An insanely romantic Japanese izakaya with an eight course tasting menu of small plates. Zenkichi is our first choice in the neighborhood for best place to take a date. Diners are all treated to their own cozy, dimly-lit booths, with bamboo shades for extra privacy. Shadowy and filled with flickering candlelight and disorienting mirrors on the walls, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a 1940s film noir. The tasting menu ($75 per person) is updated seasonally — though signature dishes like Silky Tofu, Black Cod in a Miso Marinade, and an assortment of Sashima are routinely included. Vegetarian and wheat-free tastings are available as well. The food is not as rave-worthy as the ambiance, but you’ll not leave disappointed, especially if you sample the fantastic Frozen Black Sesame Mousse for dessert.
A curtain encases each mahogany booth: Some are cozy versions with L-shaped benches; others are more group-friendly. Dim lanterns and mirrors play up the mazelike atmospherics across three stories of walkways littered with pebbles and bamboo stalks. After an initial greeting, the waiter disappears. He reappears only when summoned by a discretionary buzzer. This tactic leaves ample time for relishing the deftly executed seasonal small plates presented on speckled ceramic dishes.
Though this Japanese standby might have seemed more novel a few years ago, Zenkichi still retains plenty of magic. The atmosphere is relaxed but focused, and the omakase is surprisingly well-priced for this neighborhood. Secluded booths offer a sexy vibe for date night, where couples can ring a bell for service… In addition to the à la carte and dessert menus, this kitchen also offers three variations on omakase: traditional, vegetarian, and wheat-free. But unlike the typical omakase, there’s something here for everyone, and the pre-determined dishes may unveil Saikyo miso cod or a heap of summer vegetables in Tosazu gelée.
The small plates and extensive sake selection may recall an izakaya, but the similarities end there. It’s not a lively setting, but a triple-decker labyrinth of a restaurant, where, upon entrance, you’ll be spirited away to a curtained-off booth, left to your dining companions.* (Let’s call it a good third-date restaurant. You’d better know you enjoy each other’s company.)