This weekend, I was on the prowl around the neighborhood in Williamsburg looking for delicious late night eats. The idea of late night dining may conjure up the sights and smells of greasy pizza, hot dogs, Halal trucks, and kebabs, but sometimes even a piglet like me needs to class it up a bit. A few too many indulgences at Artichoke the night before had left me wanting to decrease the grease for once. I ended up at Bozu, a Japanese tapas lounge inconspicuously hidden behind sleek wooden slats amid Williamsburg's otherwise abandoned-factory-turned-hipster-apartment landscape.
I took a seat at the bar, passed on the drink menu, which included a wide range of cocktails, shochu, and sake—from Wabi-sake (wasabi, sake, and vodka) to kumquat shochu—and went straight for the dinner menu, which was lined with cocktail napkin drawings by past patrons. The menu featured what you might find at other Japanese joints, but with a Bozu twist— the tuna tataki is topped with grape and plum sorbet, while the tuna tartar gets lemon-infused shochu sorbet.
Bozu has an eclectic selection of small dishes like ankimo (steamed monkfish liver with tofu mousse), hotate punch (scallop sashimi marinated with fresh wasabi stems), and the ryoan (salmon, scallop, and avocado in a spicy vinegar sauce). Along with the sushi rolls, Bozu features its own take on the rice and raw fish combo: sushi bombs—hemispherical mounds of rice topped with fish and other ingredients, from the familiar (tuna, avocado, wasabi cream sauce) to the not so much (salmon, avocado, green tomato sauce). There were even more gastronomic non sequiturs: mushrooms stuffed with breadcrumbs, garlic, and parsley and rice croquettes that smacked only of Italian—stuffed with risotto, fresh sage, walnuts, squash, and cheese. I was skeptical at first, but my friend swore it was all delicious.
I went with the Party Bomb platter—a combination of the Pink Bomb (salmon and scallions), Spicy McBomb (tuna, cucumber, spicy mayo, and kataifi), the McLow Bomb (tuna, avocado, wasabi cream sauce), and Spicy Una Bomb (eel, cucumber, spicy mayo, and wasabi)—and waited patiently as my stomach issued its battle-cry growl.
The bomb landed shortly and it was a beautiful plate. No wasabi or ginger appears on the dish, but don't be alarmed—three small wells of soy sauce mixed with varying degrees of wasabi accompanies the dish, letting Bozu do all the mixing work for you. The bombs were light and fresh—and minus the seaweed, it was a nice change from maki rolls or nigiri. My favorite was definitely the Spicy McBomb, with its threads of crispy kataifi making each bite pop with happy surprise.
I also had the Angus Mini Hamburger Steak—three fat patties soaking in Bozu's "original brown sauce," served with a pile of wasabi-laced mashed potatoes and mixed greens. To be honest, I was hoping for a Bozu take on the good old hamburger (bun included), but this was still mighty tasty and the kind of dish you'd want after too many Sapporos, despite it being somewhat unsurprising.
Most of all, Bozu feels like a place you want to be. It's warm and comfortable for the casual bite out, but also fun and interesting if you have friends in town for dinner—especially if they're looking for something unique. It feels hip and fresh but not pretentious, which can be hard to achieve sometimes in Williamsburg. The wait staff is exceedingly attentive and friendly, always open to answering menu questions and making suggestions. Whether you're sitting at the bar, the tables inside, or the patio deck out back—bring your hungry friends, order lots of plates, and get adventurous.
My biggest regret of the night was not ordering the Pork Betty: pork belly cooked in sake and sweet soy, thinly sliced with a dash of wasabi. I already had my fill of pork buns at Momofuku the previous night, so sadly I decided to hold off on this porky love for the next time, which will surely be soon.