Our meal at the wonderful Brushstroke was more an experience than a simple lunch. The enormous windows are half covered from the bottom up so that from outside you’ll have no idea of the sanctuary you’re about to step into. The traditional Japanese minimalism of beautiful wood panelling adorned with tiny flowers, plants and quirky decorations makes Brushstroke feel as though it’s a world away from Manhattan.
Upon entry we were given a choice of seating, table or bar. After noticing from afar the intricacy and work going into each and every dish I realised I should have chosen the bar, and watched the masters at work.
For any newbie to Japanese food, the menu can seem daunting but with the help of our very, very, knowledgable waitress, aptly named Gold (which she was worth her weight in). She was an integral part of the experience, and truly a delight, she explained not only the ingredients but the technique and background of each dish perfectly.
Before I launch into what we had I will warn you that the menu changes often, but is always perfectly crafted by Chef Yamada, this is the ‘Brushstroke Philosophy’:
“In our main dining room, the kaiseki cuisine is designed to be an expression of “Ichi-go Ichi-e”, taking the unique ingredients of the season and preparing them in a way that is just right for the person at that time. Flavors change with the seasons; in the spring Chef Yamada might use the bitter flavors of young plants to clean the body of toxins built up over the winter. Cuisine is built around the ingredients as well: at Brushstroke each serving of sashimi is plated differently, depending on the unique cut of the fish.”
The lunch tasting menu ensured we tried a wide variety of menu options, and for really good value! To warm up the pallet, we were given a sort of ‘amuse bouche’ which in Kaiseki dining is known as ‘sakizuke’. It was three different homemade crackers topped with a chicken liver paté, raisins and honey; salmon, cream cheese and cucumber; and wasabi guacamole. Pro tip: don’t be tempted to attempt to eat them with chop sticks. I made that mistake for you!
Next up was a Tsukuri, for which we both chose the irrestible looking sashimi. The presentation was exquisite and the taste even more so. The delicate flavours were too good to drench in soy sauce, just a drizzle from the jug provided was enough.
For Shiizakana I chose something you don’t expect at a Japanese restaurant – the chicken. It only proved to surprise me more – it was the softest, juiciest chicken I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting, with sweet vinegar yaki and apple reduction sauce. Take note – don’t skip over the less traditional options – there are no bad choices. In the same course, the salmon lemon yuan yaki was sumptuous and perfect rounded of with crunchy veg and roe.
By this point we were both rather full so it’s a good job the portions on the tasting menu are well thought out. The next course was a rice entrée, the blue shrimp and golden crab soy milk risotto was unbelieveably tasty. My preconception of rice dishes as a bland was blown out of the water with the stewed washu beef, yuba ankake. Both were served with a small soup on the side as well as Japanese pickles.
We were strongly advised to try out the desserts, and despite being fit to burst, we complied. Boy am I glad we did – again, not something you expect to be a specialty of a Japanese restaurant but the desserts at Brushstroke are out of this world. Matcha green tea ice cream with white chocolate & nigori sake affogato was full of the most unusual cominations of bittersweet, while the orange & lime sherbets with blood orange granite and sansho candied hazelnut was refreshing and light.
Overall, Brushstroke is not an experience to rush through, enjoy and savour every unique bite, after all it may never be on the menu again!