Friday, August 08, 2008

Best A Little Better Than Expected

Anonymous might be wetting his chops at the chance to thumbs down what at first glance could be taken for a food post, but this has actually got a good deal of exposition and opinioning, it might not enrage him, who knows.

In New York there is this twice-annual thing that I've always ignored called New York City Restaurant Week. The premise of Restaurant Week is that during its two-week span a lengthy list of New York restaurants, ranging from the slightly nice to the rather fancy, offer special prix fixe lunches and dinners so that all of New York City may taste of their fineness and indulge in their ambiance. The whole thing strikes me as a trick and waste of time and money...if I wanted to eat at one of these restaurants so bad, I'd just do it. The way I see it "bargain" of the prix fixe dinners isn't that bargainy, you're still spending about $40 on dinner or $30 on lunch, the selections offered in these special meals is barely a selection, and there is much talk of mistreatment by restaurants trying to cycle as many bothersome Restaurant-Weekers through their doors as possible.

So, rule of thumb, Restaurant Week + Me = No. BUT just as I would NEVER go to Dallas BBQ unless I was invited by Patricia and Laura (so, so long ago now) there is an exemption for Restaurant Week, an Ali & Liz exemption. If Ali & Liz ask me to go to Restaurant Week, I will go. Once, at least. And this "once" happened last week and our restaurant was En Japanese Brasserie.

Also joining us for the meal was Liz's friend from out of town, Chris, who I think I called "Dave" at least four timest that night. (or once)

(across the table things didn't go as well) Blammo!

En lives in a big but not huge but very high-ceilinged space on Hudson Street. I've walked by it lots before. The menu is supposed to be very-homey, Kyoto-style cuisine (hey, I've been there! see see see?) but the menu didn't look so super different to me from Nobu or Morimoto or, you know, all those other fancy New York Japanese mega-restaurants.

After examining the menu and the economics of Restaurant Week we all decided it would be much brighter to order whatever we wanted to from the menu instead of signing on for the Restaurant Week menu.

With that decision made, I ordered the Restaurant Week dinner cuz if I was going to do Restaurant Week I was going to do Restaurant Week and I wanted to know if I was right or not. Now, by the end of the night I had plenty to complain about on the RW side of things, but in organizing these pictures for blogging I found myself experiencing unexpectedly fond flavor-flashbacks on what I ate that night. So I guess that means that even though shortly after the dinner had ended I was like "I knew it! They totally mistreated me!" and "The food was nice, but I'd never go there instead of Nobu" I must have actually liked what I ate quite a bit afterall. Time tells, I suppose.


My dinner experience began with a the chef's selection of sashimi. Very micro, but good fish. Those little balls are rolled up slices of fluke.

Ali started with the "Yama-Imo Isobe-Age" (cutted and pasted from their menu so don't tell me I got that wrong), deep fried mountain yam with edamame mixed in it like a samosa wrapped with nori. Tasty, hearty and they remind me that En was edamame mad. They added edamame to every dish possible, my rice even had edamame mixed in with it.

Liz got their very nice fried chicken, absolutely no complaints with that treat at all, and on the left there are the remnants of Ali's grilled pork shoulder, which was decent but not much more than that.

My entree was the Kakuni, braised berkshire pork belly in sansho miso with a hardboiled egg, spinach, and spicy mustard. Perhaps the reason I didn't pass on the RW menu was because it featured pork belly? We all know how I feel about that cut of meat (very strongly, that's how I feel. And in favor.) The whole dish was very beefy in flavor, from the meat to the broth. Basically it was Sunday Dinner in a bowl as the braising left the belly shreddy not unlike a fatty piece of roast beef. Light internet research has revealed to me that shiso miso is miso made with sichuan peppers, so that doesn't explain the beef flavor of the meal at all (I was given a bowl of shiso miso soup which also tasted very there you go).

Liz and Ali both ordered cold noodle dishes with accompanying dipping sauces. Catching your noodles and dipping them in the cups of sauce proved to be too much for us to pull off with any dignity, refinement, or elegance.

And if you were wondering what Chris got, he got exactly what I got.

The RW meal was supposed to include a dessert, the "chef's choice" dessert. We were told that night the chef had chosen for us a scoop of green tea ice cream. I told them I didn't "eat" green tea and asked if I could have a different flavor. They told me Sorry, No, it's green tea ice cream or nothing else, we can't be bothered to scoop from a different carton for you. No accomodations offered, not adjustment on RW bargain price made (leaving me to wish only a little that I had just ordered the sushi and pork belly, probably would have saved about $7 that way). It's not like I said "I don't like pork belly, can I get a bunch of shrimp instead?", I was still playing within the bounds of Restaurant if I had asked them not to put an orange slice with my sashimi. This airline meal-like inflexibility, founded on there not being any info as to what the chef's choice was going to be (if I had known that dessert was green tea ice cream, no exceptions, would I have passed on the RW menu? Very quite possibly, actually) and just being stuck with the way things had to be was just what I had been looking for in my RW expectations of difficulty. Do I mean to make a furious stink over a scoop of ice cream? Nope. But I've definitely been to restaurants where the scoop of coffee ice cream advertised as accompanying the little molten cake or whatever was happily substituted with another flavor--that's what a decent restaurant will do when they're treating you decently. And EN was pretty decent, but they held onto that Restaurant week crapiness with tenacity.

Anyway. The food was satisfactory, the company extraordinary, and the disappointments exactly what I had been looking forward to. So that means it was a perfectly decent little Friday night that I had last week.

Let us close with the spoils of a postprandrial paparazzi attack.

1 comment:

JayMoo and Stephoin said...

That was some of your best food photography so far by the way.