How about we take a break from the west coast and swing it back east? Lucky for me, restaurant week was going on in New York.
Checking out the restaurants that were partaking in this season’s restaurant week, only 2 restaurants had piqued my interest. Cafe Boulud, which filled all of its reservations on the first day, and EN Japanese Brasserie. After hearing great reviews and how the tofu at EN was considered the best new dish of 2009, I just had to join my friends who managed to snag a reservation. I snapped a couple of quick pictures while I waited for my friends outside in the sub 10° Fahrenheit weather. They sure do like to stamp their logo everywhere. The restaurant’s design is breathtaking. A cool and modern theme, that is warmed with classic Japanese accents. After soaking in the environment, you’ll find the menu is tied to an easel-like board which lists your dining options (Don’t forget there’s a back page, it took us about half an hour to figure that out). Glancing over the menu, I really wanted to select the Kaede, which is a 7-course tasting that costs a reasonable $65. Who am I kidding, I can get that anytime, I’m here for the restaurant week 5-course tasting. While waiting for the rest of the party to arrive, I ordered an Otsukare, which was a House infused Vanilla Bean Yamazaki Whiskey with Japanese Black Sugar and Fresh Mint. It sounded better than it tasted. I’m not an alcohol connoisseur, but after having the splendid Yamazaki Whiskey at Minetta Tavern, I was less than impressed with the one at EN. Maybe I should have been a girl and ordered the Green Tea Martini. Damn my male ego. Soon after, my friends started to filter in and we placed our order.Out comes the first portion of the menu, and look who it is. The freshly made (every hour) warm tofu with wari-joyu topped with thinly sliced green onions. I was extremely disappointed at the portion size, basically only an ice cream scoop portion, but the small amount of tofu itself was amazing. The warm silky tofu paired with the delectable wari-joyu dashi was unlike any tofu I’ve ever had before. Being that it’s freshly made, the tofu was resilient enough to hold its shape, but upon taking a bite, breaks down into a smooth thick soup-like matter that slips down the back of your mouth. The green onions also provided a refreshing snap in between bites. We’re off to a great start.The second portion of the meal consists of the chef’s selection of 2 kyoto-style appetizers. The first (left) being sliced daikon and inari (sweet fried tofu) simmered in a dashi broth. The second (right) was their Hijiki which was hijiki seaweed and soy bean simmered in dashi and shoyu. I understand that restaurant week is an affordable representation of what the restaurant has to offer, but the daikon dish was terrible, completely flavorless and not even seasoned. This made the seaweed dish head and shoulders the best portion of the dish, but that’s not saying much. The chef who selected these appetizers should be exiled back to Kyoto to learn how to make a proper dish. A giant step back.Finally, something I can enjoy. Right? The Washugyu Yaki Shabu’s ostentatious presentation was probably the best thing going for it. Now it might be my fault, for not immediately eating the steak and spending the passing time photographing and waiting for the other dishes to arrive. But then again, why would you serve this to me first, while I have to politely wait for the rest of my table’s entrees to arrive. The steak was served with a ponzu citrus soy sauce and salt on the side, both of which were pointless. Dipping the steak into either only caused the meat to be over-salty and inedible. Kobe rib-eye? Far from it. The steak was extremely tough and sinewy, I’ve had better at Black Angus. Worst thing is, this was a $10 supplement. You’d have to pay me $10 to order this again.Lucky for me though, I had 2 entrees. The Saikyo Miso Grilled Black Cod was nothing out of the ordinary and tasted just like every other Miso Cod out there. However, I did prefer it over the disgusting rib-eye, which I’m still bitter about to this day. On a random note, I’ve always loved the pairing of black cod with daikon. OK, I lied, I’m a fatass that ended up having 3 entrees. I ordered the Sea bass Kara-age separately since it was not part of the restaurant week menu. Boy am I glad that I did. The sea bass was by far the best entree out of the three. Simply marinated in a sake and lightly fried, brought out the full sea bass flavor. I could eat these delicious little medallions everyday of the week.
But still, at this point, I was not only extremely disappointed in ENJB’s food, but their service as well. They had misplaced my order of Kobe Sushi for Uni Sushi, while insisting that I had ordered the Uni. Tsk tsk, not going well, not going well at all. Let’s continue on with ENJB’s circus of crap. First off, let’s start with those carrots you see right there. Completely inedible. Are they pickling their vegetables with formaldehyde? They would’ve been better off serving Gerbers’ Carrot Mash. Now that star they call Onigiri. Congratulations on serving sushi rice with a little bit of soy sauce, green onions, and sesame seed and then cutting it with your holiday cutter. Next time, serve it to me warm, not cold. I couldn’t even use this rice to eat my steak with. I’m just about ready to leave. At this point, I was absolutely disheartened over the entire meal. Until I found this little covered bowl of Miso Soup. It may be simple, It may be plain, but boy was it a beacon of hope. The EN Miso Soup had a very delicate flavor and contained tiny morsels of their outstanding tofu. I slurped up the entire bowl of soup with a giant smile on my face. Things were starting to look a little more promising. Finally, my stubborn waiter decided to bring my slice of Kobe Sushi. I knew from past experience to stay away from anything that was a carrot or was in a shape of a star. Behold! A star shaped carrot! I will not fall into that trap, just give me the sushi. The flash seared piece of Kobe (hopefully) is served with a burnt garlic chip. I devoured this bad boy in one giant bite (I tried to bite in half, but failed miserably). “This doesn’t compare to the one served at Morimoto” I told myself in my head. Although it was delicious and heavenly, the Kobe Sushi at Morimoto had a more lasting impression (it’s also cheaper at $8/piece compared to EN’s $10/piece). Yes, that tiny morsel was $10 (almost as outrageous as the $10 supplement), something I’ll never pay again. Finally, we finish our ordeal with my favorite. Ice cream. It’s not a bad ice cream either, a Cinnamon Pumpkin Ice Cream with the nostalgic bite of Pumpkin Pie in every bite. You can also tell that it’s a Japanese ice cream with its rich, creamy, smooth, full body texture and taste. At least I got to leave the table with a smile.
EN Japanese Brasserie Scores:
Food: 6/10 – Maybe it was the high expectations I had for EN, but too many dark moments overshadowed the bright ones.
Restaurant Environment: 8.5/10 – A gorgeous restaurant, If only its food could do it justice.
Service: 7/10 – This score would’ve been a lot lower if it wasn’t for the extremely cute hostess that tried to mend all the mistakes.
Value: 4.5/10 – The cost is not appropriate for the portion size, but I didn’t leave feeling like I was in the middle of the Great Depression.
Overall: 6.5/10 – Would I come here again? Maybe. But that’s only because the pretty hostess promised me a better meal.