328 Douglass Street, Gowanus
While it has little on the bottle-poppin’ Eastern European banquet halls of Brighton Beach, Insa—a 4,600-square-foot bacchanalia of Korean barbecue and karaoke—is as over the top as it gets in South Brooklyn. But instead of vodka, it’s sake, craft beer, and cocktails that flow like water in the cavernous dining chamber set with sterno-topped communal tables, as well as in a quintet of private, themed karaoke dens, and in a dedicated bar up front, which is equipped with scarlet banquettes, velveteen-capped stools, and illuminated trees. It’s the bar where patrons pre-game on pansy-garnished Mai Tais, while awaiting admittance to one of the aforementioned rooms.
Needless to say it’s perilously easy to spend a small fortune on alcohol at Insa—especially once you’re “Hooked on a Feeling” in the disco ball-adorned karaoke quarters, accruing liquid courage in the form of Other Half pitchers and Van Brunt Stillhouse soju carafes, all in order to belt out tune after 90s-era tune. But perhaps it helps to be tipsy when reconciling food expenses as well. The prices can be startling, even when considered through rosé-colored glasses.
The bar is set at $14 for a plate of fluted mandoo (pork, beef and chive-stuffed dumplings), and steadily escalates from there. We’re talking $15 for a duo of admittedly delicious seafood corn dogs, $17 for a shareable scallion pancake, $18 for bibimbap, and $35 for braised short rib stew. And then there’s the ‘cue itself, which regrettably, is grilled by staff—perhaps they were hesitant to supply liquor-soused customers with access to live flame? Comprising a few scraps of brisket or pork belly, a ring of white onion and single hot pepper, it’s sized for one or two people, but at $28-35, isn’t exactly valued as such—but perhaps these prices can be chalked up to the brave new world of tip-free dining—know that a 20 percent service charge has already been added to your bill.
Taken as a temple of profligate drinking and unbridled singing, Insa is the wildest party this side of Brooklyn—but maybe start saving now if you also intend to eat there.