Harris Salat: the Accidental Japanese Food Emperor of Brooklyn

By: Oliver Vega

Oliver Vega: How did you get into the Japanese food business?

Harris Salat: “It was kind of an accident. I’d say, almost 20 years ago I got started. I went to Japan on a trip and I was very surprised by their cuisine. I was a journalist in a former life; a great way to learn about something is to write about it, so I started writing about Japanese food. Which then led to writing a bunch of cook books, and writing a bunch of articles, and then running these restaurants …because I didn’t need a social life anymore. So that’s the trajectory.”

OV: So this is the third in your Japanese restaurant trilogy?

HS: “Yes, we have another restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn, that was the first one, a ramen shop, and these two.”

OV: Why did you choose this Brooklyn location?

HS: “This whole neighborhood is exploding. Atlantic Avenue is a major retail thoroughfare. There’s a tremendous amount of construction. A lot of people are moving in here. The whole retail segment has changed over the last few years. We’re close to subways, we’re close to the Barclays Center, BAM and all the other cultural venues. So it’s been a great place for us.”

OV: What was in this space before?

HS: “This was a diner, under various owners, probably for at least 40 years… [When we moved in and gutted the space], we found that we had this beautiful terrazzo floor, that was sitting under tiles for maybe 40 years. The landlord of the building is the original operator of the [former] diner, a gentlemen in his late 80’s, and he put in that terrazzo, so he was delighted to see this beautiful floor come back to life.”

OV: That’s really cool.

HS: “Everything else we ripped out and changed around. The arched windows along 3rd Avenue and Atlantic Avenue were original, but we changed the way we’re using them by installing neon Japanese characters.”

OV: Who’s your current clientele?

HS: We have benefited from BAM, Roulette [Performance Space], and Mark Morris [Dance Group]. Those folks have been great for us. We offer discounts for those patrons. We’ve developed a nice relationship.

OV: How is Atlantic Avenue a mix of new and old Brooklyn?

HS: “Atlantic Avenue, from restaurants to shops­­ everything has really changed a lot; all around us, even across the street they’re building condos, in what used to be the Walgreens. But then on the other hand, certain things haven’t changed. Next to the mosque there’s a great Arabic food restaurant [Halal International]. It’s good to have that place too. That’s where I go for lunch. Those guys are really nice. Otherwise it [Atlantic Avenue] becomes like a retail strip from Atlanta or Houston. Boring bullshit. …We’re still New York. That hasn’t changed, even though Brooklyn has changed so much. It’s still Brooklyn. It’s nice to have a mix of all that stuff here. And I hope that stays.”

Ganso Yaki is located at 515 Atlantic Avenue, on the corner of 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn. They’re walking distance from Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill, and minutes from BAM and the Barclays Center. Check out their historic terrazzo floor and new space.


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