Japanese-inspired speakeasy Koi Bā brings specialty cocktails and bar food with a twist to Williamsburg

bartender mixing cocktail at Koi Bā speakeasy
Koi Bā, a new Japanese-inspired speakeasy, is slinging specialty cocktails and bar food in Williamsburg.
Photo courtesy of Julian Bracero/Koi Bā

A new Japanese-inspired speakeasy is slinging specialty cocktails and bar food with a twist in Williamsburg.  

Koi Bā, a cozy cocktail bar above Nem’s Japandi Bistro on North 6th Street, bills itself as a “haven” for lovers of craft cocktails and Japanese-inspired bites. Created by Supranee Phramdang — who goes by “Nem” — the bar promises authentic Japanese decor and ambiance, with red lighting and a giant Koi fish presiding over the space. 

koi bā drink in bar
The bar promises authentic Japanese decor, drinks, and bites. Photo courtesy of Julian Bracero/Koi Bā

Ricky Dolinsky, Koi Bā’s mixologist, created a menu of signature cocktails featuring locally-sourced ingredients that add a New York twist to traditional Japanese libations. 

The Hana Akiri cocktail, for example, takes its inspiration from Japanese cherry blossoms — its name translates to “flower viewing” in Japanese. The drink is a mix of sparkling rose, lychee, and cucumber juice, and is meant to transport the drinker to the middle of cherry blossom season.

Another drink, the Smokey Toki, is a nod to the relationship between China and Japan and their cuisines. The Sazerac-based cocktail includes a duck fat-washed whiskey cooked with Chinese five spice, with notes of wood chips and matcha. 

cocktail with smoke
The Smokey Toki is made with duck fat-washed whiskey and is smoked with wood chips and matcha. Photo courtesy of Julian Bracero/Koi Bā

Dolinsky — who is also a chef and the owner of the bar Paper Planes — said in a statement that the ingredients are carefully chosen based on their quality, origin, and seasonality.

“The techniques we deploy to harvest these flavors are tied into our own experiences and help make our own identity,” Dolinsky said. “My identity as a mixologist is using my chef background to extract the pure essence of certain flavors and converging them in unusual and fun ways. Emphasizing a multi-sensory experience, some of my cocktails may transport you to Kyoto, or maybe take you somewhere you never knew existed.”

The salmon or tuna tartare are served with nori and cured egg yolks. Photo courtesy of Julian Bracero/Koi Bā

Like the cocktails, the food at Koi Bā pulls inspiration from multiple cultures and flavor profiles. The “French onion” Agedashi Tofu combines crispy fried tofu with broiled Gruyere cheese, while the tuna and salmon tartare are served with charred green onions, cured egg yolks, yuzu hot sauce, and nori. Visitors can also order some traditional Japanese eats like Karaage fried chicken or mini Donburi bowls with toppings specially chosen by Nem.

nem of koi bā posing in bar
Supranee Phramdang, or Nem, owns both Japandi Bistro and Koi Bā.Photo courtesy of Koi Bā

Koi Bā follows the same tradition as Japandi Bistro, which blends Japanese and Scandanavian cultures with local, seasonal ingredients, according to Greenpointers.

The bar is celebrating its official grand opening on May 15 from 6-10 p.m., and is open daily from 5 p.m.-1 a.m. at 80 North 6th St. between Kent and Wythe avenues.