Among some of the advice we got about eating about New York was to safely ignore the French food and steakhouses there, as comparable versions can be gotten in London. Instead we were told to feast on burgers and weirdly, Japanese food. For whatever reason, NYC has an abundance of high quality Japanese restaurants. After our first three nights feasting on Momofuku Ko and some fantastic ramen (covered in other posts), for our fourth night’s dinner, we went to eat at Sakagura (so basically for four dinners straight we had Japanese or Korean-Japanese food).
The name Sakagura supposedly translates into “sake brewery” and clues in the visitor to the key attraction: the sheer confusingly large array of different types of sake on the menu. However, we tend not to visit a place just for a gimmick, we also demand good food and Sakagura is known to deliver on that too.
We didn’t make a reservation but arrived early at opening time and was seated at the bar. Thankfully, the bar seats were proper chairs, not stools, and there was ample elbow space. The interior of the restaurant was proper stunning too and it felt like we had teleported out of NYC into some hot spring resort in Japan.
“TAKAISAMI Junmai Ginjo Nakadare”. Since we’re both pretty innocent when it comes to sake, we randomly chose one of the specials. We had a “Masu” which came in a little box (wooden of plastic, we chose the former) and amounted to 200mls in total. It was deliberately overfilled so some sake overflowed into the saucer underneath and we were supposed to tip that back into the box afterwards. As it claimed, it was a summery sake, very light and smooth, quite good for us beginners I would assume.
“HIYAYAKKO : Chilled Tofu Topped with Grated Ginger , Scallion and Bonito Flakes”. As it was a hot day I wanted something fairly simple to start out with and it doesn’t get simpler than this. Really basic dish, but nice if one likes tofu.
“ONSEN TAMAGO : Soft Boiled Egg Topped with Sea Urchin and Salmon Roe in Cold Soup”. Quite simply the best onsen tamago (egg cooked in hot spring water) we had. The egg itself was boiled to just the right degree we like, with the egg yolk being more runny than firm. The dashi was nice and flavourful too but adding the sea urchin and salmon roe was exquisite.
“WASHU GYU TATAKI : Slightly Seared Slices of Washu Beef Served with Grated Daikon Radish and Ponzu Sauce”. The beef itself was quite mild mannered but nicely seared on the outside and juicy pink in the middle. I felt it was a tad too tart, but the PigPig quite liked it as it made for a good appetizer.
“KAMO ROAST : Slices of Chilled Roasted Duck Wrapped Around Scallion Accented with Basil Sauce”. One of the dishes recommended by the bartendress, this looks like a fairly simple one to replicate at home. The roast duck itself was deliciously tasty, not too oversalted and we can really enjoy the taste of the duck itself. The strips of scallions and the basil add a little freshness.
“MAGURO TARTAR : Chopped Tuna with Flying Fish Roe Steeped in Yuzu and Caviar”. Truthfully, the tartar with the yuzu dressing on its own would have been tasty enough but adding the extra fish roe just gave it that little touch of luxury. The cucumber on the side gives the mushy tartar the much needed crunch too.
“UNI SOBA : Homemade Cold Buckwhat Noodle Served with Fresh Sea Urchin Sashimi and Sea Urchin Sauce”. Once the PigPig saw this item on the menu, there was no escape for it.
The soba itself was nice and the sea urchin on top was indeed fresh. However, the best part of the dish must’ve been the broth that went around the soba; it was very light and easy to drink but somehow so full of uni flavour. I swear the PigPig could drink a whole bowl of it on its own. The little touches of the fresh herb and little shards of tempura batter around it were good as well.
“BLACK SESAME CREAM BRULEE with Black Sesame Ice Cream”. The crème brûlée was nice and creamy with the appropriate amount of black sesame taste but it was lukewarm and not hot. The ice cream was nicely balanced as it was more of a vanilla ice cream with black sesame swirls, which was good as it would have been too overpowering with the black sesame flavoured crème brûlée otherwise.
Altogether, the bill came up to $125 including tip and sake. We were reasonably full but we deliberately didn’t order as much as we normally would as we were planning on hitting other places later that night.
The food in general was pretty good with that strange Japanese style of being blindingly simple yet oddly complicated at the same time. The presence of many a happy Japanese customer in the restaurant is a good sign as well.
PS. The restaurant is pretty hard to find. We walked up and down the street several times until we spotted this small signboard placed outside an office building. It's located in the basement of this office building.
211 E 43rd St B1F