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Best sake bars?

  • Robb S Apr 24, 2007 10:24 AM
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I'm going to New York for a few weeks in May, and while there I thought I'd check out some sake bars and izakaya with good sake. I'm mostly interested in places with a nice selection of sake by the glass (rather than by the bottle).

From searching on old postings, I get the impression that the best places to check out are:

1. Sakagura
2. Decibel
3. Chibi's
4. En Japanese Brasserie (on Hudson Street)
5. Kasadela (which seems to get mixed reviews)

Are any of these gone, or not worth the trip? Anyplace else of similar quality?

Also, any events coming up? It looks like I just missed a big 50-sake tasting event at En.

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  1. Decibel rocks.

    1. SAKAGURA is my fav, but i just went to EN for happy hour at the bar a couple days ago and it's pretty great...bonus being the happy hour of course. they also have lots of soju varieties, house flavored sojus, drinks, food and even a new japanese rice beer too that they just got in recently (i forget the name, but its not hitachino and it was good).

      1 Reply
      1. re: mrnyc

        Just a slight correction - EN specializes in flavored shochu, not soju - at least from last time I was there.

      2. Hello Robb. Sakagura definitely tops the list in my experience. They have a large selection, a sommelier, and they've got good food as well. It's upscale. I haven't been to the En here in NY, but it's an outpost of the chain from Japan.

        1. Wow, you have a wide range of scenes there. I ADORE Decibel, but it's not for everyone (i.e. not for my parents and probably not for your parents). It's kind of a self-consciously divey dive bar, dark, underground, with graffiti on the walls. Sake selection is very good and they have great tapas style food.

          En is very posh. It's a beautiful space, sake listings are also extensive and higher end. It's hard to do a side by side comparison, but they seem to be stored better than at other places I've been. (For one thing, they have normal sized bottles instead of the magnums that Decibel favors.)

          I've *heard* really good things about Sakagura, but have never been.

          Blue Ribbon Sushi isn't necessarily somewhere I'd send people for sushi unless it's late at night and you REALLY want sushi, but the sake list has some really good selections on there. Stop by if you happen to be in the nabe.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cimui

            you definitely must try sakagura for sake. food is good too. i highly recommend their buta kakuni and the daikon salad. they have a decent dessert selection as well.

            1. re: nyufoodie

              It's on my hit list--thanks. =)

              1. re: cimui

                I think Decibel and Sakagura have the same owners. But, Sakagura is more upscale and definitely serene. It's on a basement as well of the building housing another Japanese resto called Hapon which adds to it's over-all mystic. It's not easy to find.

          2. Decibel is very cool loud scene and the food can be surprisingly good. I like Chibi for quiet and oysters and Japanese trail mix (what's it called again?)

            1. I triple Decibel.

              1. Robb, I think that most of the usual suspects have already been mentioned and I have to agree that Sakagura is top of the pile in terms of range and quality of selection and you can certainly sample plenty by the glass. They do very good food there as well.

                A couple of places that have not been mentioned are:

                * Aburiya Kinnosuke - I would call this a modern style izakaya, food and sake selection are both very good (I was there last night and you can do all of their sakes by the glass/small carafe, I had an enjoyable nama "arabashiri")
                * The bar in the Hotel Alex, next door to Aburiya. They have a list of maybe 10 sakes and I'm fairly sure that you can do most of these by the glass.
                * Sake Bar Satsko, Alphabet City - small venue with a food menu and a good sake list, a couple of which you can order by the glass. They recently opened a second outpost on the LES but that doesn't have a liquor licence as yet.
                * Haru Sake Bar, UES. Never made it there but as the name suggests, it has more nihon-shu options than the average place.

                To be honest, you'll be surprised how widely available sake now is in NYC, for example in some of the more upscale restaurants, they generally have 3 to 4 sakes in their wine list and even unlikely venues carry the stuff e.g. Swift's Hibernian Lounge which is more of a pub.

                In terms of shops which have specialist sake collections check out Landmark Wines & Sake, Astor Wines and Ambassador wines. Landmark has reasonably frequent Friday night tastings so may be worth giving them a ring to find out about upcoming events at their store or elsewhere.

                1. I love both Sakagura and Kasadela - in that order - En was too stuffy and cold - partly because of the huge stark space and was overpriced in my opinion. Decibel is good but grungy and the food options not as great as the others imo.

                  1. Thanks for all the tips and feedback! I'm looking forward to doing some research.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Robb S

                      One other place comes to mind - the relatively new Kyotofu which is at 9th Avenue between 48th and 49th Streets. It's predominantly a dessert bar (and I believe is the first overseas franchise of a Japanese chain) but they have a very decent range of sakes including some nama options. They also seem to have various events going on - last week for example they had somebody from the Masumi brewery coming in to do a talk and offer some tastings.

                    2. It looks like I was wrong about missing En's sake tasting; it's happening Tuesday May 15, 6-9pm. Admission is $60 in advance, $70 at the door, and includes appetizers to nibble on.