10 Great Sake Dens
by Michael Anstendig, New York Observer contributor, 02/27/2009
5. EN Japanese Brasserie
435 Hudson St. • 212-647-9196
The first incursion of a well-known Nipponese chain into the US, EN Japanese Brasserie shows that quality and authenticity can be cloned—or at least propagated. The dimly lit bar area, with its soaring 20-foot ceilings, invokes an imperial palace. Walls are adorned with intricately carved wood panels and checkerboard patterns of beige and aqua-tinted rice paper. A rough-hewn cherrywood bar, which seats six, is supplemented by long pine-topped tables and stools. The 40-bottle sake menu is divided into user-friendly categories more common to the mainstream wine world, like "smooth and round" and "light and crisp." A flight of three sakes makes for a quick orientation: the Hira Izumi, a junmai from a 26th-generation brewery, has a slight caramel nose and is light on the palate; the Biho, a ginjo brewed by a female sake maker in Hiroshima, has a hint of grapefruit; and the Nanago, a daiginjo from Nagano, pleases with notes of apple and melon. Bar nibbles include dainty portions of Kyoto-style long-simmered vegetables and seasoned seaweed. There are also two-dozen shochus, beer and international wines. Both veterans and novitiates will appreciate this accommodating portal to the sake realm.
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