The pandemic has affected many recreational activities in bars – billiards, darts and bowling – all of which, of course, has encouraged groups of lively drinkers to come closer to each other. But for Josh Ku, co-owner of Win Son and Win Son Bakery, no bar activity was as missed as karaoke – the basis of the events he often hosted at his Taiwanese American restaurant, before COVID-19. Now Ku is making his love of karaoke more official by opening his own stand-alone, full-service restaurant that doubles as an open-air “karaoke lounge,” he says. Located at 253 Grand Street off Roebling Street in Williamsburg, Chino Grande opens tomorrow, April 27.
“For me and my friends, karaoke is a very enjoyable and relaxing experience that we do whenever we can,” Ku says. “There are many versions of karaoke that have their appeal, but I prefer open room karaoke for what we want to do.”
Finding the right food to complement the karaoke bar in a city full of fun hybrid karaoke restaurants – like Korean barbecue favorite Gowanus Insa and Thai stalwart Woodside Playground – is something that has been on the minds of Ku and his friends. partners at Chino Grande, Paul Cacici, co-owner of Italian sandwich shop Bushwick Carmenta’s (which is also working on an upcoming pizzeria), and general manager Erica Hall, a Win Son alumnus.
One might expect Cacici to pull from Carmenta classics, but the menu instead veers to Pan-Asian and Latin American flavors, a nod to his time cooking at the Peruvian Llama Inn, with a few hints of Italian cuisine. “It’s been hard to figure out what to call it – but ultimately it’s inspired by the food our friends like to eat, the food we grew up eating, and the places Paul worked,” Ku says. “It’s American food,” adds Cacici.
From 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Chino Grande will serve a full-service dinner menu that includes entrees such as a salad of little jewels with golden tangerines, furikake, creme fraiche and hazelnuts, chilled mussels with peanuts, ginger, herbed chives and aioli, and a scallop ceviche with green strawberries, tiger leche and olive oil. There are skewers, such as a cabbage version with firewood soybean paste, aioli and pickled mustard, or one with chicken thighs, chives, ginger and garlic sauce. Oysters. For larger plates, Chino Grande offers beef tartare made with wagyu, shiro dashi, pickled mustard and nori. There’s even a whole lobster with Sichuan pepper and fries. And for dessert, there is a banana miso pastry cream.
To avoid karaoke mics scarred by sassy fingers and hands soiled by cracking open seashells, at 10 p.m. the space switches to its more laid-back, late-night karaoke mode. Next, the bar menu, when it launches, will focus solely on sandwiches like its Coconut Ranch Fried Chicken or Swordfish with Aji Panca and Kewpie Mayo, to pair with drinks.
“I don’t see people doing karaoke with ceviche, so we have a cheaper, more manageable late-night menu,” Cacici says.
Ultimately, Ku says he hopes to extend karaoke hours to 2 a.m.
The cocktail list, which Blake Ventura, owner of the Bushwick bar Palmetto, consulted on, includes ‘Pocket Sage’ (gin, osmanthus tea, lemon), ‘Chiquita Chinita’ (mezcal, red pepper and grilled rice ) and the “Pandan Colada” (white rum, coconut and pineapple), among others. Additionally, there is a tonics section on the drinks menu, led by Zoey Xinyi Gong, head of traditional Chinese medicine and founder of Five Seasons TCM. “We hope to introduce TCM in a fun way to managing stress, indigestion, traffic, and general excitement,” says Ku. He adds that although the team prepares the tonics, infused with vodka and sake, as digestives, they can be prepared throughout the evening. Beer, wine, and moonshine hard seltzer, with flavors like yuzu and lychee, are also available.
Across the city, there’s been something of a karaoke renaissance, as revelers head to new spots like Dr. Clark, a Japanese restaurant that opened in 2020 and hosts a popular karaoke night, and Heaven or Las Vegas, another pandemic-era karaoke. bar who made his Mood Ring team debut in Bushwick.
With Chino Grande, Ku wants to be part of the new wave of karaoke joints, with a space designed in collaboration with Luft Tanaka, who also worked on Win Son’s interiors. While Ku will continue to run the Win Son and Win Son Bakery with chef Trigg Brown, this is his first restaurant project without Brown. Ku declined to say whether this was related to previous reports of allegations of a hostile work environment (Brown is not an investor in Chino Grande).
Ku also wants to pay homage to classic karaoke dens like the 80-year-old Atlantic Avenue dive bar Montero, where he can sometimes be found singing country music on his rare free nights. He’s especially happy to bring friends over to host residencies on prime-time weekend nights, like Amethyst Valentino, a karaoke jockey in Montero, and, according to Ku, “a big figure in my karaoke experiences. , she’s a very gracious hostess and she knows how to create a good time for everyone there – the heart and life of karaoke in New York.