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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Lure Fishbar

September 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

It’d been years since I last visited Lure Fishbar, the yacht-looking, below-street-level seafood restaurant in SoHo right under the Prada store, but after a random visit with Jackie early in the summer, it’s become a favorite yet again. Twice we sat at the sushi bar for an impromptu seafood meal and once we sat in one of the really cushy banquettes for a Father’s Day and belated Mama Quan’s birthday dinner and each time, had a really enjoyable experience.

At the sushi bar in the back of the restaurant, a typical dinner starts with just-out-of-the-fryer salt & vinegar chips and a glass of bubbly

One reason we preferred the sushi bar when it was just the two of us were the complimentary little bites the sushi chefs would send over. Here, a refreshing kanpachi crudo with yuzu and ponzo sauce

More free bites – this one, a much more substantial bite of spicy tuna and avocado over scaldingly hot crispy rice. Certainly not traditional in any sense but damn, it tasted good.

The Dynamite roll of spicy scallop topped with spicy tuna, yellowtail and tobiko and the Shazam roll of yellowtail, salmon, avocado and kewpie topped with tuna. Despite lately favoring more traditional omakase-style dinners with an emphasis on nigiri, I really enjoyed the freshness and wackiness of the rolls at Lure Fishbar. The Dynamite was particularly good given the sweetness of the scallop against the spicy mayo (of which there wasn’t an overwhelming amount) and fresh fish on top. Plus, they’re pretty stunning to look at.

Oyster sampler – Beau Soleils with pineapple relish; Blue Points with caviar and creme fraiche; Kushi with jalapeno ponzu; and Kumamoto with wasabi leaf. I didn’t care for the Blue Points – they were a bit too big for me personally and something about the creme fraiche didn’t sit great with me – but the Beau Soleils and Kushi were dressed beautifully and not too large.

If I see anything with sea urchin on the menu, odds are I’ll try it at least once. Here, sea urchin bucatini with blue crab, garlic, crushed red pepper and breadcrumbs. Nicely executed and appreciated the kick from the red pepper and the generous amount of garlic, neither of which overpowered the substantial amount of buttery uni. Delicious.

For our Father’s Day and Mom’s birthday dinner, we ordered the whole stuffed lobster with seafood stuff, garlic-chili butter and grilled lemon; tempura shrimp with spicy sesame mayo and grilled octopus with chickpea puree, celery and lime-Aleppo pepper dressing. Not a dud in the mix. We especially liked the super tender octopus for its Mediterranean flavors.

For Jackie’s last dinner in NYC this summer, we stopped by the sushi bar again, this time starting with a salad of field greens with pickled peaches, goat cheese, chicory and poppy seed vinaigrette. I don’t usually like fruit in savory foods but the peaches were tart and still firm to give an interesting texture to the dish.

A generous crab cake with fresh corn and tomato salad and lime aioli. Flavors of summer in one dish.

Kenai roll of spicy wild king salmon, cucumber, scallions and fried shallot and the Shazam roll again.

A classic lobster roll with warm chips and coleslaw to round out the summer. Appreciated that it was an overflowing amount of sweet, perfectly cooked lobster that was barely dressed in mayo and garnished with chives.

I think sometimes Lure Fishbar can be a bit of a scene and the prices are certainly pretty steep for it to be a casual haunt, but given my past few visits and the surprisingly high calibre of seafood and service each time, it’s definitely worth the occasional splurge.

Sushi Katsuei

May 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

Another day, another sushi spot. This time at the new Sushi Katsuei on 6th Avenue in the West Village, which is the second location of chef Aung Ko Win (the first location is in Park Slope) and focused on offering more affordable omakase options. I opted for the open omakase on this initial visit to see the scope of the menu and was impressed with the quality given the lower price point compared to other temples of sushi. Win is also not super wed to tradition so appreciated having certain pieces dressed with decidedly un-Japanese garnishes (e.g., a light squeeze of lemon and sea salt) which nevertheless enhanced the fish and never really overwhelmed.

Ocean trout – continues to be one of my favorite types of fish for its richness

King salmon

Fatty toro

Medium fatty toro

Herring with kombu – I’m still not really sure how this dish was prepared but it was slightly bitter and a nice palate cleanser between courses

Shima aji with yuzu kosho

Horse mackerel – stunning to look at as well

Cuttlefish – actually not the biggest fan of cuttlefish due to its tendency to be overly chewy. That was the case here.

Scallop – supremely sweet and accentuated by the lemon and salt

Baby squid – obviously interesting to look at but overly fishy in flavor to me

Orange clam – one of my favorites. Toothsome texture and nice and briny

Hokkaido uni – no skimping on serving size here

Cherry-marinated black snapper – a special from Chef Win. Incredibly floral with hint of shiso underneath

Striped pigfish

Overall, I’m very happy to have another sushi option in the neighborhood, especially one that’s reasonably priced but still delivers in terms of variety of fish and quality. As far as I can tell, they’ve been pretty busy from day one (and I only managed to get my seat because it was 5:30 P.M. that day) but it seems like, if you call ahead, that they try to be as accommodating as possible.

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)

Here and there

June 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

Scotch eggs and steak tartare with Christine at Dead Rabbit, where she first told me she was going back to California 😦

A relaxing night in with Spunto

My first time at i Sodi with Artemis – an enormous steak with arugula and rabbit prepared porchetta-style with spinach

Enjoying a beautiful plateau and more oysters at John Dory with Christine and Laura

Trying a new dish of scallop and ham crudo at Momofuku Ssam Bar to celebrate Laura’s decision to attend Yale’s architecture grad program

An old reliable while dining solo – steak tartare and red wine at Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen

El Luchador – a new lunch option near the office with outdoor seating

Hot pot during a brief trip back to Edison, NJ

More solo dining while on staycation – the omakase meal at Blue Ribbon Sushi and lunch at the Lupa bar

Shots from the beautiful China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (GO)

Pork belly appetizer from Han Dynasty

Christine’s good-bye, hosted by Artemis and one of my favorite wines of the night

Excited about the next few posts coming up…whenever I manage to get to them.

Coming home

March 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Living in Edison has spoiled me when it comes to sushi. In fact, there are so many Japanese restaurants in the Edison area offering good quality, low-priced nigiri, sashimi, and maki rolls that I refuse to eat sushi elsewhere. Case in point: Tonia and I recently went to U-Yee Sushi in nearby Iselin where I went a little insane and ordered four different rolls – Dragon (eel and avocado with avocado and sauce on top), Volcano (fried calamari and cucumber with roe and spicy mayo), Dynamite (crunchy spicy yellow tail and avocado with fish roe) and Mexican (crunchy spicy salmon) – without batting an eyelash.

U-Yee Sushi

Tonia also ordered a large bowl of udon soup, and while I was perfectly happy with my maki rolls, I had to admit that the giant piece of shrimp tempura and golden yolk oozing into the broth looked mighty tempting.

Udon at U-Yee

So while our town isn’t necessarily known for its gorgeous scenery or quaint store-lined Main Street, Edison is really worth a visit simply for the vast number of its different ethnic restaurants, a cultural attraction in itself.

U-Yee Sushi
675 U.S. Hwy 1 South
Iselin, NJ 08830
732.283.7888

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