When a group of friends are visiting, there’s no better way to welcome them to town than a rambunctious, large brunch to start the day.
With a handful of Portlandians in town for Memorial Day weekend and crashing in Williamsburg, a quintessential New York brunch was in order. Molly, my token foodie girlfriend who’s always on top of the latest restaurants, and I were tasked with rezzies for the weekend, and we gladly accepted the challenge. Shalom Japan, a well-reviewed Jewish-Japanese fusion restaurant had been on our collective “must try” list for the last year, so we thought this was the perfect opportunity to try out the restaurant.
Shalom Japan takes reservations, which was challenging for our group of ten, so we were pleased that they readily accommodated our large party for an 11:45 slot. The restaurant is small and cozy so our group filled about ¾ of the available seating. We snagged a long table by the windows and immediately placed our drink orders for a bit of some “hair of the dog” after too many sweet tea cocktails at Skinny Dennis the night prior.
The group was split between Bloody Marys, mimosas, and a bottle of chilled rosé. The rosé went down easy and the mimosas featured fresh squeezed juice, so the winos in our crew were satisfied. The portion of us on Team Bloody enjoyed the house made mix, which packed a punch.
Shalom Japan has a relatively short brunch menu, with eight unique twists on classic American brunch fare that tie back to traditional Jewish and Japanese ingredients. With our party of ten, we were able to sample practically the entire menu. In case you’re too lazy to read the entire review, in short, everyone loved their dishes and was gushing about the experience for the remainder of the afternoon.
I’ve been on a smoked salmon kick lately and Molly is always game for anything sushi-related so we split the lox bowl. This was easily one of my favorite items of the menu. The bowl was filled with lox, rice, avocado, cucumber, Japanese pickles, and a fried egg. We loved the variety of veggies in the bowl and it was quite filling, without weighing us down. It did feel like a deconstructed sushi roll and both of us could eat sushi any hour of the day.
Molly’s boyfriend Marshall tried the egg & cheese sandwich, which sounded like the most ordinary item on the menu but was anything but. The sammy was served on a sake kasu challah roll, which really made the dish. The challah was soft and warm, and practically melted in your mouth. The slightly sweet dough was an excellent complement to the savory egg and cheese fillers.
My boyfriend Robert zoned in on the Okonomiyaki, basically a Japanese pancake that tasted like a Reuben sandwich. Crazy, I know. It looked like a crispy pancake with some veggie toppings, but if you closed your eyes you felt like you were at Katz’s Deli in the Lower East Side due to the inclusion of pastrami and sauerkraut. Don’t order this dish if you’ve got a sweet tooth, but it’s a must try for an adventurous eater.
Across the table, Marshall’s childhood friend from Portland, Bug, ordered the sesame temomi ramen bowl. This substantial bowl of ramen was chock full of traditional ingredients like pork char siu, kohlrabi, peaman, and shiso. We stole some bites and all thoroughly enjoyed this serving of breakfast noodles, in particular the flavorful broth.
For the sake of journalism, some critiques must be dished out as well. Molly and I split the Matzoh Ball Ramen, which contained ramen noodles, a few large matzoh balls, a soft boiled egg, chicken, scallions, and mandels. The broth was a bit bland and left something to be desired, which was quickly resolved with a few dashes of hot sauce.
A few members of our squad ordered the burger, which was unanimously dubbed as quite tasty, but overshadowed by more exciting items on the menu. This isn’t a place that you’d go for a burger so you’re better off trying something more traditional to Jewish or Japanese cuisines. Everyone did have rave reviews of the accompanying rustic house fries though.
To round out our meal, Marshall ordered two servings of what he dubbed, “FT FT,”or “French toast for the table.” I’m telling you, this is the next brunch trend. We all picked at the group orders of the French toast to complete our meals on a sweet note. Because honestly, a few bites of French toast are usually all you need.
The French toast at Shalom Japan is fused with sake Kasu on Challah bread, an awesome combination of Japanese and Jewish heritage. The Challah bread was fluffy with a hint of sweetness, elevated by the thick, decadent quince compote. It was too rich to eat as a sole main course, but perfect for sharing.
All of our out of town guests applauded Molly and my taste in restaurants so we were secretly relieved that our expectations for the restaurant were not only met, but exceeded. The original fusion concept, which pulled through for each of the dishes, was wacky enough to fit right into the Williamsburg dining scene while still impressing both the New Yorkers and visitors equally.
The Bitches say: A. We loved the creativity, and more importantly the delicious execution of this Jewish Japanese cuisine for brunch. It’s a unique twist on brunch classics perfect for those breaking out of the monotony of your typical eggs Benny or veggie omelettes.
Shalom Japan serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.