Emily Yuen, the former chef at Japanese comfort food spot Bessou, will open Lingo on Saturday, April 22, at 27 Greenpoint Avenue, between West Street and Transmitter Park, in Greenpoint — the third spot in two years to open on the block. Look for the eclectic Japanese fare that put her on the map as well as New American dishes like Arctic char in sake beurre blanc and a whole fried Cornish hen with chile gremolata.
“I have a huge appreciation for Japanese ingredients,” says Yuen, who’s cooked at fine dining restaurants like the Michelin-starred Le Gavroche in London, Vue de Monde in Australia, DB Bistro in Singapore, and Kajitsu and Boulud Sud in New York. “So the food here is more ‘me’ and true to my techniques and my past and, at the same time, it tells a story of how I fell in love with Japanese food.”
Industry drama precedes the opening of Lingo. After racking up accolades and a double pandemic pregnancy — Yuen’s and Bessou owner Maiko Kyoguku’s — Yuen quietly left her mantle as executive chef in 2021 after being there since 2016.
“I had been there for so long,” says Yuen. “I felt like my creativity kind of ran out. I just felt like it wasn’t the right fit for me anymore.”
Yuen went on to help chef Helen Nguyen reopen Saigon Social on the Lower East Side before a colleague, who owns Shiki catering, Misako Hsu was looking for partner with global cooking chops at a Greenpoint event space. Yuen bought in, and hosted five Lingo pop-ups. Now the duo is opening a 48-seat spot over the weekend.
Yuen shows an array of international influences in dishes like the beef and bone marrow pie, for which she pulls in a French braising technique, first searing short rib, then braising it in beef broth, kombu dashi, vegetables, and Japanese curry spices like cinnamon and star anise. Then, she thickens the sauce separately with a roux. It all goes into a gratin dish, which she covers with a puff pastry and bakes it with marrow that melts into the curry.
Head over to breads and Yuen’s milk bread is fluffier than a brioche, she says, but more buttery than a milk bread, and it’s served with smoked sake butter. Her steak tartare, an amalgam of garlicky soy marinade, black sesame sauce, and smoked gruyere cheese, gets wrapped in nori.
The design feels global, too. Hsu wanted to highlight a convergence of clean, organic Nordic and Japanese styles: white oak chairs with curved backs and seats, coral cushioned counter stools at the pink bar; paper-like Tyvek-shaded cloud pendant lights against cool and calming green walls.
“It truly feels like a culmination of my years of experience as a chef and reflection of my personal style,” says Yuen. “Especially after becoming a mom, it’s very important to continue showing my daughter I’m following my dreams.”
Lingo is open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Caroline Shin is a Queens-raised food journalist and founder of the Cooking with Granny YouTube and workshop series spotlighting immigrant grandmothers. Follow her on Instagram @CookingWGranny.