Saturday, January 30, 2010

restaurant week diary: en japanese brasserie

Phenomenal restaurant week meal at EN Japanese Brasserie last night! Thank god too because we had to brave frostbite to get there, with New York's freezing temps. I had never been to this restaurant before and I have to say, I quite like it! It's a modern izakaya with lofty ceilings and sleek Japanese-inflected interiors. There's a massive open kitchen that's completely staffed with Japanese cooks (not a common sight in Manhattan). The air is suffused with the scent of stone grilled meat. LOVE!

I started off with a large bottle of Echigo rice beer ($11), which lasted me the entire meal. It was quite good; a hoppy lager, slightly bitter, but strong enough to stand up to all the strong flavors in my dinner. There were so many tempting things on the a lá carte menu that I almost skipped the restaurant week menu; the uni don had me thinking for a while, but I'll have to come back for that another time. I decided to go for the full on restaurant week menu, which was totally worth it! For starters, we were given o-banzai, or the chef's selection of traditional Kyoto-style appetizers. Tonight it was one seaweed concoction and another pickled radish dish. We were also given the handmade tofu that the restaurant is known for. This tofu is made fresh, everyday, at 6:00, 7:30, 9:00 and 10:30. I love seaweed and pickled apps so I was happy with the o-banzai. And the silky goodness of that ultrafresh tofu was just awesome.

But nothing brought a bigger smile to my face than this:

The stone grilled Washugyu creates quite a spectacle when it is served, since it is such a beautiful plate. The picture's a little washed out so the steak looks more well-done than it actually was. It was actually quite nicely medium rare, which is just how I like it. The serving is incredibly generous. Even with the $10 supplement, I found this to be a way better deal than the other entree options (black cod or vegetable tempura). This dish is sold for $42 on the regular menu, so it's a good deal to do $45 for the Restaurant Week menu and get all the little trappings thrown in. We were also served onigiri and miso soup. I couldn't even get through the miso soup because I was so stuffed. Dessert was simple: a scoop of tangerine ice cream. I was not crazy about the flavor but at that point, the ice cream was a welcome respite from the heavy dinner.

At the end of our meal, we were each given $20 coupons to use towards one of their regular tasting menus, which start at $65. I totally intend on making use of that coupon one of these days! Must have more! I am also very curious about EN Japanese Brasserie's "Fish Heads, Eel Bones & Beer" dinner, which is inspired by their staff meals. It takes place at 10pm on the first Saturday of every month. It centers on the concept that nothing is wasted in a Japanese kitchen, so odds and ends like scraps of wagyu beef and fish heads are turned into delicious dishes by the chefs. Past dinners have included sea bream-head soup, crunchy deep fried eel and fluke bones, and braised wagyu beef tips. Also, this $45 meal comes will all the Sapporo beer you can drink. My kind of dinner.

I would definitely rank EN Japanese Brasserie as one of my top Restaurant Week experiences. Delicious food, wonderful service, amazing ambience and just great value for money. Meals like these are why I love Restaurant Week!

EN Japanese Brasserie is located at 435 Hudson Street (at Leroy), New York, NY 10014. Tel. 212.647.9196

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