Still, I preferred less showy ingredients: takana, pickled mustard greens with a faint, grounding bitterness; umeboshi, salty-sour pickled plum whose residual sweetness fights through; mentaiko (pollock roe), briny and close to cream.
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Jako, dark-eyed glassine baby sardines, bodies ossified, taste like shattered deep-sea bacon. They’re threaded through a rice ball framed by shiso leaves, lending a green scent and hint of menthol.
A shrimp locked in tempura batter flares its tail, the nori draped around the rice like a tuxedo vest. The idea is smartly reprised with a fried oyster, another innovation for the American audience. Spam, a nod to the Hawaiian version of omusubi, is slapped over tamago, omelet laced with sugar and mirin: the classic death match — and love match — of salty and sweet.
Also on offer are miniature buckets ($ 3.50 each) of karaage, fried chicken in boneless pieces, all dark thigh, the meat rich from a bath in soy sauce. The crust softens a little as it sits, but still has fervor, its nubbly coat infiltrated by ginger, garlic and seasonings that the manager very kindly, very firmly refused to name.
Omusubi Gonbei is stationed right inside the entrance to Katagiri, which opened in 1907 as one of the first Japanese markets in the United States. (The original shop still stands on East 59th Street.) Venture deeper, and the missed opportunities multiply: bento boxes, sushi, steam rising from bowls of ramen.
No regrets. Just a promise to come back. NYT > Food
Fanned out on a platter are swirled bouquets of salo (cured fatback), in three varieties: Belarusian, plush and quick to liquid on the tongue; smoked, its flavor shading toward aged Cheddar; and Hungarian, aflutter with paprika. Stalks of green onion, cherry tomatoes and a broken-down head of garlic crowd around, with splendidly fuming potatoes in a skillet alongside. (A more modest, singular helping of salo is accompanied by batons of rye bread as fat as French fries, crisped in butter, rubbed with garlic and tumbled into a cone of newspaper.)
In borscht, the sweetness of the beets is kept in check by salty nubs of pork and beef. Yellow split pea soup, soothing and mild, lands on the table with a pork rib jutting out, the hilt thoughtfully wrapped in foil and the meat smoke incarnate.
The main courses bring more pork. For machanka, hunks of rib, shoulder and a peasant-style sausage made in-house are left to commune in a pot for hours and presented with draniki or kerchiefs of blini, the better to soak up the stew. Neat bundles of cabbage divulge pork, beef and carrots, gently sweet. A monumental pork knuckle is braised and then baked until the fat wobbles off its flanks, calling to mind a slow avalanche.
The first Belarussian Xata opened in 2012 in the Basmanny District of Moscow, a few blocks from the Belarusian Embassy. Its Brooklyn outpost followed this past September, taking over a two-story building once home to Cafe Glechik, a Ukrainian spot. Marat Novikov, a businessman from Minsk who brought his family to Brooklyn in 1989, as the Soviet Union was reeling from internal unrest, runs both restaurants with the help of his son, Andrey; his daughter, Olga; and her husband, Steve Palanker, a native of Moldova.
A few recipes come from Mr. Novikov’s mother, like a perfect dessert of little orbs of tangy yogurt cheese, flecked with poppy seeds and simmered in sour cream. Room, too, should be made for sour cherry dumplings in crimson-stained skins and a trompe-l’oeil chocolate salami conjured out of crushed biscuits, cocoa, hazelnuts and prunes.
This is plenty, to be embraced and shared. A night at Belarussian Xata can feel as though you’ve crashed a dozen parties at once, all in full swing. One night, a group of women lingered for hours in a corner, deep in talk and growly laughter; only around 10 p.m. did their first zakuski arrive. They were in no hurry. They knew the value of time.
1655 Sheepshead Bay Road
Recommended Dishes Salo platter; herring “village style”; borscht; pea soup with smoked rib; draniki with sour cream; kolduni with mushrooms; machanka; stuffed cabbage; mini cheese balls; chocolate rulyada; sour cherry dumplings.
Price $ $ (moderate)
Open Daily for lunch and dinner.
Wheelchair Access The first-floor dining room is on the same level as the sidewalk; the second-floor dining room is accessible via elevator. Restrooms are equipped with a handrail.