What you are going to read below cannot express enough how sensational our dinner at EN Brasserie was. We passed so many times in front of that restaurant, located in Hudson street, in an area not that ideal for restaurants, if not maybe the lack of competition. Going there was like setting foot in Japan and we tasted some phenomenal dishes that convinced me more that there is not just sushi and sashimi in Japanese cuisine. At EN Japanese Brasserie, Chef Abe Hiroki crafted a seasonal menu with very original dishes that can be either ordered from the menu or discovered kaseiki, a traditional multi-course dinner that we would simply call...a tasting menu. What is great there is that they propose a vegan one, called Nohara, that would not make any vegan or vegetarian feel uncomfortable to order. To the contrary, the carnivore that I am, often eyed at the dishes served to Jodi.
Before I describe the dishes, let me tell you about the place itself. It is a large place, with huge ceilings and a zen decor. On the right of the entrance is the bar. An important part of the place as EN Japanese Brasserie is a sake and shoshu bar. I am familiar with sake, but had very few shoshu before (soju from Korea, yes, but not Shoshu). Shoshu is a distilled beverage that looks like clear sake or again, soju. I appreciated the fact that they propose samplers of both drinks and decided to try the shoshu one.
It was composed of:
My favorite one was the sesame that had a slight nutty flavor. My least favorite was the one made with rice: too strong.
Besides the bar is, of course, the dining room. There are two: one on the left of the entrance, and then the larger one with its incredible tree in the center and, for the curious, the open kitchen where you can watch the team make their magic while dining.
Below is what the Nohara dinner (vegan) had:
The first dish (Zensai) was composed of:
Fresh tofu (they make it on premises):
Forget the tofu you have in your average Chinese or Japanese restaurant, or the kind you can buy at the supermarket: fresh tofu is so silky, I love it!
HijiKi (hijiki seaweed, snow peas, green beans, shirataki, and soy beans simmered in shoyu):
Konnyaku, that I believe is a plant (they made a gel with it):
The next dish was spectacular: smoked yuba tofu salad:
This was a fantastic presentation and you could definitely smell and taste the smokiness of the dish. Tofu yuba is tofu skin and it was surprisingly good. However, there was too much veggie compared to the quantity of tofu skin. I should mention that the dressing they put on top is truffle soy milk dressing that was also divine.
Next was the Yaki Nasu that is a dish made with eggplant (nasu), and served with veggies such as okra.
The next dish was the least successful of the Nohara menu: Oshinko roll (housemade Nuka Zuké pickled vegetable sushi roll):
After that was the Yasai Kushiage (lightly fried vegetable skewers with a hatcho miso sauce), that I would have simply called tempura...
But, before that dish came, they brought the next dish, Jyugokokumai Gohan or 15 grain rice with mushrooms.
The way it works is that you let the flame go and at that time, you start the hour glass. When all the sand goes down, you can start eating.
I love the playfulness of that dish; we checked the flame every 10 seconds as soon as we saw that it started to be weak and same for the hourglass when it was close to be over. In term of taste, it was a pretty good vegetarian (shall I say vegan?) dish, especially for mushroom lovers.
For dessert, Jodi got the Kisetsuno sorbet:
There was apple sorbet:
And raspberry sorbet:
These were great sorbets as you definitely could taste the fruit. Great way to end an all vegan dinner.
On my side, I got the Aozora tasting. The first dish (Zensai or hors-d'oeuvre) came first:
I guess that, like me at the time, you first noticed the slice of truffle...
It included yaki nasu:
Assorted vegetables with dashi gelée:
Yaki baby corn:
Then, came the zuke sashimi to yasai (marinated sashimi in a yomogi tofu sauce with yuzu gelée):
That is not your usual sashimi for sure and the texture, with the gelée, was interesting. Overall good dish.
After that, I had a lobster Kuro tempura, served with asparagus and a bincho tan batter:
This was a fantastic presentation with the contrast of the colors, from the red lobster shell and the charcoal tempura.
The green powder on the left of the photo was green tea salt that was interesting. I really liked that dish; well, ok, first because of the lobster, but also because I thought it was well executed: not greasy, slightly crunchy, with a perfectly cooked lobster.
The next dish was one of my favorites and I just wishes they served me more of it: corn chawanmushi (corn steamed egg custard):
I do not know how they are making this, but it was succulent: served warm, it was deliciously sweet, the custard being perfectly set.
Then came the shabu shabu, a Japanese dish made of thinly sliced beef boiled in water. At En Japanese Brasserie, it was composed of steamed sliced Washugyu (crossbred of Kobe beef with the Japanese black wagyu and the American Black Angus) and vegetables with a sesame ponzu:
Very good dish, very flavorful, the beef was very tender.
The last entrée was anago chasoba or grilled sea eel with green tea soba noodles:
This was another favorite: the broth in which the noodles were bathed was surprisingly cold, contrasting with the warmth of the fish, that was perfectly cooked, meaty. The noodles, that I believe are homemade, were cooked slightly al dente, giving some texture to the dish. This is definitely a recommendation.
Last was dessert: strawberry panna cotta.
I admit that the desserts were good, but disappointing at the same time as I was expecting something more original. Yes, you taste the fruit, but, considering what we ate before, I was expecting some unusual desserts, with maybe a playful presentation.
This was a great dinner: original, unusual, fantastic and spectacular are the words that come to my mind when I think about En Japanese Brasserie. This is the kind of place I would go to for a celebration or business, rather than a go to place if I want to eat Japanese food. It is on the pricey side, but worth trying.
Enjoy (I did)!
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