EN Japanese Brasserie New YorkPosted By Jennifer Ho Sep 29 2012 · 0 comments · Dining Out
Last time I went to New York with my family, we went to EN Brasserie. This is the same trip where we went to the legendary Cocoron – check out that experience here. Talk about amazing Japanese restaurants, right? We loved EN so much that we made it a point to go back on our most recent trip. Located on Hudson street, this place is like the shining light of the surrounding blocks, giving off this mysterious and intriguing “come to me” vibe. Don’t ask questions. Just go. But make sure to make reservations here because it won’t be easy to stroll in and expect a table.
Stepping into the wood based restaurant, your eyes are immediately drawn to the impressive collection of sakes they have shelved against the wall, displayed neatly behind clear glass cases. Medium sized bonsai trees decorate the bar, giving off a zen feeling. This atmosphere is further helped along by the lofty, high ceilings. If you’re a little early – the bar is great to spend a good half hour. I would even suggest making it a point to come a bit before your reservation just to enjoy the bar, not to mention the drinks here are pretty awesome. If you’re into sake and shochu, you’ve come to the right place. Brief descriptions of the alcohols are included in the menu – check it out for a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
Two of my favourite cocktails are the Seppun and the Oba. The first is made with shiso leaf, grapefruit and yuzu juice with Takara Jun 35 shochu. It’s got the perfect mix of light, fresh and textured with citrus and slight mint notes. The second is somewhat similar but less complex with more clear cut flavors.
Experts in the kaiseki tradition of serving multiple courses that showcase a number of different culinary skills, the chefs at EN aren’t messing around. Figuratively throwing down, they know their strengths and use them well. Each time, we’ve ordered the Aozora menu sometimes with and sometimes without the sake accompaniment. This time being no different, we beelined for the seven course kaiseki ensemble. Looking around at what was being ordered around us – everything looked amazing, as usual. We were all stoked about the meal and what was to come.
First, the zensai dish. This course comprised of three parts – an octopus shabu shabu, a white asparus dish with caviar and another with okra, green beans and dashi gelee. Trying to hold ourselves back and eat at a normal pace, we all but wolfed these down. The gelee was the most interesting to me – cubes of asymmetrically cut cubes of jelly basked in this delicious slimy liquid from the okra. I slurped the whole thing down including the little yellow flower garnish which was almost too pretty to eat.
Shortly afterwards came the smoked sashimi collection – cold process sakura smoked. Presentation for this one gets bonus points. Coming to us in these tall glass domed lids filled with cloudy smoke, our servers simultaneously lifted the lids, releasing the cool smoky air. Giving the raw fish inside a deeper woody flavor, we gingerly picked the pieces up, one by one and popped them in, slowly savoring the taste. The uni was a real standout. Just amazing. The vegetarian sashimi was interesting as well – not sure exactly how it was made but it was a great concept.
Ready for more, we had shrimp, edamame beans and mushrooms wrapped in tofu skin in a bit of warm broth. After two big mouthfuls, this one was destroyed.
The chawanmushi – one of my favorites. This version was topped with a few singular corn kernels. Delicate and silky smooth, attaining this particular texture is like making your own version of the holy grail. It’s definitely not easy to achieve something so perfect, so smooth and so simply delicious. Jelly like while still maintaining a bit of firmness, it wobbled slightly upon jiggling it. It didn’t break or spill over onto itself – a very good sign. I could have a whole meal just eating steamed eggs just like this.
Moving on to the heavier portion of the meal, sliced pieces of washugyu steak came in a flexible wood boat. Accompanied by okra, brocoli sitting on a pumpkin puree as well as a kabocha puree, finishing this one off started to prove difficult. Not because it wasn’t good, but because we were starting to fill up. But in times like these, you have to ask yourself, how often to you get a chance to eat like this? And just take it. Hard times, right?
And the grand finale – green tea buckwheat soba noodles topped with sea urchin and okra. If we weren’t getting to the point of filling up, this definitely did us in. Great twist on the classic soba noodles by adding the green tea to the mix. Uni was of course top notch, and as a big okra fan, the more the better.
Ending the meal on a sweet note, the panna cotta with strawberry compote with chunks inside. Creamy, thick, I’m not going to lie – I finished off my parents leftovers. Too good to waste. Same goes for the toasted green tea cookie dipped in white chocolate.
Simplicity is embodied by everything about this place. Authenticity, tradition, serenity and great, great, great food. That is all.
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