Magazine article The New Yorker

ZENKICHI; Tables for Two

Magazine article The New Yorker

ZENKICHI; Tables for Two

Article excerpt

This multilevel den, hidden at the far end of an uber-hip Williamsburg stretch, is mostly recognizable by the small, come-hither red light shining above its doorway. Inside, diners are ensconced in dimly lit private cells, curtained off by bamboo blinds and connected by shadowy stone-slab-and-pebble walkways. Servers are discreet; they appear almost instantaneously at the press of a call button, but otherwise the blinds stay drawn. One night, over the soft hum of jazz standards, the only evidence of other patrons was the not so faint sounds of a make-out session. Two unsuspecting guys ("Wanna grab a bite tonight? Hit that new Japanese place?") were left to fidget in their chamber and chat uncomfortably about ex-girlfriends.

Thankfully, Zenkichi's sake list doubles the length of its menu, and such unease can be quickly ameliorated. The Wakatake Onikoroshi ("Original Demon Slayer") and the Suirakuten ("Heaven of Tipsy Delight") did the trick, though the Escher-esque layout of the dining rooms, complete with wall-length mirrors at every turn--and there are lots of turns--makes a case for moderation. The food, in portions meant for sharing, aims for innovation and arrives with astonishing celerity. …

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