From a distance, it looks like an old-fashioned Laundromat—albeit with a lot more patrons and lights than normal. Upon closer inspection, and a deep inhale of garlic and soy, the East Williamsburg spot reveals itself as a restaurant, a bustling hub filled with steaming dishes of charred scallion-topped turnip cakes, endless strands of danzi noodles and oozing oyster omelets.
Since opening last year, Taiwanese restaurant Win Son has been one of the most talked-about joints in Brooklyn. The brainchild of Trigg Brown and Josh Ku, it has found the perfect balance between millennial ingenuity and cultural authenticity.
"We realized how underrepresented Taiwanese food and culture is here," Brown says."If Josh and I wanted to eat Taiwanese food, we would have to go out to Flushing to do that. When a space became available, we decided that we wanted to move forward with bringing the Taiwanese food that we loved so much to our neighborhood."
Prior to opening Win Son, Brown had worked at several restaurants in New York but never one serving Taiwanese cuisine. And while Ku grew up eating his family's Taiwanese food, he had never worked in or been an owner of a restaurant before.
But the pair beat the odds: They did their research, eating their way across Flushing and traveling to Taiwan, and opened the restaurant.
Win Son may have been a leap of faith, but it paid off. Customers gravitate to its doors no matter the day of the week, eager to taste the pair's classic scallion pancakes and unique take on the pork belly dish lu rou fan.
But Brown and Ku aren't making claims about "improving" or "elevating" Taiwanese cuisine—of which there's no need. "Our goal has always been to bring Taiwanese food to the neighborhood and make it accessible. We are not trying to change the nature of the cuisine. The only real endeavor that we have is to make it accessible," Brown says.
Many people don't have a very clear idea of what exactly makes up Taiwanese cuisine. Like the history of the country itself, the food is complex and made up of many different layers, which makes it difficult to nail down. And Ku hopes that his restaurant, in its own small way, is helping to educate people and contribute to the diversity of Brooklyn's food scene.
Every dish they create is a delicious way to explore Taiwan's fascinating history, whether its the garlic chive-forward fly's head or the stinky tofu sourced from a friend's Taiwanese grandmother.
No matter your experience with Taiwanese food, Ku and Brown are eager to bring you into their culinary realm—and we suggest you let them. "We're just another cog," Ku says. "We're just another piece in making food more international right now and in having folks become more open to different types of food."
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