Sunday, April 3, 2011

Japanese Williamsburg Style at Zenkichi

On Sunday, Thanan and I tackled another Dine-in Brooklyn venue, conveniently located in my neck of the woods: Zenkichi.

Zenkichi is an unassuming restaurant, located on a lowkey block of Williamsburg, distinct with its sleek, dark wood exterior nestled among its plain, bricked neighbors.

Inside, the restaurant is dark, minimal but beautifully decorated.  As you ascend the stairs, you will note the slate river pebbles lining the walls and the jazz music in the background, and the semi-private booths lining the entire second floor.  The cute, petite and ever polite waitress will raise the blinds to your booth, welcoming you to gracefully slide in.

She will hand you the leather-bound menus, point out the button built into the dark table to use to request service, and she will swiftly lower the blinds to give you privacy and a necessary moment to gush:
"This place is TOO COOL" or "this place is SO CUTE" or "OHMIGOD I LOVE THIS PLACE."  And it will be fine to gush because you are doing it behind thin-wooden blind curtains, and no one else can theoretically see.  So. Genius.  

After receiving hot eucalyptus scented towels (lovethat), we were served a trio of Japanese tapas/amusebouches/freebites.  I think this ended up being Thanan's favorite part of the meal.

More specifically the chewy, fresh octopus lightly tossed in wasabi was Thanan's favorite part of the meal.

The black seaweed was also savory and tasty.

As was the sweetened, cured lotus root.

The three dishes were unique and interesting starters that made us more excited for what was to come.  We ordered off the dine-in Brooklyn menu and each got different options to share:

The fresh, housemade tofu was served in a charming, red lacquered layered box:

The middle layer housed the tofu toppings:

The bottom layer had the tofu crown jewels with fat, green lima beans and strands of seaweed.

Most times you may find Thanan scowling or judging people, but his face is totally serene when he is serving himself a fat serving of fresh tofu.

I am a bad Japanese eater.  I have no idea what the toppings were aside from the green onions.  I assume the orange is masago? but your guess is as good as mine.  The toppings were quickly forgotten with the initial bite of tofu--It was remarkably fresh, delicate, smooth and ultimately cooling to the palate.  Yum!

The other appetizer option on the menu was the maguro carpaccio: medium tuna sashimi topped with a green pepper yuzu sauce served atop thinly julienned, dressed carrots.

The thick slices of tuna were meaty and fresh.  The sauce was light and tasty, accenting but not overwhelming the tuna. 

Our entrees were served with nice bowls of perfectly cooked Japanese rice.  After eating sandwiches and other American dishes for the past couple of weeks, this bowl of rice never looked so good.

The star entree was the black miso cod: two gorgeous chunks of cod grilled with a Kyoto miso marinade.

This miso cod is a work of art.  I could look at it for hours!  Of course, eating it is even better.  The cod could be flaked as individual layers, soft and practically melting in your mouth.  The miso marinade was slightly sweet, savory and simply satisfying.

I am a sucker for vegetably things that are shaped like flowers. 

The second entree was the pork kakuni.  If there is pork belly on the menu, you know I gots to order it.

The pork belly arrived in a black cast iron pan as two thick fatty slabs immersed in a broth with scallions, a cube of firm tofu and a bright hard-boiled egg.

Thanan let me have the larger slice of pork belly.  Mmm. More. Fat. The best thing a girl could hope for!

This pork dish reminds me of something my mom makes; hers is superior (of course - and I'm not saying that because she reads this blog ha) because hers is more flavorful.  The menu cites this dish as having "a sweet but complex flavor" but I think it is more simple than complex--you can taste the natural flavor of the pork belly and nothing much more than that.  It's good...but if you are not careful to ration out the fat with each piece of meat, you may find yourself chewing on bland, stringy meat and not enjoying the dish.  If you eat gobs of the skin with each bite, you may find yourself loving life again.

Love eggs in any form!
For dessert, the options were walnut chocolate pudding or frozen black sesame mousse.  Hello.  Give us the black sesame mousse already!  (Like there's a real choice here!)

The black sesame mousse was generously portioned with two perfectly round scoops balanced inside an adorable bamboo cup.  The mousse was frozen hard, forcing you to eat the dessert slowly, savoring the subtle, smokiness from the black sesame, while remarking upon the wonders of the impossibly cool and charming restaurant.

I feel Zenkichi is best described as a Japanese speakeasy - it's a hidden gem in the neighborhood that more people should trek out to experience.  It's unique, interesting and most importantly, delicious.

77 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11230
Zenkichi on Urbanspoon


  1. everything is SUPERCUTE!! how do japanese people make such amazing rice? i feel like other asians need to learn haha. sesame mousse!! beautiful tofu!! gahhh...

  2. I've always wanted to try fresh tofu. I think Japanese food is more artful than any other cuisine - so beautiful.