This review is for Brushstroke, David Bouley’s kaiseki-style Japanese restaurant in TriBeCa (not to be confused for Ichimura at Brushstroke, the sushi bar inside the restaurant). I fell in love with kaiseki cuisine on my first visit to Tokyo, and I wanted to try one of the best kaiseki-style restaurants in New York. Brushstroke has 1 Michelin star as of the current guide, and I decided to go with the 8-course Autumn Kaiseki menu.
Overall judgment: 4 of 5 stars
Brushstroke would have received a full 5 stars based on the food, because everything was delicious and well-presented. The docking of one star is due to the poor service. The pacing of the meal was off, starting from the wait time to be seated. We were ushered into the restaurant and quickly packed away into a large communal table in a corner, next to several other couples that were also waiting patiently to be seated. After at least 10 minutes, we were finally asked if we wanted any drinks or cocktails. After at least another 15 minutes, we finally received our drink orders.
Cocktails at the communal table.
We waited around for another 15 minutes or so before we were finally seated. There have only been a couple of occasions I can think of when it took a restaurant 40 minutes to seat me with a reservation, so I was understandably displeased at the start of my meal.
The pacing of the appetizers continued to be incredibly slow, and the service was curt, with nothing more being said than was required. However, despite being annoyed with the service, I couldn’t fault the restaurant at all for the food. One by one, each dish that came out won me over; not only was the food excellent in quality and flavors, but it was also presented elegantly and thoughtfully.
I was seated at the bar, which had a great view of the goings-on inside the kitchen. David Bouley made an appearance in the kitchen during the middle of my meal, and it was a treat to see him work his magic.
Heirloom tomato appetizer. This appetizer was a beautiful way to start off the meal.
Kabocha & butternut squash soup. Golden crab, king oyster mushroom, & yuzu-tofu foam. This butternut squash soup was bursting with flavors from the spices and yuzu-tofu foam. The crab was amazingly tender, and the mushrooms added texture.
Red drum fish yuan-yaki. Autumn mushrooms & vegetables chips-fukiyose. My boyfriend ordered the drum fish (I was reluctant to order it after a couple of unsuccessful attempts in New Orleans), and it looked so delicious that I couldn’t help but pick off his plate.
Hudson Valley duck breast smoked in oak, sansho, caramelized pecan, cranberry, wine sauce & miso sauce. Usually by this point in tasting menus, I have trouble stomaching heavy meats. At Brushstroke, however, that was not the case. The duck was pleasantly smoky, and I could taste hints of oak with each bite. The meat was so delicious that I devoured every piece of it.
King salmon and ikura with wakame seaweed, gobo over rice do-nabe. The salmon and ikura rice dish was a bit forget-able compared with the excellence of all of the other courses. However, I enjoyed the miso soup that was served with the course immensely. The soup had darker notes than most typical miso-based soups, and the end result was wonderfully satisfying.
Oregon washu beef and eggplant sukiyaki over wild rice. My boyfriend ordered the washu beef and eggplant sukiyaki rice dish and had complimentary things to say about the quality and texture of the beef.
Matcha dessert. Our desserts to end the meal were light and refreshing. The matcha ice cream was definitively matcha-flavored, but the extra bit of sweetness from the white chocolate sauce was welcome.
Overall, I really enjoyed my kaiseki meal at Brushstroke. The reason I love kaiseki meals so much is because of the creative use of seasonal ingredients and variety of courses offered (soup, fish, meat, rice, etc.). Brushstroke certainly delivered an excellent culinary journey for my taste buds. To top it all off, the courses were beautiful, like works of art. The service, however, was a different story. I am not normally one to harp on a restaurant for service, but the service was by far the least efficient of any fine dining restaurant I have been to. Our first few courses were spaced at least 15 minutes apart, so what I expected to be a two-hour-long meal turned out to be a three-plus-hour-long meal. Short story: come here for the amazing food, but expect a lengthy dinner experience with slow service.
Brushstroke, 30 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013