if only there were japanese food on the the new jersey turnpike it would have made our six hour trek back from baltimore this weekend just a wee bit more bearable. i am definitely a lover of all things fast food and japanese, and so when i used to work near madison square park, i often used to head toward union square for a fix from ennju (shake shack just isn’t possible every day of the week even back in the day when it wasn’t so crowded).
somehow, early on in my visits to ennju, i became addicted to their takana rice. i don’t exactly know what takana rice is or even if it is a traditional japanese dish (it seems that it is more often served fried). but at ennju, their version of takana rice involves a plate of slightly warm and sticky rice covered in seseame seeds then mixed possibly with small bits of dried fish and takana — which after a bit of research i now believe is a kind of mustard leaf – and then topped with some freakishly pink slices of pickled something. nothing fancy, perfectly filling and always hits the spot. the pickles add a bit of tang and the rice is always just the right level of heaviness –not light as air but not leaden from frying. so even though now i no longer work anywhere near ennju, i still sometimes stop off on my way back to brooklyn for this lovely, easy traveling dish.
and if i’m feeling hungry enough or have a long day ahead of me, i also might buy some of ennju’s excellent japanese treats like the green tea daifuku, or my other favorite filled with red bean paste. ennjucarries lots of other japanese snacks like pocky sticks, black sesame mousse and different kinds of crackers as well as some beer and sake.
as for what else to eat at ennju, the place is a smorgasbord of all things japanese prepared the fast way. these include a sushi bar (half price after 9 on weekdays), curries, teriyakis, udon soups, rice balls and katsudon and other kinds of donburi. i’m sorry to say i cannot recommend any of these as i haven’t tried them and reviews seem pretty mixed. and i am not crazy about the space. basically it’s a decent cafeteria with good bathrooms and has a super convenient location (also quite nearby a few other great cheap eats including rainbow falafel). but if you’re in the mood for something cheap, fast, homey and asian, this is the place. ennju, 20 east 17th street between 5th avenue and broadway, manhattan, new york, 646.336.7004.