The latest jewel-box dining gem to open in Williamsburg (which has a seemingly endless supply of them) is Cherry Izakaya, a warmly-designed spin-off of the Meatpacking District hotspot Cherry at the Dream Downtown. The restaurant's pretty interior is supposedly inspired by 1970s Tokyo, but it also fits right in here in 2014 Williamsburg, with ample reclaimed wood, hand-painted murals by a local artist, a glowing bar, and a vintage Pachinko machine in the foyer.
Beyond the bar, a small set of stairs leads to the dining room and a semi-open kitchen. (Another steeper set of stairs leads to a very cool private dining room, seen here.) There's a creatively-designed mix of banquettes and regular tables, and as you can see it's casual but not too casual, which makes sense because it's not too cheap either. It goes without saying that there's a whole lot of money swirling through Williamsburg now, and some of it will no doubt be dropped here, where the menu (below) shrewdly focuses on "small and large plates intended for sharing."
To be sure, there is much to be enjoyed here. Start with the sake, which when ordered by the glass comes with an overflow saucer—the server deliberately pours too much, and then you're left with a bonus round of sake to slurp up at your leisure. Perhaps that's uncouth and you're supposed to leave that on the table for the thirsty ghosts? I don't know; I drank it, because pretty sure that's how I rolled back when I was a swinger in 1970s Tokyo.
There is a lot to choose from here, much of it creative and appealing. The Black Caesar Roll with grilled hearts of romaine lettuce, crispy bacon, and Caesar dressing seems innovative; and the regular sushi rolls are reliably fresh. Instead of soy sauce in a little pitcher, you're presented with a small bowl and miniature paintbrush to paint your food like Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The fried oysters with yukari tartar sauce are deliciously warm and tender, and I enjoyed the smokey eggplant skewers, which are texturally well-balanced by the crunchiness of the fried capers. For a main dish, the Sea Bass with miso glaze and rice balls is perfectly succulent, though at $26 the portion could use a more plus-sizing if it's really meant to be shared.
The beverage menu, overseen by the great sake Sommelier Chris Johnson (BONDST) with cocktails by Warren Hode, is appropriately fastidious, with an extensive selection of Japanese whiskeys and “Infusions” like the Sesame Whiskey with toasted white sesame, and the Shitake Cognac with Louis Royer Vsop and dried shitake. I haven't tried the cocktails, but I've got my eye on the Cherry Bomb ($12), made with corralejo tequila, cherry jam, black pepper agave and lemon. Hope it comes with a runoff saucer.
138 North 8th Street, Brooklyn, NY // 347-889-6300