Brushstroke, NYC 4

May 3, 2016

On Linda’s birthday, March 24, 2016, she and I returned to Brushstroke. We were seated at the far end of the empty counter, opposite the fish slicing/sashimi station. 

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We ordered glasses of Champage Savart, L’Ouverture – Ecueil. A good start.

We ordered the normal Early Spring Kaiseki Menu, which has options in several courses, some of them at substantial supplements. On our first visit to Brushstroke, four years before, we had the Late Summer Kaiseki Menu; then two years later we had the Summer Kaiseki Menu and later in 2014 the Autumn Kaiseki Menu.  All three were excellent. I mention these now because we were anticipating a similar level his time and I will comment on the comparison below.  

I asked the sommelier about the sake which is shown on the list as “Exclusively imported for Brushstroke,”  Hanamikura, Fuku, Jummai Daiginjo, Gifu.  He said that David Bouley had personally selected it on a trip to Kyoto and that Brushstroke is the only one to offer it in the U.S. It sounded good so I ordered it, even though it was a bit above my normal restaurant sake price range. It turned out to be worth the price as it had a complex and assertive flavor and could be enjoyed in small sips with the cuisine.
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The first course was
Cape Cod Scallop &Uni, Strawberry Lemon Foam
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The strawberry foam on the seafood mousse sphere was inappropriate. It had a flowery sweetness, as you might expect.

Rabbit Sakura-Shinjo in Rabbit Dashi-Broth
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Shinjo are normally fish dumplings in a clear broth. They are usually mild flavored and this rabbit version was no exception. 

Long Island Amadai Usuzukuri
After we sat down and as we waited to order and receive our food, we could watch the fish/sashimi slicer in front of us. He was meticulous in placing the fish and the little prepared garnishes on the plates.
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We were somewhat surprised to see that these were not for immediate serving, but went into a cold locker underneath. And so we were quite disappointed when two plates emerged from the locker and were served to us as our sashimi course.
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Everything was chilled and did not seem fresh. There is nothing wrong with amadai, or tilefish, but it is not usually considered to be top of the line and, in this case, had little flavor. This was quite a contrast with our sashimi courses at earlier Brushstroke, meals, which were freshly cut and had a high-quality assortment of fish.

Ramps and Morel Mushroom Golden Crab Chawanmushi Truffle-Ankake
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This was excellent, as the chawanmushi courses always have been at Brushstroke. The delicious earthiness of the ingredients comes through. The ankake is a dashi broth thickened with kuzuko, a starch powder made from the root of the
kudzu plant. It was enhanced with truffle bits. The photos, show that this cup was half the size of the chawanmushi served before.

Japanese Red Snapper, Sakura Sushi
Scottish Salmon Lemon Yuan-Yaki
Tender Pórtugal Octopus
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This pretty presentation included:
a piece of salmon marinated in a mirin-based sauce and grilled;
two pieces of red snapper sushi that were heavy on the rice;
a nice chunk of octopus in a yellow sauce;
a bowl of celery root soup.
These were all okay, but only the octopus seemed like something special.

Charcoal-Grilled Miyazaki Wagyu Sirloin
Green Apple Puree, Linden Honey Wine Sauce
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This evening’s wagyu was not as tender as it should be, or as wagyu was in past meals at Brushstroke.  Linda found the wagyu chewy and could not finish chewing three of the four small pieces. Considering the large supplement for this course, the presentation was very simple, 

Colorado Lamb Sakura Tsutsumi Yaki
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The lamb was top quality and had a lovely flavor. Underneath were some grilled vegetables and a red wine reduction sauce. A nice course.

Sashimi Chirashi Don
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This wonderfully fresh dish of chunks of fish and vegetables on rice was Linda’s favorite dish of the evening; along with the chanamushi.

Ramps with Golden Eye Red Snapper & Lobster Donabe-Rice
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The dish was presented to me in the ceramic bowl in which it was cooked. Then I was given small helpings in a small bowl. I had three of these. Very good. (This came at a substantial supplement.)
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There were nice, unusual pickles alongside.
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Linda’s dessert was
Sake Lees Crème Brûlée
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My dessert was
Matcha and Hojicha Emperor
Soy Sauce Gelato & Matcha Ice Cream
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They were out of the matcha ice cream so black truffle ice cream was substituted. The two sponge cakes were flavored with matcha tea and special hojicha tea. This was good.

For Linda’s birthday we were given
Hojicha Tea Pudding
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The pudding was flavored with special hojicha tea. It was topped with sweet black beans.

As the meal progressed we were served some good courses, but we had been quite disappointed by the first three dishes, which seemed to have economizing on ingredients and preparation as a common theme. Then, what should have been the highlight of the evening, Linda’s wagyu course at a substantial supplement, was nowhere close to the quality and taste of the the wagyu courses we had enjoyed at our last two meals here which offered multiple contrasting and complementary cooking styles and sauces.

The service was okay, but a bit stiff. The noise level was quite high at first, even though the counter was empty and eventually only filled half-way. The row of tables behind us was full of exuberant younger diners and the noise leveled off when they were done. Noise level is important as there are elaborate descriptions of some of the dishes. All the service is from behind, not across the counter, which is too bad.

Anyway, we were quite disappointed because our expectations were so high.

Brushstroke’s website:

To see our first meal at Brushstroke four years ago click here.

To see our second meal at Brushstroke two years ago click here.

To see our third meal at Brushstroke  click here.


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