New Kid on the Block: Brushstroke

I popped into Brushstroke, David Bouley’s new Japanese restaurant, yesterday right as it was officially opening. The New York Times wrote in depth about the restaurant, and I encourage you to read the piece, in particular, for the background. Or, if you don’t want to, here’s a quick summary: Brushstroke is a partnership with the Tsuji cooking school in Osaka; Tokyo firm Super Potato did the design; the menu is kaiseki (though you can order à la carte at the bar); the prix fixe menus range from $85 to $135; the chefs are bringing in seeds of plants found in Japan and growing them here; there’ll be fish tanks in the basement; and the most notable part of the decor is the 20,000 handpacked paperback books lining the walls of the bar area. Also, the name was inspired by the old mural on the building that was originally to be the restaurant’s home, at W. Broadway and Reade (where Super Linda will be, eventually).

If you ever went to Danube or Secession, you’ll remember that the space’s footprint is a little wonky. The problem has been solved by putting the entrance in the middle of the Hudson Street frontage. To the right as you enter is the bar area, with an L-shaped counter, some high tables, and a low table or two. To the left is the dining room, with a larger L-shaped counter fronting the open kitchen and tables along the windows, which are half-papered. The books in the bar area are the star, along the with the three tiny dioramas (of Japanese market scenes) set into them. Kawaii!

I’ll let the photos do the rest of the work—and after I go for dinner, I’ll report back. In the meantime, if you eat at Brushstroke before I do, please let everyone know how it was. UPDATE: Stefie of Four Tines and a Napkin was there last night (see the comments); here’s her write-up of the meal. UPDATE: I just confirmed that chef Isao Yamada was at Bouley Studio when the upstairs restaurant there—as part of its Calendar Nights—was serving Japanese food. I had a fantastic meal there last summer, making me all the more excited for Brushstroke. Also, last night I went for a drink, and the Gin Shiso cocktail was fantastic (though it probably helps if you know you like shiso).

Brushstroke is at 30 Hudson (at Duane), 212-791-3771; (not working yet).

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  1. I was there last night, too! I’m actually in the 5th photo of your post (the one you took of the chefs at the counter).

    Here’s my report on it:

    Curious to see what you thought of it as well!

  2. @Stefie: Awesome! Great report! (I remember walking by you and thinking you have a much better camera than I do).

  3. It looks really really good! Now I know a good spot to bring my girlfriend. We’re just crazy about japanese food.

  4. My husband and I went last night, so I figured I’d post our thoughts. I apologize in advance for it being long winded.

    We had called earlier in the week to get a reservation, and although they were booked we were told on the phone that they held the counter space for walk-ins. We were told that again Saturday afternoon when we called to see if anything had opened up. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the hostess scoffed at the idea that we thought we could sit in the dining room and obnoxiously shooed us over to the bar area. Usually we love dining at the bar at restaurants, but the atmosphere was kind of quiet and awkward, and the room was dominated by one loud, drunk group of six, which may have ultimately clouded my opinion.

    We thought about leaving, but we decided there were a few things on the a la carte bar menu that looked interesting, so we ordered a couple drinks and stayed. (The drinks–the Ginger and the Cucumber–were both excellent.) We were told that all the dishes were “small to medium sized”, so we ordered five.

    The first was a tofu dish ($8)–when it arrived I assumed it was an amuse bouche, it was tiny. There were four about 1/2 inch cubes of marinated tofu that kind of had the consistency of brie cheese (which was intentional.) The flavor was great, and the consistency made it so rich that you probably wouldn’t want a bigger serving, but it still seemed an odd that is was SO small. At the same time we were also served an egg and crab soup. It was flavored with truffle, and was very good, but was also a small serving (less than one cup.)

    After those were cleared, we got our next three dishes: grilled lobster tail, tuna tartare and seared Wagyu beef. The lobster tail was also tiny (maybe from a 1/2 to 3/4 pound lobster?) and was very plain. The tuna tartare was excellent, but it was just tuna tartare, so not that exciting. The Wagyu beef ($24) was also excellent, and was finally the only dish that I would categorize as large enough to be “small to medium sized.”

    After all that, we were still pretty hungry and had some wine to finish, so we decided to order a sushi roll. There were three different types of tuna rolls, so we asked about them and ended up ordering the one that was the traditional preparation of the chef’s hometown. It was just flat-out bad. The fish just wasn’t the quality I would’ve expected. Given how hungry we were, we finished it anyway.

    The bartender then asked us if we were still hungry, so I said, “yes, we’d love to see the dessert menu,” assuming that was what he was getting at. He looked surprised and admitted he didn’t know if they served dessert in the bar area (there wasn’t a menu), but he offered to ask the kitchen. After a while, he came back and said we could choose from two desserts offered in the dining room–green tea panna cotta or yuzu sorbet. We got the panna cotta, and it was good, but I just don’t love panna cotta in general.

    Our bill was $200ish (including the two drinks and a mid-priced bottle of wine.) Granted, I had high expectations, but it didn’t live up to them by a long shot. I would be interested in coming back some time with a reservation and give the tasting menu a second chance, but I probably won’t choose to eat in the bar area again.

    On the way home we stopped at Weatherup for shrimp tacos and potato chips.

  5. I was at Brushstroke last week and was very impressed. First the interior is simply beautiful. We sat at the counter as I like to so I can talk with chefs and see all the action. We sat in front of Chef Yagi from Kyoto and really enjoyed talking with him. His sushi was a high point elegant and served with perfection. i look forward to going again as the menu changes weekly I learned. i recommend giving Brushstroke a try, we had a wonderful dinner.

  6. have been tracking this resto via tribeca citizen newsletters forever! went last saturday and it was incredible. pls check out these drool-worthy photos of the dinner here:

    the food honestly tasted as beautiful as it looked. i loved sitting at the counter and conversing with Yagi-san the very talented sushi chef who was stationed in front of us. We also got a surprise visit from David Bouley himself who had just popped in from Bouley across the street – I was a bit starstruck. Service was very gracious, and later we got to share a toast with the manager to celebrate their opening! So happy this gem has opened up in our neighborhood