Upscale Izakaya Dining
If you’re looking for relaxed Japanese dining in a spacious, modern and comforting atmosphere, then you must go to EN Japanese Brasserie, or ENJB. From my experience, a good amount of places in New York aren’t authentic Japanese or have done Japanese fusion wrong. It turns out that ENJB is a 100% authentic with a modern approach by Chef Abe Hiroki. It’s actually an izakaya which is a bar-restaurant that primarily serves light, small, tapas-style dishes for sharing. ENJB is more on the upscale side of izakaya dining.
My sister is a huge fan of this place. “It’s my favorite restaurant,” she always tells me. When her friends here ask her for a recommendation on where to eat in NY, ENJB is the first place she’ll tell them about. I’ve heard her rave about this restaurant for the longest time, so I decided to try it out when a friend of mine from LA came to town.
First dish - the wari-joyu tofu, served warm or chilled. We opted for the chilled. It’s one of the top tips on Foursquare and Yelp, so we had to try it. It also had its own little section on the corner, so it had to be one of the restaurant’s specialties. The tofu was so fresh. Extremely fresh. Not only is it made in-house, it was carefully prepared and served with a light sauce, something similar to soy sauce but much lighter in taste and color. A nice start to dinner as well a way to prep our palates.
Second dish - My friend selected the Saikyo Miso Black Cod. I believe seafood is a must at any Japanese restaurant unless it’s a yakitori/yakiniku place. It was an excellent choice. You’re able to taste to the delicate nature of the black cod with an even flavor of miso throughout. The cod wasn’t overcooked. I thought it was perfectly done!
Nigiri sushi - This wasn’t exactly a “dish” (more like a tasting) but my friend saw the nigiri-zushi selection and was enticed to have the Kuroge Washugyu which was the Black Angus NY Strip Steak, so I took the next choice, the Toro Salmon Aburi which was the Fatty Salmon. The softness, and tenderness of the succulent fatty salmon was like a bite of heaven. Melted right on the tongue, and I savored every moment of it. My friend ‘fell in love’ with the Black Angus NY Strip Steak nigiri-zushi. “Best piece of ‘meat’ sushi” he’s ever had.
Third dish - Chawanmushi, a steamed egg custard dish with seafood (usually) reminds me so much of the time I lived in Japan. My first encounter with this dish was when I was living in Nagoya. I went with a co-worker to a small, udon shop for lunch, and she ordered this for me, and I enjoyed it very much. Seeing that ENJB had Black Truffle Chawanmushi on their menu as one of their seasonal dishes, I knew my friend and I had to have it. ENJB’s chawanmushi was fluffy, airy, and very smooth. There was no seafood in it, mainly shrimp since I am highly allergic to it, so we were able to enjoy the full flavors of dashi, bonito and hint of truffle in this dish.
Fourth dish - Mochi Croquette. Anything with duck? Yes, please. Inside the croquette was Hudson Valley Duck and potato, and it was served in a savory, dashi broth. The consistency of mochi, and this goes for all of my mochi experiences, including sweet - mochi is sticky. When cooked in a broth or soup, I think it becomes even stickier. That’s just how rice is. I liked it, but it wasn’t my favorite. Very flavorful but where was the duck?
Fifth dish - Mmm, Berkshire pork belly is great. Here come’s the Kurobuta Kakuni - braised Berkshire pork belly in sansho miso, daikon radish, spinach with a hard-boiled egg. The pork was tender and soft; the miso completed a well-balanced blend of all the flavors of the daikon radish and spinach. The egg was a plus. Love eggs.
Dessert - Black Sesame Ice Cream. If this is on the dessert list, I’m having it. Everyone loves green tea ice cream (the boldness of the matcha flavor - a must), but I think I’m over it especially when black sesame appears. I love the taste of black sesame. It’s another level of sweetness that differs from that of red bean. It has a light, gritty texture.
There was a three for $18 sake tasting that night (from 6 to 8PM if I remember). I forgot to take photos of it. Ask for the waiter’s recommendation. Ours helped us out with the tastes we preferred. There were three shots. I remember two of the three we had, though not the names - one had hints of pear and was juicy, and the other was made with ocean water, and was slightly on the dry, salty side. The third was probably some other fruit, apple, perhaps? All very clean tasting, and not very strong. I thought the tasting was a good value. For those who are interested in sake or would like to get into it, I recommend trying the tasting. Also, there are bottles of sake, shochu, wine, beer and cocktails available.
Overall experience at ENJB - very, very good. The food, service, and ambiance were great. Our waiter was funny, helpful, and he gave us good, honest recommendations. It’s nice for a date or a group. It’s quite dark, and could be romantic. There’s a larger room that’s brighter and with communal tables from what I saw. You have an excellent view of the kitchen there with the chefs at work.
EN Japanese Brasserie
435 Hudson Street @ Leroy St.
New York, NY 10014