Two friends and I had dinner at EN Japanese Brasserie on Wednesday evening. EN is part of the city’s new hip trend for big-box Japanese restaurants with Nobu-inspired menus. It is one of the pleasanter destinations in that genre. Our reservation was at 6:30, a time when the restaurant is still comparatively empty. However, we were impressed with the high ceilings and the wide spacing of the tables. Even at peak time, I suspect my companions and I wouldn’t have had to shout (as we did at the comparatively claustrophobic BLT Prime).
Service was about as efficient as one could hope for. Obviously it helped that the place was nearly empty at that hour, but a sparsely-populated dining room is never any guarantee of the server’s undivided attention.
As at other restaurants in the genre, you’re encouraged to order a variety of small plates, and share. One is never sure precisely how many of these plates are enough to make a meal. Our waiter naturally advised us to err on the high-side; his upselling wasn’t unctuous, but certainly we were aware of it. Anyhow, we chose four items, and once those were finished, ordered a fifth.
We had two types of sushi rolls with different tangy dipping sauces, shrimp fritters, a tempura sampler, and the obligatory miso black cod. The latter didn’t erase memories of the signature dish at Nobu, but all were wonderfully prepared. The tempura batter was crispy and light; the sushi rolls crisp and flavorful. This is definitely the way to order at EN, as I don’t think any of these dishes would have been nearly as successful as one’s only entrée.
If we had any complaint, it was the speed at which the dishes arrived. The trend at these “small plate” restaurants is to deliver the food at the chef’s convenience, instead of the customer’s. After we ordered, it seemed we barely had time to blink before the food came trooping gaily out of the kitchen. It’s not that they needed our table; I just think it’s the way the restaurant is put together.
EN has one of the most ridiculously over-engineered, yet simultaneously unhelpful, websites . The menu shown there is far from complete. Frank Bruni complained of “an extremely long, confusing menu” in his one-star review. It appears there has been some simplification since then. The menu is now a single page, which makes it shorter than the Nobu menu.
As at any Japanese restaurant, it’s easy to spend a ton of money in a hurry. But our experience at EN showed that it is by no means necessary. We were out of there for $35 a head, including tax and tip, but without any alcohol.
EN Japanese Brasserie (435 Hudson Street at Leroy Street, Hudson Square)