September 13, 2016
Sakagura is a Japanese-American izakaya, or sake gastropub, near Grand Central Station. The only izakaya I had been to before is Tomoé in Tokyo, which, like Sakagura, is hidden in the basement of an office building otherwise dead in the evening. They are similar in many ways. Linda and I went to Sakagura for dinner on August 11, 2016.
The main dining room has a long bar, where one can eat and drink, and a row of small tables, along the left side.
On the right are larger tables, some in alcoves along the wall.
There is another dining room in the back which we did not see.
We were seated at a table for two near the bar, but, after we had ordered a bottle of sake and the sashimi, both of which take up significant tabletop space, we were moved to a nearby table for four. We looked at the beverage menu with over 200 sakes. Linda started with a small Sapporo beer to quench her thirst, while I had the dry sake tasting flight to help chose a bottle.
There was a printed guide to identify its three sakes. We selected the Suehiro Ken Daiginjo “The Sword” KEN 剣 (Fukushima/福島).
It was presented in an ice bucket with a floral arrangement. There was a fancy sake cup from Ishikawa. This sake had a nice dryness and elegance which complemented the cuisine.
The food menu is also extensive, but the house specialties were shown in red, which guided us to most of our selections. Our genial waiter was very helpful. (He is in the two dining room photos above.) We shared all the dishes.
We started with
Assortment of five kinds of Sashimi
On the lower left was a generous portion of excellent sea urchin. The slicing of the fish seemed unusually thick, which helped bring out the flavors.
WASHU BEEF TATAKI
The tender filet of wagyu beef had been seared on the outside, dressed with a soy sauce based marinade and topped with ginger and finely chopped scallions. I found the marinade to be too vinegary.
Steamed Egg Custard served with Chicken, Shrimp and Shiitake,
Gingko Nuts topped with a Thickened Ponzu Soup
This had a lot of Japanese character. Good.
Grilled Japanese Eggplants served with 3 kinds of Miso
(Egg Yolk, Spinach, and Sweet Red)
The variety of miso toppings made these nicely grilled small eggplants unusually interesting. The bonito flakes on the left added another good element to the dish.
SAKAGURA’S SIGNATURE DISH.
Pork Belly braised tender and served hot.
This was really luscious and delicious. The cube of pork belly had been cooked slowly for a long time in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin and sake with a hint of ginger. We pulled off small pieces and ate them with the braising liquid in the bowl.
Handmade Buckwheat Noodles topped with Fresh Sea Urchin
served with Sea Urchin Soup
The noodle dish traditionally comes last. Here the soba was served cold in a rich sea urchin broth. It was topped with globs of fresh sea urchin and seaweeds. Dried nori and fresh wasabi were served alongside. This was superb.
A cup of green tea was brought to finish our meal.
We enjoyed our evening. The dishes were traditional, as one might find in an izakaya in Japan. They were carefully prepared with generous portions of excellent ingredients which could be locally sourced, not imported from Japan (except the sake, of course.) Sakagura makes its own soy sauce. Despite the extensive menu there was no effort to have everything an izakaya in Japan would have: bamboo shoots or taro potatoes, for example. The service was good, although the pace was varied. The noise level was high in this acoustically-challenged space filled with people having a good time.
Decorative sake barrels by the door on the way out.