EN Japanese Brasserie

September 29, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’ve lived in Soho for about four years now (damn, has time flown by) but only recently tried EN Japanese Brasserie for the first time, even though I’m at Lelabar across the street probably more often than I am home. Friends who have been going for years kept recommending it and we finally found a time to go together for dinner. Everything about the meal – the beautiful space; friendly service and delicious yet not-too-heavy Japanese fare – was superb and I can’t wait to go again.

The famous house made soft tofu with wari-joyu, a light soy sauce. I’ve never had tofu this fresh in the U.S. and it was so damn good. Slightly warm and full of toasty soybean flavor with the texture of a creamy ricotta. The wari-joyu adds just the right amount of seasoning.

Below is the momotaro tomato with homemade miso mayo. This gift from the kitchen is apparently a fancy tomato grown in California? I dunno…it was very good and pretty as tomatoes go but…again, it was literally a tomato cut into wedges with a dipping sauce (that was very good because duh…mayo) with some needed sea salt on the side. I wouldn’t actually pay for this particular dish, especially when there are still great tomatoes to be had at the greenmarket.

O-banzai, small Kyoto style dishes, to start the meal. We got the fried eggplant and zucchini with katsuobushi; the shoyu-braised pork belly sliced and served with lotus root and the assorted Japanese mushrooms with sun-dried daikon in yuzu. Although they were all delicious, the pork belly and lotus root was the best. You can get 3 of the o-banzai items for $16 instead of $6 each and next time, as Paul and Gakii suggested, I’d probably do 2 servings of the pork belly, it was that good. Sweet fatty pork with the nice crunch from earthy lotus root, it reminded me of one of my mom’s braises that she used to make for us at home. We also got the Big Eye tuna salad with avocado and wasabi dressing that, while not life-changing, was very good and nicely seasoned as tuna and avocado salads go.

We ordered additional small dishes for our main course and these were definitely the highlight of the evening. From the get-go, our server asked if we were fans of uni and mentioned that they’d just gotten a very small delivery of really prized uni from a specific area in Hokkaido (sorry, I don’t remember the name. I heard “uni” and was like, “yes, please”). We asked how she suggested we’d eat it and she said the kitchen recommended just eating it straight with a spoon to make sure we got pure uni flavor. It came out in the tray, as you see below, looking beautifully orange and super plump and we just went at it. Super sweet, slightly briny and the loveliest buttery texture, I was in heaven. Will be remembering that for a long time, which is crazy because it’s literally raw uni presented without any manipulation.

We also ordered the grilled salmon and yellowtail collars (pictured below), both further examples of how simplicity is usually the better way to go when the raw materials are high enough quality. I preferred the yellowtail, which was a bit more tender and was surprised by how much meat you could actually cull from each of those portions.

For our dessert, we ordered some really delicious black sesame and earl grey ice creams but the indisputable show-stopper was this giant mountain of green tea shaved ice with red bean hidden at the bottom. Doesn’t it look like one of those Chinese calligraphy paintings? Not too sweet and super refreshing, it was a great cap on a relatively light and satisfying meal. I couldn’t believe it’d taken me this long to finally visit EN but I’m excited to go back soon. And of course, we ended up going across the street to Lelabar for some more wine afterwards.

 

 

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Ichimura

April 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

Lately, when splurging on dinner, I’ve preferred doing omakase menus instead of European-style tasting menus since you come out feeling satisfied but not weighed down by super rich sauces and the like and Ichimura in TriBeCa has possibly the best omakase offering I’ve ever had in NYC. It’s 10 seats (two seatings each night at 6 and 9pm) in a minimalist setting and Chef Ichimura’s emphasis on aging fish to optimize flavor and texture results in some seriously delicious fish. Once again…too lazy to go into detail but I actually did manage to note what each piece was. It’s well worth the visit if you can manage to get a reservation and Chef Ichimura, who was literally doing all the fish preparation himself, was so adorable and soft-spoken that I wanted to adopt him as my grandpa.

Baby eel; roe and cod tartare; orange clam

Chawanmushi – perfectly jiggly

Sashimi of abalone; octopus; fluke; golden snapper; shima aji

Smoked bamboo shoot. Super clean flavors and a nice toothsomeness.

The beautiful bar and no surprise, Zalto glassware.

Needle fish – almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Golden snapper

Whiting

Amber jack

Spanish mackerel belly – this was a standout and a great example of how aging can firm up the texture of fish.

Tuna

Horse mackerel – again, such a pretty piece

Medium fatty tuna

Hokkaido uni – always a favorite and super generous with the uni

Scallop

Baby shrimp – super sweet and a new favorite of mine

Eel – just cooked and warm to the touch. Really enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t drowned in any sauces

Chef Ichimura doing his magic

Fatty tuna – oh snap. Three butterflied layers of the butteriest toro. I almost passed out.

Dessert – simple green tea ice cream with mochi and other fixings. Just the right amount of sweetness.

Shuko

February 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

Another stellar meal at Shuko, one of my all-time favorite restaurants. The chefs and staff are always so warm and welcoming, practicing their craft to perfection, and I love that you can eat pristinely prepared sushi and kaiseki dishes in an environment that’s casually blaring old school hip hop or Justin Bieber at any given time. Dress is as casual or formal as you want it to be and it’s not out of the ordinary to strike up a conversation with your neighbor at the counter. Plus, even though the kaiseki tasting menu consists of a long procession of dishes, I never feel like I’m about to burst out of my jeans by the time the meal has ended…which has happened before at dinners with a French or New American emphasis on cuisine.

Highlights of the cooked dishes from this visit include the crispy fried oyster with hollandaise, black truffle and pea shoots (a wonderful mix of textures and earthiness against fresh greenery); cumin-inflected squid with carrots and fennel and a meltingly tender braised veal cheek with crispy fried sunchoke, sunchoke puree and fresh Asian pear.

Sushi-wise, the first toro piece was beautiful as always…perfectly rich and unctuous. Also really loved the amber jack; ocean trout (which I didn’t get to have the last time I visited but remember loving); Spanish mackerel; sweet, sweet scallop; baby shrimp; uni (of course); a mini roll of grilled toro with chiles and scallion that was completely out of this world; the matsutake and truffle tempura that was super light for something fried; and finally, the charcoal-grilled tuna we ordered as a supplement that I will never be able to forgo ever again. Amazing to see our awesome chef Andre prepare it in front of our eyes and hand it to us seconds later, still smoking and glistening from all that fat. A couple bites of the famous apple pie and I was ready to (blissfully) call it a night. Can’t wait til the next time!

 

Sushi Nakazawa

October 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

Dinner at that temple of sushi, Sushi Nakazawa (and as you’ll see below, it really did feel like a temple). I’d been wanting to go ever since it opened to rave reviews but was always too lazy to bother scouring reservations for a decent time at the bar. Finally, near the end of the summer, when I had a serious sushi craving and work was slow, I managed to snag an 8:30 p.m. spot at the 10 seat counter. The reservation was on a Saturday evening, which meant that Chef Nakazawa (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame) wasn’t in, but the quality of the food and service was still at the highest level (as it should be, given the price of the omakase).

While the overall experience was wonderful, the general atmosphere seemed a bit stiff to me – the interior was very sleek and modern (almost sterile-feeling), the chefs behind the counter didn’t seem particularly keen to make conversation (even more noticeable since there was no music playing) and the other guests were mostly a well-heeled crowd that seemed to hold the restaurant in such reverence that they weren’t willing to let loose and relax (also, there was a super hip woman wearing a fedora throughout the entire dinner, which I just didn’t understand. I must be getting old). I’m still very glad to have had the chance to go, but given the choice, I’d much rather go to Shuko for dinner, where the food is still perfectly executed (and honestly, more interesting – especially when doing the kaiseki menu) and everyone, guests and chefs, is having a fun time making conversation in a warm and inviting room with Top 40 or old school hip hop blaring in the background.

On the other hand, in addition to the pristine fish, Nakazawa’s sake pairing for $45 is an absolute steal. Compared to some high-end, tasting menu pairings which can set you back another $150 or so (which includes the pairing at Shuko), this was so affordable and I really enjoyed the choices (and the obscenely generous pours). Anyway, see below for the actual courses:

Chum salmon, smoked sockeye salmon, soy marinated salmon

Chefs hard at work

Scallop

Squid

Sea bass

Barrel fish

Spanish mackerel – this was a favorite of mine.

Horse mackerel

Unfortunately, I can’t recall the name of this particular type of fish.

Dungeness crab

Preparing the botan ebi…look at those dimples

Spot prawn – seriously delicious

Skipjack

Trio of tuna from leanest to fattiest

California and Hokkaido uni – always a crowd pleaser

Unagi and the infamous tamago

A lighter sorbet and tea to round out the meal

 

Shuko

June 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

Procrastinating all the work I have to do this weekend and reliving this amazing dinner at Shuko near Union Square when I had all the time in the world in between jobs. It’d been a long time since I’d splurged on sushi and the kaiseki menu offered also features a few cooked preparations, including some super luxurious supplements. The interior is minimalist and dominated by the ash 12-seat counter, and the night I was there dining solo, top 40 was blaring. Some highlights of the all-around outstanding meal were the fatty tuna belly tartare and caviar with Japanese milk bread course; beautiful sunchokes, lobster, truffles and a subtle taste of bacon; sea trout; Santa Barbara and Monterey uni and a whole procession of pristinely prepared fish. I wish that I’d been given a menu of all the courses at the end of the meal so I could recall exactly what I had but since some courses were also customized based on personal preferences told to the chef throughout the meal, I didn’t want to be a bother. Instead, I’ve made another reservation for July and will be curious to see menu changes according to the summer season. If anyone wants the second seat, let me know.

Eats around town

March 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

Blue Ribbon Sushi at Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place

Favorite dishes – bombolotti all’Amatriciana (sauce of spicy tomato and guanciale) and roasted sunchokes with almonds and brown butter – at Maialino during a leisurely lunch while between jobs

Introducing Laura to Toro‘s grilled corn and bone marrow (look at those gorgeous colors!)

Sadelle‘s pick up (sesame bagel with smoked Scottish salmon, chive cream cheese, red onion, tomato, capers). I was obsessed with their bagels for a while but now the lines have gotten too long and I’m pretty sure they upped their prices.

Matcha latte at Chalait – gorgeously prepared but not sure I’ll be getting on the matcha trend train any time soon

Spaghetti alla vongole at Rafele Ristorante, my parents’ favorite restaurant whenever they come to visit (though we introduced them to OTTO the last time they were here so now they may have a new favorite Italian place)

Lovely Sunday brunch with Bohee at the beautiful Untitled at the Whitney

Booze-free dinner at Balthazar with Cindy (clearly not skimping on French fries though)

Delicious and super spicy spread at Pok Pok lunch (finally tried it after years of wanting to go) with Wes

More Sadelle’s – this time dining in with the full-on smoked fish tower and endless bagels (much better than just picking up)

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