Brunch isn't really a concept in Japan, at least not the syrup-drenched, hash brown-represented one that we know. But recently, chef Abe Hiroki at EN Japanese Bistro started offering a special choshoku, or Japanese breakfast, menu on weekends during prime brunching hours. As with the other meals at EN, it's carefully crafted with attention paid to traditional Japanese preparations. And there are many small bowls and wooden spoons involved.
If you're in an eggs-and-sausage mood, perhaps the "brunchiest" item on the menu is the Chawanmushi ($13). The bowl is filled with a steamed egg custard studded with Kurobuta sausage medallions, scallions, and earthy, meaty mushrooms (shimeji, enoki, and shiitakes). Poke at the custard, which has a silken tofu texture, and watch it quiver slightly. The sweet sausage juices pool into the rest of the delicate custard, so just about every bite is laced with porkiness.
It comes with two diagonally-sliced halves of thick white toast, and a pat of butter, as well as EN's mizuna and watercress salad with ponzu dressing (and we can't get enough of that dressing).
If you're in a little-bit-of-this-little-of-that mood, the Shake Teishoku ($16) is delivered on quite the tray (it took up half our table!). The salt-grilled salmon, a Japanese breakfast staple, is tender, almost rare in the middle, with a layer of that great, oily fish skin on top. The fillet is garnished with pickled hajikami, a young ginger sprout, next to a mound of diced radish, as refreshing as sorbet.
Then there's the bowl of made-fresh-daily tofu (as fantastic as everyone says it'll be) in a little puddle of wari-joyu (a blend of fish broth and soy sauce), which is next to a bowl of obanzai (it varies; ours was zenmai piri-kara, or royal fern sprouts in shichimi togarash with red pepper flakes), which is next to a bowl of cloudy housemade miso soup, next to a bowl of steamed white rice, next to a plate of nori sheets, next to a wee dish of house-pickled oshinko, and another wee one of those mizuna and watercress salads.*
*See, we told you about all the tiny bowls and spoons!
EN Japanese Brasserie
435 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014 (map); 212-647-9196