Zenkichi – Japanese Paradise

The Boyfriend and I came across Zenkichi, located on N6th Street in Williamsburg, while we were waiting for our table at Sea Thai, diagonally across the street. We decided to do some wandering while we waited and noticed this completely boarded up restaurant – the door doesn’t even open from the outside. We were immediately intrigued but put it in the back of our minds as we ate delicious Thai food that night.

Zenkichi came back into our lives when I noticed that they were selling a Groupon for $25 towards $50 of food. I immediately purchased it since it helps in making Zenkichi a little friendlier to a college student’s budget. I made reservations a week in advance since I wasn’t sure how full they get on a regular basis. The Groupon also expires before Christmas so I knew a lot of people would be trying to make use of it.

They don’t open until 6pm every night so we were one of the first tables to arrive. We were seated on their 3rd floor, in a secluded table-for-two. Each table is separated by a bamboo curtain so you have the ultimate privacy. Each couple is very respectful of others and everyone spoke quietly to their dates. The total atmosphere felt very intimate and close. I definitely felt like I was having a nice dinner date without feeling claustrophobic.

Photo credits to Zenkichi
Photo credits to Zenkichi

Since each table is so secluded and Zenkichi prides themselves on privacy, there are buttons to call for the waitress on each table. You press the button if you want service and your waitress comes almost immediately. We only used the button once during the entire meal because our waitress popped in and out to take our finished plates periodically without being told to. She also greeted us every single time we returned, which was a nice touch.

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We both ordered a bottle of Sapparo ($5.50), which our waitress brought over right away. After about five more minutes, our waitress brought over our first dish of the night – Cold Fresh Tofu ($7.95). This dish features their own homemade tofu served with a light dashi sauce. The dish comes in a very travel friendly bowl. The tofu is on the bottom, the condiments go on top of the tofu and the dashi broth (on the far left) fits perfectly on top of the two. It was so cute! The tofu itself was perhaps the best I have ever had. The tofu was fresh and silky and the broth was so tasty that I even drank the rest in my plate.

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Our second dish was the Anago & Cream Cheese Tempura ($9.95), which features cream cheese wrapped around soft eel and then deep-fried. The cream cheese, surprisingly, stayed pretty solid even after being fried. The two complimented each other very nicely and melts in your mouth! We were given a dipping sauce and green tea salt to accompany it. I decided to use only the green tea salt because it was such an unusual condiment. I was so shocked that such a thing existed!

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Our third dish was the Potato Mochi ($7.95), which features deep fried potato rice cakes served with spicy mayo. These mochi balls were so soft! Every time I bit into one, I felt like I was eating a cloud. The potato was very fluffy and light. The spicy mayo wasn’t too spicy, which is just the way I like it. If you’re a mashed potato lover, this is definitely the dish for you!

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Our fourth dish was the Nayoya Teba Chicken Wings ($8.95), which features crispy fried chicken wings. Their menu says that they use a special blend of Japanese spices – whatever they’re using, it’s so delicious. The chicken skin was crunchy and the chicken meat was very juicy. Each bite came right off the bone.

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Our fifth dish was the Rocksalt Jidori Chicken ($10.95), which features grilled free-range chicken that is served three ways – by itself, with lemon juice, and with a yuzu pepper paste, which is a little spicy. This dish was the Boyfriend’s favorite of the two chicken dishes because it was very simple but tasted fantastic. The chicken stayed very juicy, which is often a problem with chicken dishes.

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Our last savory dish was the Kakuni , or shimmered pork belly in a traditional Japanese dashi broth ($12.95). This was a very large portion of pork belly for that price. In other Japanese restaurants, I’ve been charged more for a lot less. One bite into the pork belly, I knew that this is what true Japanese pork belly should taste like. The pork belly was buttery and melted the moment I put it in my mouth. No chewing required! The broth was also just as good. The Boyfriend and I were actually drinking just the broth when we finished the pork belly!

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Since we finished our beers by now, the Boyfriend suggested we order some dessert sake to go along with our desserts. We decided on the Hime Zen ($7.50 per glass), which has a lot of fruity undertones. You can taste a hint of apples, peaches, and citrus in the sake. Both of us aren’t big sake fans but we loved this one.

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We decided to order two desserts because we weren’t sure which one to pick. Normally we order one to share, but Zenkichi’s options were just too tempting! Our first dessert to arrive was the Frozen Black Sesame Mousse ($6.95). This is almost like black sesame ice cream but it was a lot less melty and milky. The mousse was nice and cold after a meal of hot and savory foods. This one is definitely a must try!

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The best dessert, however, goes to the Mineoke Milk Tofu ($6.95), which is made with heavy cream, kudzu starch and strawberries. The result was something that didn’t taste like tofu – it tasted more like Chinese steamed milk, which is a favorite of mine. I was so impressed with this dish. The tofu was so silky and smooth that I wanted more than just that tiny cup. If you have to pick one dessert only, I would recommend that you go with this one.

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We ordered about 6 savory dishes and 2 sweet dishes to share and we were completely satisfied by the end of our meal. They recommend that you pick 3-4 dishes per guest, which is almost what we did. Their recommendations were correct and we were pleasantly surprised that 6 savory dishes were enough to fill us up. We were in and out of the restaurant in about an hour and a half, which I thought was decent timing for a dinner for two. Our waitress was very attentive and nice. Overall, I was very satisfied with my meal. I will definitely be back to try out some of their other dishes.

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