photos by JVB
I went looking for a Japanese breakfast in New York this morning. Maybe I was just craving something healthier than waffles and less usual than an omelet. Maybe it was because my son made me play Pokemon while we were still in our pajamas. It's been a while since I last visited Japan, but one of my best memories is of starting the day with a traditional breakfast of grilled fish, pickles, vegetables, miso soup and rice. It sounds like a lot, but the portions are not massive as those at an American pancake house.
There aren't too many places to get this stateside; my internet search at first turned up the boneyard of other people's similar searches, dead-ending in restaurants that had closed, those that had once served breakfast but no longer, or in letters to food section editors that had the same plantive tone: "My girlfriend and I just returned from Tokyo and were wondering where we could get a Japanese breakfast in New York...?"
At last I happened on EN Brasserie, and off we went, my husband (who once had sought pancakes in Tokyo, but has since come around to the pleasures of warm, freshly made tofu), my Pokemon- anime- and sushi-obsessed 10-year-old, and myself. Not as cheap as the corner diner, but less expensive than a vacation, and there was no airport pat-down. If you aren't someone who loves the thought of fish for your first meal, think about other imported breakfasts that are similarly healthy: Congee and greens from China; or yogurt and honey, fruit, cheese and vegetables from Turkey, for instance.
When I spoke to Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson recently, he was just back from Israel, where he had started his mornings with salads of tomatoes and cucumbers, labne, cheese and lox, and was trying to do the same back home in Athens, Georgia. "You do get inspired," says the chef of his travels. "America has this sensation that breakfast has to be this sweet thing... a protein-inspired dessert as the first meal of our day, and it’s the wrong tact to take for get-up-and-go. It weighs you down."
Where have you traveled that challenged you with a breakfast that would seem unconventional in the U.S.?