I used to go to Hatchan on 44th Street, which was closed due to a fire. They supposedly moved to the East Japanese Restaurant on 3rd Ave, but the website makes no mention of it and I'd like to find someplace with a bit better food.
I see mention of a shochu bar at the Soba Totto place on 43rd street, but is the bar there really just a few seats where people would only have a drink before being seated for dinner?
EN is probably more upscale than what I'm looking for. And I'm guessing too crowded. Is there a separate bar more relaxed than what the restaurant appears to be? Does this vary by night?
What about Shimizu, is that more of just a restaurant where nobody would just sit at the bar for a couple of shochus and maybe an appetizer or two?
It sounds like Umo No Ie is the closest to what I'm looking for, but does that place get ridiculously crowded? Can I count on walking in there at any time on say, a Thursday night and expect to find a table or a couple of seats at the bar?
Any ideas are appreciated. And ideally the bar will serve shochu flights and perhaps have fresh squeezed grapefruit juice available as well.
Thanks to everyone who replied. Hatchan has been reopened for a few weeks at its orignal spot on 44th Street. The shochu list has been slightly modified and it's just slightly larger than before and a couple of the most expensive selections appear to have been removed.
There is now a plum shochu available. Unfortunately they didn't add the akanone carrot shochu to the menu that was occasionally available before.
They weren't doing too well last week, but the night I was there, the bar filled up by the time I left. I hope business starts picking up for them.
I'll add Udon West on 46th St to the list of places to enjoy some shochu. They've revamped the menu to be more like an izakaya, and it's not bad. Not great either, but a comfortable, non-crowded place. They specialize in motsu (intestines) dishes, but also have an interesting selection of himono (semi-dried fish) which are grilled. These go especially well with shochu or sake. Also, the guy who used to run Hatchan is now in the kitchen at Udon West. I wonder if this is a demotion or a new opportunity? Either way, he wasn't the right guy to run a shochu bar, since he didn't know how to make a proper oyu-wari (hot water mix) shochu. Members of my party, along with one of the cute bartenders at the former Hatchan, had to show him how it's done.
Umi no Ie has a decent, somewhat predictable, but balanced shochu selection. I've seen it busy but never crowded. They shut down the kitchen relatively early and it becomes more of a bar. But they do tasting flights. Back uptown, Donburiya has a long bar with a modest shochu selection. Tsukushi has a similar chatty vibe as Hatchan, though a small selection. There used to be a 2nd floor bar branch of the Riki chain in mid-town east with a small selection, not too mention a few kind of sketchy places round that area as well- most on the second floor. If you're just looking to mix grapefruit juice, any izakaya like Hagi will do that.
Sake Bar Hagi has a bunch of shochu on the menu. bar like ambience at place and a mini-bar up front.
I've had the fresh grapefruit and shochu at Ippudo but dont' think they have a large selection. They have a bar up front.
I'm not a big shochu person.. but perhaps these two aren't terrible suggestions?