For our final dinner during our city weekend, we decided to stay close to home. (Hmm. Could it have been the late-night drinks at Mayahuel that had something to do with this?) We went to a hidden gem of a Japanese restaurant: Sakagura. You really have to know what you’re looking for — it’s in the basement of an office building (and the light can be harsh in that hallway after a couple of sakes, let me tell you). But once you settle into your table and peruse the menu a moment, you realize it was worth the effort.
Especially because this is not Japanese food you might be used to eating. No sushi bar. Hardly any sushi, really. The restaurant is a style called izakaya, or a Japanese pub. (And frankly, it’s an upscale one at that.) Though, to me, it’s even more like Japanese tapas. Lots of little dishes, some of which come out in a flurry, others of which — mostly the heavier ones or the noodles — are held back til then end. And yes, you can pair sake with it all. We tried just two seasonal sakes. They came in a beautiful box. And they paired perfectly with almost everything, especially my favorite dish, the fantastical Onsen Tamago, a soft-boiled egg topped with sea urchin and salmon roe in a cold soup:
Our sake box.
There are different boxes for different kinds of sake. The Japanese always have little beautiful things to put other things in, don’t they?
From our table, we could see the sake bar:
According to the New York Times review, there are more than 200 bottles.
We started with pickled plums:
The skins came right off the plum, leaving a soft fruit inside but a bit of chew. A nice pickled and sweet taste.
Then we had the egg:
I would go back just for this. You break the yolk to thicken the soup. The uni and the salmon roe are, to take a word from the Momofuku dinner, positively oceanic.
This was a special, a scallop with mango and egg-yolk vinaigrette.
Fantastic! The fruit was a little acidic but sweet, so played nicely with the rich sauce and the sweet scallop.
And the little pickles were a perfect palate cleanser.
Then we had tori tsukune, chicken meatballs with teriyaki sauce:
These were warming and delicious.
This was another special, octopus with taro foam:
This was the only failure. We suspected the octopus was canned.
Gyutan Yawaraka Ni: Beef Tongue Stewed in a Miso Served with Slices of Daikon Radish, Taro Potato, Spinach, and Shiitake Mushroom:
Amazing! The meat fell apart into strings like brisket, the sauce was thick and rich, and the vegetables kept their own flavors and textures. Bravo!
Yuba Shumai: Minced Pork Dumpling with Shrimp and Lotus Roots Wrapped in a Thinly Bean Curd Sheets Served with ” Ponzu ” Japanese Citrus Sauce:
Light and fluffly and the ground pork had a nice ginger taste.
And for our final course, Chawanmushi: Steamed Egg Custard Served with Chicken, Shrimp and Gingko Nuts Topped with a thickened Ponzu Sauce:
A great finish, especially because the custard texture made the dish feel like dessert. It was almost a little sweet, too. But hot. Went great with the green tea they served us at the end of the meal.
And before we go, here’s another look around:
The sake closet!
Now here’s Greg exiting through the office building lobby:
The sign in the lobby:
The 411 on Sakagura: 211 E. 43rd St. (Basement Level), (Between 2nd and 3rd Ave), Manhattan. 212-953-SAKE (7253). sakagura.com