A bamboo curtain lowers to shut you into your booth at Zenkichi, and once it's down, you may feel like engaging in intimate, whispered conversations with your dining companions. (Until the sake kicks in and steals your inhibitions, anyway.) If you spy another diner during your meal here, it will be an accidental glimpse — the staff works hard to preserve customers' privacy, tucking them into nooks in a serene, dark labyrinth of enclosed tables and fastidiously keeping the curtains shut. If you have something to plot, or a secret to divulge, Zenkichi is an excellent place to do it. But if you're just here for dinner, you'll find the design and quiet service encourage a singular focus on the food. Shaul Margulies and Motoko Watanabe — the latter a Tokyo native who was homesick for the restaurants of her hometown — opened this restaurant in 2006. These days most parties don't even glance at the menu except to pick out a bottle of sake (the list runs deep in that category). Instead they order the omakase, an eight-course traipse through deftly executed seasonal seafoods and vegetables — sashimi, shrimp and lotus-root tempura, grilled black cod, washu steak over rice. If it's winter, you might get monkfish liver, topped with tosa-zu vinegar agar gelée, and Kumamoto oysters crowned with ikura salmon roe. Each dish is simple in construction and aesthetically beautiful, and flavors balance so completely that each bite leaves you feeling utterly nourished. This is some of the finest Japanese cooking in the city, and it deserves the reverence Zenkichi's atmosphere suggests.
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