Review – Zenkichi

The Omakase menu, Premium Sake Flight

Our reason for the visit was due to SeriousEats, naming this ‘the best $55 omakase we know’. We were already quite disappointed by their Banh Mi Zon rated #1, as we prefer Saigon and a few others over it. Thus, one must be careful when giving accolade, as deeming a place superlative means above all else. It was on our bookmarks for awhile now, so all the more reason to go. Besides, 4 stars on Yelp usually means a go for Jeff.

We entered what looks like a nondescript wooden barn door. We are confused with two sets of entrances. After being greeted by our host, we are taken upstairs to a private table. We are asked if this was our first visit. When we say yes, the menu layout is described to us in an inviting manner. We peruse the selections and notice this timeframe coincides with Dine-In Brooklyn (3 courses/$25), but we opt for our intended meal, the 8 course omakase for $55, curious to see what the hype is all about.

Tako, Zenkichi Salad

Early Spring Omakase
Our 8-course Omakase Tasting Menu changes every season to showcase the best ingredients at the time. Items marked with * are not available as a la carte.  $55 per guest (min. 2)

1. Miso Soup – noticed they added broken snap peas and cabbage in this, lighter than most we’ve had. Still prefer Donburiya’s to this.

2. <Chilled Plate
    -Red Snapper & Nanohana Ohitashi* – Spring sea bream from Japan (sashimi), broccoli rabe: chilled bonito broth – the Sea Bream was thinly sliced, not sinewy but fresh and melty, AMAZING, probably the best snapper we’ve had, they also thew in a bamboo shoot dish
   -Tako & Arima Sansho* -Simmered octopus in soy broth, Arima sanso peppers, the tako (cooked) was one of the highlights of the night, reminded us of Mom’s Chinese food
   -Sashimi of the Day from Japan – this happened to be Hamachi, got 2pcs each, very good

3. Zenkichi Salad
Homemade tofu, baby greens, sesame dressing – As simple as this dish was, the sesame dressing was perfect: delicate and not overpowering, may be too much salad for some though. The tofu was CRACKTACULAR. Move over EN and Yakitoro Totto, Zenkichi is in your league.

4. Tempura*
Shrimp, asparagus, young corn – The panko was super light and provided an airy envelope to each ingredient,  the green tea salt was quite original, very good.

Mixed Tempura, Lamb Tataki (rare)

5. Saikyo Miso Cod
Grilled black cod in Kyoto miso marinade – We’ve had this dish a thousand times, and Kyo-Ya is still king. Good, but nothing outstanding about it.

6. Lamb Chop Tataki (rare)
Simply seasoned with coarse salt & black pepper: served with ginger onion sauce – aka 1 frenched lambchop each, looked like New Zealand lamb as it was a smaller cut, cooked to perfection and quite satisfying

7. Buri Tartar Donburi*
Fatty yellowtail tartar served over rice – this is where we encountered a hard piece of rice the size of a golf ball in our bowl and sent it back. Other than that, it was average.

8. Choice of dessert
   -Frozen Black Sesame Mousse – Chocolate-based silky frozen black sesame mousse – you get 2 scoops, we have no idea how this got so silky yet firm, but we love it. This dessert is truly a contender for Sakagura, which we deemed best til this point. The cookie provided a nice crunch to complement.
   -Grapefruit Gelee – enjoyed it better than the Matsugen one, as instead of tasting ‘bits’ of grapefruit, we tasted chunks on the bottom, with a smooth jelly like consistency on top, I tried this

Also ordered:
Premium Sake ($23) – which offer a variety of flavors in 3 tastings. We enjoyed the Chikurin Karoyaka the best as it was the most fragrant. There is an alternative Regular Sake tasting (3/$18) which we opted out of.

Petit fours (gratis) – We had these chocolate truffle balls at the end that were TO DIE FOR!

(+) Fresh ingredients, good overall quality
(+) Good variety for omakase
(+) Buzzer allows for inobtrusive service
(+) Dividers allow for privacy
(+) No gimmicky spicy tuna rolls
(+) Plates were hot/cold to complement dishes
(+) Choice of dessert

(-) No free tea here, it’ll cost you $5 a pot
(-) The waiting area, albeit Zen, smells like a bathroom
(-) There was a lump of hard rice in our buri tartar. Kinda nasty if you ask us. They apologized several times and offered a free pot of tea for the mishap.
(-) Did not leave full off the omakase
(-) Super safe dishes (but expected for Kaiseke cuisine)

Verdict: 4/5 stars

Black sesame, Grapefruit gelee

This is one of those places that has solid food, but you don’t necessarily leave full. Well, not without dropping some ducats anyway. Put it this way: it took drinking 3 pots of Green Tea to make us somewhat full. Did it live up to the hype? In short, yes. However, one could argue that for 5 dishes and less money, you could go to Tsukushi, which pays just as much detail (if not more) and also falls under Japanese kaiseke cuisine. You may also combine your own omakase via a la carte menu at Sakagura for the same food quality, volume and money. We wish there was such attention to detail paid in every restaurant. Would we go back to try the a la carte menu? Absolutely, without hesitation. There should be one of these restaurants in every neighborhood. The omakase, 3 pots of Green Tea (1 comped) and 1 Premium Sake Tasting came out to $90/pp. We left happy though, and so will you.

More pics after the jump

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