Japanese Brasserie Makes It Modern: Inventive Cocktails Mix It Up With Rich Traditions of Japanese Cuisine
By Lori Simmons Zelenko
With photos by Christopher Soto-Chimelis
It is Cherry Blossom time at one of New York’s most dramatic dining spots for sophisticated yet soulful Japanese Cuisine, the West Village’s EN Japanese Brasserie. Walk through the doors of this destination, a harmony of warm woods, soaring ceilings and seemingly enormous windows to let in sun and sky – or moonlight and stars on a balmy evening – and you are transported to Japan, to a poetically elegant world of measured grace and delicate flavors seasonally balanced to capture what’s fresh and flavorful right at the moment. It’s Haiku, measured and magical in its evocation of what’s true and natural in this world, on Hudson Street.
Chef Abe Hiroki creates sublime ethereal and wonderfully nuanced dishes, culled from the best his favorite fishmonger, foragers and farmers have to offer. Owners, husband and wife, Reika and Jesse Alexander, add to the authenticity; they are dedicated to serving not the conventional sushi and sashimi found on nearly every Manhattan street corner but rather Japanese izakaya, small plates of rustic dishes resembling what the Japanese regularly eat at home. This variety of unexplored flavors and textures is matched with equally unexpected combinations in the cocktail menu; naturally inspired by the traditional flavors of Japan but here combined with an American flair to merge into the truly delicious.
HAIKU HOVERS OVER THE COCKTAILS
Azuki serves as EN Brasserie’s guide to new creative pairings, ever sensitive to the evolution of flavors, for her “earth has infinity of possibilities and food and drink are the main ingredients.” We enjoy literally the fruit of the earth under her guidance with the first cocktail we taste: CUCUMBER which though perceived as a vegetable is actually, botanically speaking a fruit. The clean, sweet freshness of cuke is offset with lime juice and a salt and pepper rim, vodka accentuates its purity. Although Azuki explains that each cocktail may be mixed and matched with each dish, we do have some favorites. But overall the variety is in the ingredients and their seasonality, though there are no set flavor pairings; each cocktail is complimentary to the aesthetic of Japanese Brasserie’s remarkable cuisine.
LOCAL HONEY combines Yamazaki 12, a smooth, pleasantly floral whiskey with a zesty, fruity finish, with wasabi, Beefeater Gin and bee pollen. It’s a superb complement to the chef’s daily selection of prized Wagyu beef from Miyazaki, Japan. SPARKLING YUZU blends yuzu, mandarin-like citrus, with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Bisson “Clera” Prosecco. Essentially a Japanese answer to our Mimosa but far more subtle in its flavoring, it is a perfectly pleasant accompaniment to a relaxing brunch at EN. SEPPUN is based on Tokyo’s drink of choice, Shochu a velvety smooth spirit with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor here enriched with the traditional Japanese Shiso Leaf but given a zesty kick of citrus from grapefruit and yuzu. Though certainly a delightful aperitif, it’s a refreshing match with the fresh seafood elements so marvelously prepared by Chef Abe.
Like a stanza from a famed Japanese poet, the rhythm of cuisine and cocktails flows without pause, a transcendent synchronicity present only – to quote Sting – with every breath you take at EN Japanese Brasserie.
EN BRASSERIE FAVORITES
There is a special Mother’s Day Tasting Menu for $45 available. An exceptional assortment of EN Japanese Brasserie favorites all presented with exquisite style and including such pleasures as House Made Tofu, O-Banzai (Kyoto-style home cooking), Sashimi, Kaisen Tempura and Warm Soba Noodles followed by Kietsu No Ice Cream to cleanse the palate. A kids menu accompanies for $25.
WHERE AND WHEN: VISITING EN JAPANESE BRASSERIE
EN Japanese Brasserie is located at 435 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014 (212) 647-9196. It is open for Lunch – Monday thru Friday, Brunch – Saturday & Sunday, Dinner -Sunday thru Thursday, 5:30 PM – 10:30 PM, Friday & Saturday 5:30 PM – 11:30 AM (bar opens at 5:00 PM). For directions, menu and additional information go to www. http://enjb.com