We were recently in New York for a whirlwind trip to see my dear friend get married, and despite the crazy schedule, we still managed – as we always do – to sneak in a good meal (or four…but this particular one was outside of the wedding festivities). The place was a recommendation of the bride-to-be herself, and quite a good one. It’s in Brooklyn, it’s called Zenkichi, and woe be to the one who tries to return from a bathroom trip there without assistance from the staff (I’ll explain that part later).
The restaurant is located behind an unassuming fence, and the inside is dark, with many winding hallways leading to individual booths enclosed by roll-down screens. It’s cozy and romantic, and gives the feeling that you might be outside at night.
While you can order a la carte at Zenkichi, the menu centers on their Omakase ($75/person), a seasonal tasting menu, and that is what we got. We also got the accompanying sake tasting. Apologies for the photo darkness…it was, well, dark in there.
We started with the Assorted Chilled Plate, which included (counterclockwise from the little bamboo thing at top right) Three Kinds of Kinoko Mushrom Ohitashi, Kensaki Squid Honwasabi-ae, Pear & Watercress Shira-ae, Autumn Salmon Namerou, and Fig & Miso Cream. Everything was delicious, though I think the ultra-savory mushrooms might have been my favorite. The dish was served with Masumi “Hiyaoroshi” sake, which was a nice complement to the dish.
Next up, Three Kinds of Chef’s Premium Sashimi (if I recall correctly, tuna, hamachi, and snapper, but I could be wrong). I always love sashimi, and this was good, if not particularly innovative (nor was it the BEST I’ve ever had). It was served with Taiheikai sake in lovely bell-shaped glasses.
This was followed by Fried Oyster and Portobello Mushroom, served with Japanese citrus and sea salt and accompanied by Seikyo “Maboroshi” sake, our first served in a traditional sake vessel. I was nervous about this course, as I’ve had and dislike fried oysters in the past, but it was light and crunchy and delicious (both oyster and mushroom), and as a salt and citrus lover I was delighted by the offered condiments, which cut nicely through the richer fried food.
The fourth course was Zenkichi Homemade Tofu & Ikura, a creamy homemade tofu topped with salmon roe. I love me some salmon roe, and the salt of the roe plus the creamy neutral tofu was delicious. It was paired with Kamoizumi “Shusen” sake in a pretty pink cup.
At this point in the meal, I was not at all full – everything had been nice and light – but never fear, there was more still to come! Saikyo Miso Cod was served with Tenranzan “Koten” sake. The cod – black cod to be specific – was meltingly tender, cooked in a miso marinade and served with Japanese ginger. The sake was actually aged sake, something I’d never tasted before, and had an interesting caramelly flavor.
Mugi-Fuji Pork Belly Kaku-ni came with Wakatake “Onikoroshi” sake. The pork belly was braised and served in a dashi broth with a soft-boiled egg, seasonal vegetables, and Japanese mustard. The Boy doesn’t do well with fatty meats, so this wasn’t his jam, but I enjoyed it. It wasn’t my favorite course, but it was still very tasty.
The final savory course didn’t have a sake pairing – Hokkaido Zuwai Snow Crab & Autumn Salmon/Ikura Donburi. Snow crab and salmon were served over rice with thin shavings of egg omelet and salmon roe, miso soup coming alongside. It was the perfect ending – simple, getting us to just full enough, and the kind of food I wish I could eat for dinner every night.
Dessert was a choice of anything offered, and we went with the Frozen Black Sesame Mousse and Mineoka Tofu, plus the Classic Dessert Sake Tasting for good measure. While Japan isn’t known for its desserts, these were both good – light and not too sweet. The mousse was heavily sesame flavored, and the tofu was basically a Japanese custard, served with red beans and a perfect strawberry. The most interesting sake was the Ishino Kura “Himezen” (left), which tasted nothing like sake and basically like a fruity sweet wine, though we also enjoyed trying the contrasting Kamoizumi Nigori (center) and the Tenranzan “Koten” (right, appearing in the meal for the second time).
Overall all, it was an awesome meal for a good value (tasting menus like this can be upwards of $100 easily at some places), and we came out happy and a bit tipsy. Fair warning – both of tried to go to the bathroom at different times and got lost on the way back. The combo of winding hallways, enclosed booths, and sake makes it very hard to know where you came from (the Boy nearly walked straight into a mirror, which I found hilarious). That aside, Zenkichi would make for a wonderful date night with your Japanese-food-loving partner, should you find yourself with a free night in Brooklyn.
77 N 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211