Although Neta's my favorite new sushi restaurant and the best overall meal, Brushstroke has the most memorable new dishes. The reason Brushstroke wasn't my absolute favorite is that the sushi's not that good (even though Ichimura, its hidden child-restaurant is supposedly one of the best).
The space is small and warmly lit. Everything's covered in wood, and wood-like colors. I loved the fact that I was able to see my food. The presentation of the food itself was nice, but the dishes that the food are served in are absolutely exquisite.
Apple cider sake: 8/10. Delicious, but the presentation was kind of plain. It came with the towels, and I was tempted to dip my towel in the sake because it didn't look like something that I was supposed to injest.
We got the Mid-Winter Kaiseki Menu of course, and it did not disappoint.
Winter bamboo shoots with monkfish liver in tosazu gelee: 9/10: Waiters kept passing by with these giant leaves. They were eye-catching, but I'm not sure if they did anything in terms of flavor. The variety of flavors, textures, and fun combinations hidden underneath were almost overwhelming. I had so much fun munching on the tender bamboo shoots and watercress that I almost forgot about the hidden monk liver. There was also a random giant bean.
Everything was a little difficult to eat though. I could not get to the rest of the gelee and miso mustard at the bottom of the bowl!
Guinea hen broth with winter vegetables: 6.5/10: The daikon and taro were great, the guinea hen meatball was good, but nothing was really that interesting. Fellow diners liked the pieces of lemongrass, but I found it overpowering. The broth was simply a good chicken soup, which seems trite.
Sashimi: 4/10: Oh boy... They came out with fatty tuna, Spanish mackerel, and fluke. The fluke wasn't even that good. Everything was way too cold and somewhat unpleasant to eat. They should have known better... do they not order the same fish as Ichimura?!
Lobster with uni cream sauce and somen noodles with uni flakes: 8/10: Thank goodness the sashimi fiasco was over. The lobster in uni sauce was absolutely decadent. They even cut the lobster into 3 little pieces, so that we could enjoy a bite and then have some noodles. I must admit that the uni flakes were good but a little strange and dry. Perhaps I would have given this 10/10 if there were actual uni.
Rockfish with sun-dried tomatoes and lotus chips: 6.75/10 The rockfish was extremely buttery. I really dislike sun-dried tomatoes in general, but I wasn't too upset by it. I really only ordered it because my boyfriend ordered the other fish, and I wanted to try both. The lotus chips didn't add much to the dish.
Sea bass with black sesame smoke: 7.25/10 It tasted like miso cod with basil pesto. Good but the basil pesto was a little overpowering. It was fun to watch the chef grill it behind the sushi bar though.
Egg custard with crab and black truffle: 10/10 Brushstroke gave us the black truffle complements of the chef, which was really sweet, since it was $32 per person. I do love black truffle, but this dish really does not need it. Having this dish again reminded me of how much work my egg custard recipe needs.
The egg was only about 1000 times smoother, and the broth was, as I guessed, dashi based, but the rest of the flavors created a symphony that made my broth taste like "chopsticks" (on the piano). There were bits of chive, truffle oil, and what else! And how do they make the broth so gelatinous but smooth?!
Pork belly with huckleberries, cauliflower puree, and pickled vegetables: 8/10
Tea-infused duck with sweet potato sauce: 8/10
The two meat dishes were equally good, and both perfectly cooked. But perhaps I had nothing new to say because I was still recovering from my egg custard-induced daze.
Mushrooms in ankake sauce over rice: 7.5/10: The photo cannot capture the distracting beauty of the bowl. The shine from the gold rim on the black bowl actually got in the way of my scooping into the food. The food was also very good! But it was a little too soupy for my liking.
Crab and lobster zousui rice: 7/10 The presentation was very fun with the egg on top and the broth still bubbling when it arrived at the table, but it stayed way too hot for way too long. When it was finally edible, and the egg was properly scrambled into the rice, it was good but nothing too special.
Mirin and soy sauce ice cream duo: 9/10: I saw it on the menu and I had to try it! Both were good, but the soy sauce ice cream was surprisingly good. I could taste just the hint of soy sauce at the beginning of each bite, as if someone just touched a barely discernible amount to my tongue... then it gives way to the sweet creaminess of the ice cream.
I was also glad that it was paired with the mirin ice cream which was a little more normal and sweet, because the soy sauce ice cream alone would have been overwhelming. I'm not a fan of savory desserts.
Japanese roasted tea pudding with kuromame beans: 9/10: It was another custard, but completely different from the previous one. Even though it was a tea pudding, we agreed that it was reminiscent of something toasted.
Lychee sorbet with roasted persimmon soup 9/10: The soup was served slightly warm, which made for a fun hot and cold combination. Persimmons can have an overwhelming flavor, but it surprisingly did not fight with the light sweetness of the lychee.
As usual, the meal ended with some rice crackers. Brushstroke has come a long way with these rice crackers... now all of them have shiso powder instead of shiso and the other powder... whatever it was, it did not have any taste. They have also learned that more powdered sugar makes people happier.
My three meals here have been very different, and I'm happy to see that the most memorable dish (the egg custard) stayed, and the only other staple, the rice crackers, have been improved. It is possibly the best value for $135 in the neighborhood.
However, Brushstroke is a restaurant for relatively mild palates, and the dishes tend to be a little soupy.
Well done, Mr. Bouley. Next time, please bring back the spiny lobster!