Flatiron Lunch: Ennju has all the Japanese food you want and FAST!

Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.

Recently, a friend who works in the northern boundaries of Flatiron Lunch asked me for udon recommendations. From her location, I would probably recommend she head to K-town, but it made me think of Ennju which I passed many months ago.

What can I say about Ennju? They manage to cover most of the bases of Japanese food with a mix of premade and made to order dishes. While the online menu will give you an idea of all they have, but I tried to take photos of most of the stations to try to illustrate how many options they have. Before you even walk in, you will see several photo menus in the front window.

First, a photo of the donburi specials and “summer specials” even though it is January. I doubt the “summer specials” are available now, but keep them in mind for a few months from now.

And photos of some hot pot/platter options.

And just some more platter options.

Ennju has a small self-serve soup station that only had miso and vegetable when I was there. The donburi dishes all come with soup, so I opted for miso soup. The big soup container includes just broth and tofu with dishes of scallions and seaweed to add to taste. Even though I didn’t do this, I saw a more experienced Ennju customer scooping scallions and seaweed into the bottom of the cup, and I recommend this. I also saw a customer slurp down about two servings of soup before going to claim his main dish. While it doesn’t explicitly say free refills or not, I don’t recommend this. Be careful, the seaweed absorbs the liquid and grows, so by the time I got back to my desk I had a lot of seaweed and very little broth.

Sushi looks like it is made throughout the day and can be picked up from a large display case.

Across from the sushi, Ennju has an upright takeout case with various bento boxes in different sizes. Salads and dumplings can also be found in this area.

If you are looking to make your own platter, they have a salad bar. I don’t remember exactly what was there, other than salmon skin salad, but there was at least 7 different bowls or platters with Japanese dishes.

The set-up of Ennju is a bit confusing, so on a first visit, I recommend allowing a little extra time to browse before you make any decisions.

Since I was on an udon mission, I had to order udon. (Which is one of the dishes ordered from the counter.) I am not afraid to admit that I am a big fan of greens (I know they, especially kale, are very trendy right now). So hoping for some serious earthy, umami flavor, I went for the sansai (mountain green) udon ($9.00). I am not sure of all the ingredients in my udon, but I noticed something that looked like broccoli rabe, scallions, carrots, mini mushrooms, and, I think, seaweed (is that possible in a mountain mixture? I’m not sure). It was good, but not amazing, I think my expectations were too high.

Thanks to Rachel Goldner, I have an affinity to oyako don ($9.00), which is chicken and egg over rice. This one had a nice sweet onion flavor and all dark meat. It was one of the better oyako dons I have tried. It did make me wonder…I wouldn’t order a chicken omelette, but somehow this seems different. Am I right?

Overall, I was a little disappointed with Ennju, but I think it was largely due to my ordering. Both dishes would have benefited from some sauce and maybe some chili oil. All that was included with my takeout was a tiny container of spicy powder. I believe there is more to Ennju than I tasted.

The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Ennju is great for co-workers who can’t agree on what to order…a long as they agree on Japanese.
  • Ennju can satisfy all my Japanese food cravings.
  • Ennju is so fast (and healthy if you want) I could see it being part of my regular lunch rotation.

The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Too bad the mountain greens (sansai) udon doesn’t live up to its potential.
  • Seems like Ennju focuses on sushi and maybe neglects the other dishes.
  • I have no chance of ordering correctly with so many options.

Ennju, 20 East 17th Street btwn 5th Avenue and Broadway. (646) 336-7004

1 Comment

  • Actually your small sampling of Ennju was enough to be totally spot on. Jack-san of all trades, sensei of none. They dole out very average japanese slop that’s not pricey and is of middling quality, nothing more. Look elsewhere if you want great flavor; watch for pin bones in the sushi – has been my own experience.

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