Japanese cuisine has a reputation for being highbrow and sophisticated. But there’s a whole genre of Japanese food that is pure comfort, filled with deep-fried goodness and addictively flavorful sauces.
Amami Bar and Restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is the latest eatery where you can order such satisfying dishes. Its large menu, prepared by chef Nick Wang (previously of Ako Sushi and Hatsuhana), consists of nearly all the Japanese classics you can think of: sushi rolls, ramen, gyoza dumplings, grilled skewers, rice bowls. He chose a wide variety of such dishes because they stand the test of time, and because they’re his personal favorites too.
Wang’s attention to preparation makes Amami’s renditions stand out. The Miso Glazed Black Cod, for example, is marinated in organic white miso and mirin (cooking rice wine) overnight, then charbroiled for an incredibly buttery texture that slides off the tongue when eating ($9). The sweetness in the seasoning is subtle, balanced with an earthy aged red miso served on the side for dipping.
Similarly, the Ika Murayaki, a traditional dish of grilled whole squid, shines because of its basil-ginger sauce ($9). Unlike most tare (Japanese for dipping sauce or glaze) used in restaurants, this is not just sweet—there’s a little bitterness and spiciness to it too. The rings of delightfully chewy squid take up the sauce well, but don’t lose their brininess.
What’s refreshing is that Wang tends to make the dishes lighter than their typical preparations. The pork belly in the Pork Buns ($7) gets enormous flavor from the alluring mixture of spices it’s braised in: star anise, cinnamon, dried chili, cloves, and peppercorn. But it’s thinly sliced so you are not overwhelmed by the meat’s fattiness.
Tonkotsu ramen is usually rich and slicked with oil, but Amami’s version is surprisingly clean ($15). The broth, made by boiling pork bones for more than 14 hours, is delicate, slightly gingery, and enhanced by a swirl of savory garlic oil.
Don’t miss the deep-fried dishes. The Popcorn Shrimp ($10) and Crispy Calamari ($8) both have awesome crunch and accompanying dipping sauces that play on sweet and spicy: a honey-sriracha crema and a pepper-tamarind sauce, respectively. The calamari gets its extra crispy texture from a panko breadcrumb coating.
Dessert is Western-style with Japanese flavors: the Green Tea Tiramisu is soaked in mizuame, a Japanese rice syrup, instead of coffee. Its muted sweetness complements the bitterness of the green tea ($7). The Tempura Cheesecake is coated with tempura flakes and fried in tempura batter, for a creamy dessert with crunch ($7).
For drinks, there are inventive cocktails on the menu. For example, the When Hemingway Cheated on Juliette takes gin as the base for an unusual combination that works: a syrup of cilantro meets citrusy notes from orange bitters and fresh lemon juice ($12).
Amami Bar and Restaurant
57 Nassau Ave. (between Guernsey & Lorimer streets)
Friday & Saturday