I sit, ponder and plan where I will eat, what I will see and do before I head overseas. Even when it is for business I try and work out what I can fit in. Of course my research is just a guide and some things are achieved and others aren’t.The joyof travel is finding something not expected. I expected fantastic food in NYC and I had plenty of it, but a chance conversation lead me to a restaurant that is regarded as a hidden jewel, and well hidden it is.
Sakagura was established in 1996 and is now one of the top sake bars in the USA. If you didn’t know it was there you would just walk right past it. Why? The entrance is actually an office building which looks like it is closed in the evenings. You walk in to the foyer and wonder where on earth you are meant to go next. You then find the stairs that you are to proceed down, walk along a corridor and then find this magical oasis. Tokyo in the basement of a NYC office building, amazing.
Funnily though once I returned back to Sydney I saw Sakagura on an episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain was discovering the non touristy side of NYC that he loves. Well done me for finding it before being told about it by a celebrity chef.
Besides having a reputation for sake they also take that care and pride in their food. This was an unexpected treat of a meal and I would have to say some of the best Japanese food I have had.
The staff are very knowledgeable in regard to sake (which would be expected) and more than willing to help the novice decide what would best suit their pallet. Myself being a novice with sake I tried their sample set which included three sakes they thought I may like. It is fun to compare the different sakes and then decide which one you prefer. I settled on a dry sake served cold.
It was so hard to decide what to have to eat as everything on the menu sounded so fantastic and a little bit different.Kamo Roast Negimaki: Sliced chilled roast duck wrapped around scallions with an accented basil sauce.
Holly molly this was to die for. The duck was just seared and served thinly sliced. It had a slight smokey flavour to the meat and the finely sliced green onion cut beautifully through the layer of fat on the duck.
Tatami Kwashiorkor: Dried sardine crackers, fried crisp and served with a spicy mayonnaise dip.
The spicy mayonnaise was sesame based and I didn’t find it at all spicy. The crackers reminded me of a Japanese style prawn cracker, nice and fishy, but not overpowering of sardine. Even though the mayo was not spicy it made a lovely companion to the crackers.
Uzaku: Grilled eel vinaigrette served with thin cucumber slices and wakame seaweed.
A mouth-watering balancing act of fatty eel with a slightly smoked flavour and crunchy cucumbers. The eel was soft and melted in your mouth, it wasn’t grainy as it can sometimes be.
Sakagura Special – Stewed Diced Pork: How can you go past the words special and diced pork?
This was the most tender pork belly I have ever eaten, melting in your mouth <Homer drool>. The broth was a light cleansing pork broth, with a hint of wasabi, which suited the richness of the pork belly.
I had no room for dessert, but I just had to have some anyway. As I had noticed Black Sesame Crème Brulee with Black Sesame Ice Cream on the menu. Bwaaaaaaa!!! They had just run out. So I opted for my next choice.
Sake Manju: Sake Lees Bun stuffed with Red Beans served with Green Tea Sorbet.
The dessert was beautifully presented and the black sesame twist in my sorbet was a pleasant surprise and visually stunning. Sadly this was not my highlight of the meal and I sulked slightly as I watched the person next to me scoff down a delicious looking crème brulee, bwaaaaaa!!!If you do find yourself in NYC, Sakagura is well worth the visit.
211E 43rd St B1F
New York NY 10017 [Between 2nd& 3rd Aves]
Tel: 212.953.SAKE