|Shrimp and corn tempura stuffed with camembert cheese. A surprising combination that somehow works.|
Instead, the dimly lit interior consists of narrow hallways that intersect with one another at right angles. Large bamboo poles reach up from the ground floor through the two levels of dining space, and full length mirrors make it difficult to tell where the hallways end and the mirror space begins. Secluded tables are set in alcoves along the sides of each hallway and, as you pass each one, customers speaking in low voices are partially visible behind a screen that has been pulled down for privacy.
The menu offers a nice assortment of Japanese-inspired small plates accompanied by about fifty different kinds of sake. Disappointingly, the frenetic pace at which the dishes are served somewhat detracts from the atmosphere.
|A serving of the Zenkichi salad with soft homemade tofu|
|Jidori chicken with lemon and yuzu salt|
Simply grilled Jidori chicken is cooked really nicely, with crispy skin, and accompanied by a wedge of lemon and a small mound of yuzu pepper. The yuzu pepper is incredibly pungent and flavorful and must be used sparingly; it adds a tangy flavor that nicely balances the chicken.
The rest of the menu is perfectly competent, albeit nothing special. A fun Japanese chicken "meatball" consists of seasoned ground chicken stuffed into a bamboo pole and served a soft egg dipping sauce and a wooden paddle for scooping the chicken out of the pole. There is the obligatory black cod with miso, which is tasty but nothing to write home about.
|Hot udon in a dashi broth with soft poached egg|
|Shrimp and fish cake tempura with shiso|
This would be a problem at any restaurant, but at Zenkichi the style of dining actually makes it worse. To begin with, the small plates format works best when the guest has the opportunity to savor each dish individually, the meal becoming a parade of deliciousness rather than a bombardment of all different flavors at once. With such interesting dishes, the restaurant would be better served by letting the guests enjoy each one. Two at a time would be fine too, so long as the courses were adequately spaced out.
|Walnut chocolate pudding|
Perhaps I'd be better off ordering only a dish or two at a time, pushing the button when I was ready for more. But it has not been clear to me whether or not that would be acceptable.
Short of that, the best opportunity to relax and enjoy your privacy is over dessert and, happily, the desserts are very good. The walnut chocolate pudding is a standout, with a rich dark chocolate flavor similar to a good molten chocolate cake, topped with whole roasted walnuts. I will return, and I'll ask for a slower pace.
77 North 6th St, Brooklyn
Tel. (718) 388-8985
Recommended dishes: Zenkichi salad ($13.95), hot udon ($14.95), Jidori chicken ($10.95), chocolate pudding ($6.95).
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