Kelseay Dukae has a lot of love in heart: for her home city of New Orleans, where she was born and raised; for her adopted home of Greenpoint, where she’s lived for many years on the “other side” of McGuinness Boulevard; and for sushi in all of its formats.
Kinoko, a Cajun-Creole-Japanese restaurant that she soft-opened last weekend on Meserole and Newel Streets, a couple of blocks from her apartment, is the manifestation of all those passions rolled into a casual neighborhood joint. It’s colorful and fun, maybe a little bit rowdy, and the menu stars some eye-catching combos like a hearty gumbo ramen, and Louisiana crawfish dumplings covered in chili oil.
Not that Kinoko, as a concept, is new — Dukae has been serving her Cajun-flavored sushi at popups, at Smorgasburg, and as a caterer for years — but the Greenpoint brick-and-mortar is a big milestone for the chef-owner.
“I started working at sushi restaurants in New Orleans when I was 14 years old,” Dukae tells Brooklyn Magazine. “I became obsessed with it. It’s all I’ve been cooking since. So the menu at Kinoko, the restaurant, has really been 15 years in the making.”
Temakis, which are like two-bite sushi tacos, currently form the heart of the offerings here, with five different varieties, two of which are vegan. The panko battered oyster mushroom is drizzled with hot honey and yuzu mayo, and the gulf shrimp one is topped with Louisiana-style remoulade. My favorite temski was stuffed with raw tuna and crisp fried chicken skin, a pairing that deserves more widespread experimentation.
Dukae’s chicken karaage is well-seasoned, juicy, and given additional zing by the dipping sauce, a terrific wasabi ranch. But the big winner here during the soft opening phase is the bowl of “Jer’s Gumbo Ramen” (Jer is Dukae’s mom). Noodles and nori share space with chunks of fiery andouille, gulf shrimp, chicken and okra. She also promises a lot more to come. “We’re a small but mighty kitchen that needs to get tested before we roll out the full menu.” she says.
Wines and sake (the latter from Brooklyn Kura, brewed in Industry City) run from $12 to $14 for a glass, and beer, from the also-local Talea, costs 10 bucks for a 16-ounce can. Kinoko is a cozy place in which to imbibe, with banquettes, tables, and some flashy, custom-embroidered bar stools packed into the small room. Come spring, Dukae will fling open the big front windows for an even more friendly and welcoming vibe.
“I’m a Greenpoint girl,” Dukae says. “Greenpoint through-and-through. This has been the only place I ever wanted to live in New York.” And now that Kinoko is as firmly planted here as she is, Dukae gets to feed her neighbors on the regular.
Kinoko is located at 179 Meserole Avenue, at the corner of Newel Street, and is currently open on Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.
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