At brushstroke, a set on Flickr.

Just had an amazing night at brushstroke, Chef David Bouley’s latest restaurant in TriBeCa, ten years in the making, and in partnership with Yoshiki Tsuji from Japan.

My dining companion from the three-hour dinner (21:30-00:30) was Chef Mourad Lahlou from Aziza (San Francisco). Afterwards, we had an unexpected private audience with the owner and Chef David Bouley, where we listened to his personal stories and experiences in making this venue happen. Very knowledgable about the Japanese culture (he goes there 4-5 times per year), it has taken him this long finally to open brushstroke to ensure perfection. Yet he acknowledged that it would be some time before brushstroke would reach such stage, because, as the New York Times article stated, “It will take a year or more of research and development on top of what we have already accomplished to get to the point when we’re satisfied with the ingredients,” he said. That goes not just for the produce, but also for the seafood, which he said is being caught and handled according to exacting specifications.

I used to live in Tokyo, where dining experience was (and still is) heavenly: From the interior design when you first enter the establishments, to the staff who treat you like royalty, and finally, not only to the quality of the cuisine, but also to the presentation of each dish. When I moved back to the US, I had to recalibrate my expectation of what fine dining was. I missed the “total package” that I normally would encounter in any dining places in Tokyo, from classy cuisine served in high end restaurants to the modest food vendors in the streets.

brushstroke to me captures that essence of Tokyo dining. The New York Times article by Florence Fabricant explains in details about the making of the restaurant, as well as the important aspect of the interior. When I entered the restaurant, I happened to need to use the restroom, so immediately I went rightward to the bar area where the restroom was. I was pleasantly surprised to find a washlet (smart toilet) in the restroom. So what does that have anything to do with this fine dining? A small gesture like that does bring me back to the some restaurants in Japan.

In front of the bar there are some tall tables and beyond it, low seats in the lounge area that together can seat a little over 20 people. Where the NY Times article describes the area whose walls “are covered with stacks of old paperback books, more than 20,000 of them, with their page ends, not their spines, showing, making them look like slabs of wood,” the article neglects to mention that there are surprises that come in the form of tiny dioramas, with scenes of quotidian lives in Japan, perhaps specifically depicting life in the Kansai area, where the Tsuji school is located.

The main dining hall has a very warm feeling to it, and the flowers, just like the cuisine, reflect the season in progress. Behind this effortless looking design and execution lay almost a decade’s worth of planning and research, but that in itself is very Japanese, making things appear simple and natural in the surface. But unlike some dining experiences in Japan where space is premium, here at brushstroke one does not feel like s/he is being crammed into a crowded room. The main dining hall can seat over sixty people, both at the counter overlooking the open kitchen, and at the tables behind them.

The restaurant is barely one month old, but the wait staff is well trained and knowledgable about the food. They disappear into the background but are always there when you need them, always anticipating your every need. In Tokyo, all I have to do is make eye contact with a waiter/waitress, and s/he would be scurrying to your side, ready for your next request. I am glad to report that such was my experience at brushstroke tonight.

And finally, the food themselves. (A note about Japanese kaiseki style food/multi-course dinner: There is not really such a thing as appetizer and main entrée; but rather, each dish carries the same weight and equal importance.)

What we had for dinner (pictures also available at Bloompy Flickr, by clicking any of the accompanying pictures on top, or at Bloompy Facebook):

Fluke with Uni in Rhubarb and Beet Sauce and Mountain Yam purée with Tomato Water and Uni.

Rockfish and Dungeness Crab Dumpling in Cherrystone broth with Broccoli Rabe.

Sashimi of Kampachi, Toro, and Mirugai.

Chawan-Mushi: Egg Custard with Uni and a Black Truffle Broth and a Mustard Flower.

Miso Marinated Black Cod with Pistachio.

Grilled Cape Cod Lobster with a White Miso Cream and Nori.

Breast of Duck with Miso Mustard.

Braised Wagyu Beef with Seared Wagyu Beef and a Poached Egg.

Tekka Don – Dashi steamed rice with Tuna and a Miso, Soy Scallion Purée.

Lychee and Sake Sorbet over Yuzu Tangerine Gelée with Sancho Peppers, sprinkled on top with Honey Sugar.

Chocolate and Red Bean Cake with Ginger Sauce.

Artisanal Soy Milk Panna Cotta with Sweet Red Beans and a Matcha Tea Sauce.

Warabi Mochi with Toasted Soybean Powder, Green Tea Powder, and Kuromitsu (black sugar sauce)

Obulato: Baked Rice Paper with Pine Nuts, with Red Shiso Powder and Green Tea Powder.

Obulato by bloompy
Obulato, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

Another amazing aspect about this dining experience was that after consuming all these great dishes, I did not feel full at all. Each dish was light, with the exception of the Braised Wagyu Beef with Seared Wagyu Beef and a Poached Egg, where underneath the seared Wagyu beef there was actually more beef, slightly sweetened and very rich in taste.

A surprise treat was to watch and join in the engaging and fascinating discourse on food science with Chefs Lahlou and Bouley; all in all, an unforgettable evening. Before we knew it, it was 3AM!!! Only in New York.

30 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10013
Tel: (212) 791-3771
M-Sa: 17:30 – Midnight
Closed Sundays

For the complete NY Times article, please click HERE

For a slide-show of the restaurant, courtesy of the New York Times, click HERE

With gratitude to General Manager David Forziati and Chef Isao Yamada for providing the names and details of each dish.


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