Cititour: The New York Guide to Events, Restaurants, Music, and Nightlife



Cuisine: Japanese

Chef: Koji Nakano

Cititour Review:

There are those restaurants that take your breath away upon entry, where the design is so spectacular, that you really don't care what you are fed, as long as you can stay awhile, perhaps with a glass of wine, or even a bit of water. Spice Market, with its jewel-toned lanterns, and sexy Indian soiree vibe comes to mind, as does Public, in another more minimalist yet equally enthralling sort of way. And on a rainy night last week, walking through the heavy, tall doors and into EN, a new Japanese Brasserie that opened on a lonely stretch of Hudson Street a few weeks ago, I was hit by that sort of a design whamee. I honestly didn't care what I ate that night as long as I could stay and stare at the space. It is stunning, but in a quiet way. Adam Kushner (Kushner Studios Architecture and Design) and Ichiro Sato of Age Designs are responsible for the restaurant's breathtaking interior. Vaulted ceilings—palatial in height—with delicately carved wooden accents adorning the walls, candle light, Chinese lantern fruit strung up on bamboo poles, Japanese clay vases, and low, glamorous lighting create the magnificent Zen temple décor. EN is the debut project of Bunkei Yo and his sister Reika Yo, Japanese restaurateurs with a desire to introduce New Yorkers to the lesser-known flavors of traditional Japanese home cooking. EN was originally born in the suburbs of Japan where it opened as a small spot on the 3rd floor of a building without an elevator. Bunkei's concept for EN was to marry the tapas-styled pub fare of Izakaya restaurants (like Kasadela here in New York) with the gracious hospitality of the finest Ryotei—very intimate and quite fancy 4-star establishments. The concept was unheard of, but two dozen restaurants later, well, it seems Bunkei was onto something. And why not share it with those Americans (or at least New Yorkers). I am certainly glad they did. And so EN comes to New York from far away, and brings with it the spirit and cuisine of a Japan we really have not yet known. For instance, have you ever had homemade tofu ($7)? Well, at EN you can, and should. The squiggly soy stuff comes out every few hours and is served in a deep and stunning lacquered Japanese box, with a matching wooden spoon/ladle and a carafe of wari-joyu, a light sauce of soy and dashi. And it tastes good, but in an interesting way—light, soft, delicately creamy and almost tasteless, and yet oddly addictive. For those of you who are interested in some non-soy based menu items, have no fear, there are plenty to chose from—the menu is divided among small cold plates, small hot plates, large dishes from the grill and kitchen, rice and noodles, and sushi and sashimi. We loved the raw tuna and avocado salad—cubes of dark red tuna tossed with chunks of lime green avocado dressed in a sneaky wasabi soy sauce with a sprinkling of nori. It was simple, but WAY good. We also tried the En Miso Sampler—a glorious crudite of purple and white cabbage on ice with a variety of homemade miso pastes—sesame, peanut, spicy, and nutmeg. (They make 30 varieties of miso at EN, and the selections change daily.) The miso is divine—thick, zippy spreads that are devilishly assertive. My favorite was the sesame. It's the sort of spread that should be slathered with abandon on the cabbage leaves, passersby, and/or dates. Sushi and sashimi were next—we ordered the nigiri sushi set for 2 ($45) a long ceramic platter dotted with lovely rectangles of magnificent sushi (chu toro, kanpachi, salmon, uni, shima aji, and more—silky, delicate, and stellar—and two rows of rolls (toro scallion and okra and salmon and avocado). After the sushi we went for some large dishes from the grill and were blown away by the stone-grilled organic chicken ($15). Who knew plain old chicken could be so damn exciting? But let me just say tell you all that this chicken is a total knockout. It is fabulous—served in thin slices, with crispy skin on a sizzling slab of stone with a trio of condiments—green sansho pepper, black pepper and a garlic soy dipping sauce. The thing to do is dredge the chicken in the peppers, then swish it though the soy, and then take a bite. Salty, spicy, and sweet wrapped in a crisped skin. Delish! We were also very into our Berkshire pork belly ($13) braised until its fat melts down and glistens over the tender belly meat and then glazed in sansho miso. It was a delicious way to end to a pretty delicious meal. The one let down at EN for me was dessert. I wouldn't bother with these; this part of the menu needs some attention —even the ice creams were chalky. So skip dessert and instead, retire to the low-lit, temple-like lounge and have a cocktail (a much more effective waste of calories).

Review By: Andrea Strong

Neighborhood: West Village

435 Hudson Street
New York, NY
(212) 647-9196

Entree Price: $20-25
Payment: Amex Visa Mastercard