Saturday night we went to try Canteen, the new Japanese place on 6th Ave and Sterling. It's owned by the same people as Nana but I greatly prefer it, based on this first visit (and I don't dislike Nana). The twist with Canteen is that they serve yakitori, Japanese grilled/skewered items. They also serve sushi and cooked dishes. I would say it is the closest thing to an izakaya (Japanese equivalent of a bar and grill - for perfect example see Donburi-ya on east 47th street in Manhattan) that I have seen in Brooklyn (noodles, fried oysters, grilled fish, etc) with the addition of sushi. They have a pretty good sake selection plus a number of fun cocktails.
We arrived at about 8:30-ish and immediately got a table in the garden. The interior space is clean and minimalist and quiet. No one was eating inside though. The garden was pretty full and had a fun vibe, with a Rasta DJ playing some pretty decent dub. The garden is L-shaped and part of the L is covered and turned into a lounge, with a huge fish tank and couches, making this a good place to chill post-meal as well. The music was a little loud outside but as I said, the interior was music-free, so don't be put off by the noise factor.
The three of us shared the following: Shrimp toast, shumai prepared katsu style (panko breaded with katsu sauce), grilled mackerel (an entre, served with rice and choice of miso soup or salad), an assortment of yakitori (there are about 20 items to choose from, served individually and priced from $2 - $2.50 - i can't recall exactly what we had but i know we had bacon-wrapped enoki mushroom, pork, chicken meatball, beef with pineapple, and a number of others as well) - some of the yakitori we ordered individually and some we got in one of the 4 tasting menus available - these include a veg option and all come with rice soup or salad. We had three bottles of sake as well (excellent nigori - cloudy - sake).
The food was EXCELLENT - in particular the grilled mackerel. This was the best piece of grilled mackerel I think I have ever had, and some of the best fish I have had, period, in ages. Delicious, perfectly cooked, crispy skin, and very moist. The salad was a nice change from the usual carrot-dressing Japanese salad - instead the fish was served alongside mesclun greens with red onions and a vinaigrette that perfectly complimented the lemony flourish of the fish.
The whole night was just a great experience - seated immediately, food came out quickly but we were not rushed and felt encouraged to linger and enjoy the music, service was very good (we recognized our waitress from Nana), and - best part - the bill was just over $90 - that's for three people stuffing themselves and drinking a good bit.
I so enjoyed this experience that I was almost selfishly hesitant to share for fear of disturbing the balance, but I fear for this place due to it's location on 6th ave and zero word of mouth - i have heard nothing about this place and seen nothing on this board. Yes, it was great to get seated right away on a Saturday, but I would gladly wait a little for a meal like this if I knew it meant the place was doing well - they really deserve it. Plus withholding would not have been very chow-spirited of me!
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