreaming up with Japanese preserved vegetables, or tsukemono, of all variety: gari (pickled ginger), and takuan (daikon), umeboshi (pickled plums), and shibazuke (eggplant), to name a few. Browse the row of seasonings and marinades, the variety of rice vinegar, soy sauces, and shabu shabu dips. Eventually you’ll be able to pair the groceries purchased at Sunrise with some sake, whisky, or plum wine from Kuraichi, the liquor store set to open soon, but for now, if nothing else, look upon the beer selections and consider what your local bodega is lacking.
Once you’ve had your fill of treats and spending temptations, walk out to Industry City’s collective courtyard, take a seat overlooking the twinkle of the holiday lights, and a mural by artist Aiko and take stock of all the meals you are destined to enjoy in this new space. We should never take for granted the enlightenment that travel affords the spirit, nor forget that travel doesn’t have to involve a passport and a pat-down by the TSA. Cross-continental airfare may be an aspirational expense, but the B35 is not.
Japan Village, 934 3rd Avenue, Sunset Park, open daily 11am-7pm