Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Before last night, I had never sat down to a full, multi-course, Japanese kaiseki meal. But I landed a reservation at Bouley's new TriBeCa hot spot, brushstroke. Ten courses, three hours (the courses moved a little too fast for my taste, a persistent NYC problem). We ordered an extra course, just to be cute.

Our meal began with outstanding cocktails--muddled red grapes in liqueur for me, and kiwi in green tea foam for my dining companion. Next, our first course, a Hassun, or seasonal appetizer: skewered, gently smoked salmon cube; gooseberry; turkey liver pate; Japanese berry; mushroom in sesame oil. A kabocha squash soup--undersalted, I felt--came next, with maitake mushrooms and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Then: a sashimi trio that could have come right from the ocean. Perfect, pink tuna. Toothsome fluke. Clean, sweet Spanish mackerel.

A remarkable chawan mushi, or Japanese egg custard, with uni and black truffle broth.

A nearly inedible duo of sardine sushi on rice, so fishy that after one, I pushed my plate away.

For a palate cleanser, a beautiful yin and yang of cold onion puree, beet puree, stewed onions, and onion crisps, which reminded me, in the best way possible, of Lipton's onion soup.

Poached lobster in a clam and edamame broth with a scallop dumpling did not disappoint, and neither did slick and fatty pork belly, marinated in pepper and served with malanga yam puree and ponzu. Our rice courses were a hit and a miss. Stewed wagyu beef over rice was an epic success, redolent of brisket and accompanied by a soothing red miso broth and salty cucumber and cabbage pickles. But a crab and mushroom hot pot was underseasoned, with overcooked crab and nearly nonexistent mushrooms. The pickle side included a dried fish pickle, which I wasn't expecting and which left a horrible fish aftertaste in my wearied palate.

Dessert? Awe inspiring. A quenelle of vanilla-soy ice cream arrived with toasted buckwheat and hit all the necessary notes of savory and sweet. Ditto for the soy milk custard, finished with green tea and a rich, hidden caramel at the bottom of the bowl. Crispy, delicious rice paper candy came as a petit four, along with frothy and warm green tea. It was a remarkable finish to a mostly remarkable meal.

30 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10013

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