435 Hudson Street between Leroy and Morton
about $125 for two, with two drinks, without tip
Our Ethan Hawke lookalike waiter at EN Japanese Brasserie seemed nervous, stuttering whenever he had to answer a question; maybe we asked too many questions. The cocktails we ordered as soon as we were seated took fifteen minutes to come and when the boy’s bourbon was served without my lychee martini, he tried to explain in so many words why. But the restaurant is known for its yuba, or homemade tofu, not for its waiters, and if you come at the right time, you can catch the next fresh batch that’s scheduled to be made. What impressed me was their otoro, or the belly, the most expensive part of a tuna fish. We had them two ways, sashimi and seared, and they were both exquisite. The sashimi was magnificent, like butter melting in your mouth, while the seared otoro was served in garlic-soy and tasted like perfect slabs of steak. After an uni sashimi, we asked for a recommended light palate cleanser. A burdock root salad was served which I thought was too heavy to be eaten in between dishes. For dessert, we ordered the yuba sorbet but a soufflé came instead. Our waiter apologized but it was never comped from our bill.
Space is hard to find in New York City, but EN has plenty of it. An inexperienced waiter can ruin a visit but EN holds its own with more pluses than minuses. High ceilings, dark wooden carvings and twigs of cherry blossoms take you away from the big city as you walk past the heavy curtains. The entire staff harmoniously greets every customer out loud in Japanese as soon as they come in and that alone can transport anyone to Shinjuku.