New York, NY 10014
I never thought the day would come, but I went to dinner not with my other half, but with one of my childhood heroes, Tyke Modaroth. You may not know him, but he claims to have created the old TV show 'Land of the Lost' and for that I am in awe of him. I remember enjoying that show very much when I was younger, even though I don't remember any specifics about the actual show. Anyway, during the middle of the day, I received a secret message from Tyke asking me to dinner. I was both flattered and disgusted, but I accepted as this might be my only chance to destroy him and get a good nights rest. Tyke is a magical and mysterious man, not having ever been to En Japanese but somehow knowing exactly where it would be located. He never ceases to please and amaze me!
I was expecting a run-of-the-mill Japanese dining experience at En Japanese, but I will immediately tell you that I was very pleasantly proven wrong. The place is very big and the space is interesting. You go in and it's pretty dark. There is a bar right inside the entrance and a doorway that leads to several very nice bathrooms. I guess more restaurants are realizing that I may have to go to the BATHROOM in their establishment one day and improving the facilities to meet my exacting standards. The main dining area has very high ceiling and concrete looking walls. To the right is the kitchen and when we entered the staff saluted us with a cheer. They were probably saluting my celebrity friend but I felt good nonetheless to be noticed for once in my miserable existence. In the center of the room is a square seating area with some bizarre sculpture in the middle. I'm glad I wasn't sitting there - that area is for the losers! We got the best corner booth in the whole place. This way we could see everyone - I could snipe anyone in the entire place from that spot and be gone before the shell hit the floor - BOYAH! Anyway, the dining room is very nice.
We decided to order a bunch of different things and share it. Sharing is what friends do. I started with Pear Cider. It tasted like a light, nice beer with pear flavor. Yum yum! First came one of the most delicious things I have had in awhile and a big surprise for me because I did not expect it to be so good - fresh made tofu - who would have thought? If I had to give you a comparison, think of fresh homemade mozarella in a milk bath. This is on that level. Soft, creamy tofu - not that block of tasteless, bland stuff you get in the market. It comes in a bath of its own milk and they offer you some light, sweet sauce to pour over it. The stuff is amazing and you are doing yourself an extreme disservice if you skip it. The only catch is that it is limited by what they make and they dont make it constantly throughout the night I think. Try your best to get some.
For the rest, we each chose a few things. I wisely chose the Mochi Croquette - potato filled with duck. The sticky potato with small bits of duck and sitting in a sweet sauce - wonderful. I had never had a dish like this at a Japanese restaurant before and was excited about the rest of the meal now. Next came some perfectly fried pieces of sea bass. Flaky and sweet with a golden crust. The blue crab miso soup came with crab pieces and shell to remind us it was fresh and contained real crab. I had no doubt when I tasted it.
The main entrees of sorts came next. I ordered the kakuni braised berkshire pork belly and it was very good. It came with some root vegetable and spicy, hot mustard. The pork was soft and maybe I would have liked it a tad firmer. It came with an interesting egg accompaniment - it was a whole, hard-boiled egg. It looked like it had the shell on but the brown was from stewing in the broth I guess. Very nice. My host ordered the miso saikyo black cod. This is a dish on the menu of many places in NYC but I was assured that it held its own here.
The place isn't a sushi place and we have both eaten at some of the best in NYC, but we were pleasantly surprised at what we received. 10 pieces of sushi each each and 16 or 20 rolls ( I cant remember) to share. Each of the 10 sushi pieces was different and I thought they were fresh and tasted very good. The tuna rolls had actual small chunks of tuna in them as opposed to some paste made from the pieces of tuna that the chef wanted to get rid of.
Overall, the food here is very good and considering the prices that some Japanese places charge in the city, it can't be beat. We guessed it was because of the competition and possibly the location, but I suspect that if it can survive and people start to realize it is high quality, the prices here will go up like all others. But until then (and even after that happens), you should check the place out because it is a refreshing change from what is becoming a monotony of sameness (albeit a fresh and tasty sameness) in the Japanese restaurant scene in NYC.
COST: Everything mentioned here, plus tax and tip for 2 - $175