It was one of the great New York City restaurant stories…ever.
Erin Norris’ Grindhaus was about to debut in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy came along and wiped the place out. Two years, intensive post-storm construction, and a Kickstarter campaign later, it was securing Two Stars from the NY Times – and became an immediate Red Hook / Brooklyn staple.
Today, in the midst of an exciting new second culinary act, the hip but welcoming restaurant is newly embracing Japanese influence.
“I suddenly found myself chef-less in the middle of the summer,” Norris explains, “and sickened by the summer heat, I craved lighter fare. Chef John McCarthy (formerly OKA, wd-50, and Crimson Sparrow in Hudson) happened to pick up my psychic plea.”
Now, despite – or perhaps because of – its relative inaccessibility compared to neighborhoods with actual subway stops, the still cobbled streets of Red Hook continue to exude an exotic charm apart from the rest of NYC…which has been fast losing any sense of the individuality that made it so special.
Not that developers haven’t been reworking fish warehouses into fancy condos there for years; but at a seemingly much slower pace than, say, Greenpoint. It is thus still possible to walk said streets at a slower pace, pausing to window shop at a quiet gallery, or grab a relaxed beer at the 125-year-old Sunny’s Bar.
It was into this close-knit community that music PR maven turned restaurateur Norris at last opened the doors to Grindhaus in 2013. No carpetbagger she, Red Hook is also her home.
For the five years since, their creative New American cuisine has been a local and critical hit. But with new eateries opening at a startling pace, Norris felt the urge to reinvent. So she and McCarthy teamed up to introduce the aforementioned Asian accents to the menu to absolutely remarkable effect. And indeed, though the interior décor of Grindhaus remains charmingly Red Hook casual, on our last visit we found the new culinary direction to be nothing short of a revelation.
Norris makes a point of the, “lighter and brighter flavors and textures. There are four vegan dishes on the menu…and you wouldn’t even know they were unless you asked or I pointed it out.”
Part of the magic of the new menu is that while the limited items (the current offerings max out at 13) sound slightly familiar in regards to ingredients, the experience of eating them is anything but. zucchini noodles, chili oil, and wasabi greens, for instance, are all words we’ve seen before – yet when combined here make for an incomparable flavor bomb. Likewise the fried cauliflower with red curry, coconut, and lime, and Japanese caesar with nori, parmesan, and bonito; we’ve eaten similar dishes, but never anything quite like this.
“And let’s not forget the saké!,” Norris enthuses. “We can pair the hell out of your meal with sakés which you can glug like Japanese mountain water, to the full bodied, complex and brow raising slow sippers.”
To celebrate their exciting new direction, Norris and McCarthy were gracious enough to share the secrets behind a pair of their most inimitable creations. But we strenuously, absolutely recommend experiencing Grindhaus in person.
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
¼ cup white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 cups rolled oats
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup pistachios
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Maldon’s Sea Salt (to finish)
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cook the butter, brown sugar, honey, molasses, miso paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon of water in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the butter melts and the sugar and miso dissolve, about 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the sesame seeds, sesame oil, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt. Let cool for 3 minutes.
Toss the oats, almonds and pistachios in a large bowl. Drizzle the miso mixture over the oat mixture, and stir until everything is well coated. Spread the granola in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes for even toasting. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Maldon’s Sea Salt. Let cool and store in airtight continer.
This sweet and savory granola can be used for a great many dishes. For example, use with vanilla ice cream as a topping or add it to baked butternut or acorn squash for an additional flavor and textural element to your dishes.
Yeasted Sunchoke and Salmon Roe
Recipe and Procedure
2.5 lb. Sunchokes
500g Whole Milk + 250g Milk
100g Dry Yeast
Peel the sunchokes and rough chop them. Add milk and 40g butter and dry yeast to a pot. Gently warm the mixture. Add the chopped sunchokes and simmer until the sunchokes are soft. Remove the sunchokes and add to a Vita-Prep, reserving the milk mixture. Add some of the milk mixture and puree the sunchokes. Mount with butter and season the sunchoke mixture. Pass the mixure through a tamis and check seasoning. Cool the puree.
Peel and slice the sunchokes on a mandolin into water. Blanch the sunchoke slices in milk and remove and dry on papertowels. Fry the chips in 275 F oil. Remove and drain on papertowels. Season with salt.
125g Hanakatsuo Flake
4.5 quarts water
Bring the cold water and kombu to 120F to 140F and maintain the
temperature for 1 hour. Remove the kombu and bring the water to 140F to 160F and add the bonito flake and maintain the temperature until the bonito is fully hydrated and settles to the bottom of the pot. Strain. Reduce and season.
Marinated Salmon Roe (Ikura)
250g Salmon Roe
Mix the marinade ingredients. Gently dress the roe and allow to marinade before use.
In a bowl, place two tablespoons of the puree on one side of the bowl. Add a tablespoon of the marinated salmon roe on the other side. Between the two ingredients, place sunchoke chips. Serve.