I was invited recently to dine at Zenkichi (77 N.6th Street, at the corner of Wythe, 718-388-8985), the Japanese Brasserie that offers a range of traditional Japanese items, not the usual Sushi and Yakitori. You can order items a la carte, (like Wasabi cured Octopus, Duck Salad or Sashimi), but what's recommended is the seasonal 8-course Chef's tasting menu that changes every 5-7 weeks that provides plenty of opportunity to sample a number of items in a mostly small-plate format. The maze-like space, with dark lighting, mirrors, and private rooms with bamboo screens that roll down to enclose you and your dining companion in your own little room, creates a quiet and slightly mysterious atmosphere and allows you to focus on the food, which is definitely worth paying attention to.
The 8-course tasting menu started off with a bowl of miso soup, which, unlike previous experiences, had little pieces of some kind of starchy root vegetable instead of tofu. Slices of scallion were also mixed into the delicious, soothing broth.
The second course consisted of a platter of four different items: a spoon of Hamachi Tartar (yellowtail & scallion), a tiny bowl of shredded cabbage with vinegar, seared scallops and a small bowl of creamy tofu topped with uni sea urchin. The fresh tofu was of a consistency I've never had it - creamy and soft, with the strange textured sea urchin paired with it. The Hamachi Tartar was excellently fresh and flavorful, the cabbage refreshing & tart and the scallops tender and meaty. Everything was also beautifully presented.
Our next course was Jidori and Shinoko Salad - grilled free-range chicken & mushrooms on a bed of greens with an onion-ginger dressing. The chicken was so tasty - expertly grilled and seasoned, on a full bed of greens with a savory, full-flavored dressing.
The Shrimp, Uni Sea Urchin & Cod Fish Cake Tempura, wrapped in Shiso Leaf and Lotus Root was next, and it came with a bowl of tempura sauce and a dish of green tea salt that was so delicious and appealing, we were dipping our fingers in it! The tempura batter was light and the shrimp was tender and fresh. Each course was only a bite or two, which made for fun and exciting eating, enjoying one course and then expectantly waiting for the next.
Then we were brought a dish with Japanese Eggplant and Mochi Sticky Rice Cake in a light broth. The juxtaposition of the mushy, tasty eggplant and the chewy mochi rice cake was so strange and intriguing. I loved it!
Next was my favorite - the Grilled Black Cod in a Miso Marinade. The sweet & salty blackened skin was delicious next to the dense and meaty cod. It made us swoon! A little pink flower of daikon radish accompanied the fish.
Finally we received a bowl of Soy-Marinaded Red Snapper over a bowl of Rice. Again, the fish was so tender, so fresh and tasty, it was almost unbelievable. Some pickled radish was served with it to provide some tang.
All along we were sipping glasses of Kokuryu Sake, which was a strong, round, rice-y sake that I loved. The Sake Sommelier, Motoko Watanabe, made a few suggestions prior to our meal and brought out tastes of a few bottles. There was also a young, first-batch sake (Harushika), Bosha which was very floral, and the Daishichi which was very sharp and strong. And, after all that food, we had dessert to look forward to.
The chocolate-based Frozen Black Sesame Mousse that was incredible, silky and strangely nutty.
We also got an order of the Japanese-style non-baked Cheesecake with Pear. It was creamy and light and the touch of pear was a lovely addition.
So let me sum-up! I know I often speak in hyperbole, but this really was a most perfect and delicious meal. The sake was delicious, the food was amazing, the service impeccable and attentive. At only $48 per person for the 8-course tasting menu, it really is an affordable way to have a decadent, luxurious meal.