We had reservations at Brooklyn Fare for my husband's 34th bday and decided the new price was obscene. So now we are thinking of going a totally different route, instead of super-fancy we were thinking of fun, but with great food. When we were in Vancouver on vacation we had some wonderful meals at Izakaya places. Any suggestions in NYC?
I haven't had any izakaya food in New York that I thought was great. Good, yes. Great, no. That said, I am fond of Kasadela. It's a lot more peaceful than than Sake Bar Hagi and Village Yokocho, and thus more conducive to a leisurely evening. Plus, it takes reservations (although if you're a party of two, you can probably just walk in). Decibel is a little more "fun" - it's louder - although I don't think the food there is as good as at Kasadela.
647 E 11th St, New York, NY 10009
240 E 9th St, New York, NY 10003
re: small h
I went to Decibel last night. The menu was totally different than the one on menu pages.
I had takowasa ( raw octopus with wasabi) that was fantastic. It was much like toriwasa ( raw chicken)
that I've had in Japan. I also had dried squid, dried stingray fin, some wasabi pork dumplings, unagi which wasn't bad, and wonderful oshinko ( i think 5 types of pickled vegetables). I was surprised that they didn't have shiokara, they said their customers didn't like it when they had it on menu before. Oh, and i had cold tofu with bonito flakes, that was very good.
The menu on menu pages does not have any of these dishes. When I left the place the line was up the steps and down the street. I had no idea how popular this place is. I'm still feeling the sake.
I love Decibel, more for the sake and the atmosphere than for the food (although I am very fond of the stingray fin). I've been going there a few times a year since the mid '90s, and I've always been lucky getting seated more or less right away. It's impressive how crowded it still is, after all this time. Like Odeon.
Got another one for you to try, if you haven't already: Dodom Pa at 71 Clinton St. I prefer the takowasa there to Decibel's. It's firmer and less slimy. I also had cod roe with noodles. I've had something similar at Hagi, where I liked it more. Dodom Pa's version seemed carelessly made, and the cod roe didn't have much of a flavor beyond spicy. Dodom Pa didn't have a/c when I was there a few weeks ago, so be warned. The beer's nice and cold, but not cold enough to make up for the hot air.
re: small h
I haven't tried Dodom Pa , thanks for the recommendation. I like mentaiko a lot , but it does vary in flavor from place to place. I"m still curious as to what the Decibel menu on menu pages is, vs the menu that I saw at Decibel. It wasn't like there was a dinner menu and a bar menu. They told me the menu I had was the only menu, with the exception of a special that wouldn't be available until afar 11 PM
i'd consider Aburiya Kinnosuke or Sakagura...neither are izakayas exactly, but you can do an assortment of Japanese smaller dishes at both, and both are festive/fun enough for a bday...
213 E 45th St, New York, NY 10017
211 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017
I'm a big fan of Tsukushi, but I'm not sure it fits the OP's fun izakaya requirement.
Though it attracts a fair amount of criticism here, I'm fond of En for what it is. The space is dramatic and provided you order well, the food can be good while on the pricey side of reasonable. Also, be aware that most two-tops get seated at the counter facing the kitchen or the central island / mini 'garden'. If you're not into that you may want to specifically request a table when you reserve.
I also like Aburiya Kinnosuke and they have some semi-private tables (though not sure whether they have them for two).
And Zenkichi in Brooklyn has some pretty romantic booths - but that's material for the outer boroughs board - and I haven't been there for a couple of years.
Brooklyn Fare is expensive but the opposite of fancy. they don't even have tables. The food there is OK, 20 tiny tiny portions, very japaneseish. Should never have 3 Michelin stars. It's a joke. The chef there Cesar worked for Bouley. In case, En Japanese Brasserie is nice for a birthday, atmosphere is nicer than Sakagura.
En Japanese Brasserie
435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
I haven't been there in a long time-but it was great-Donguri. The quality was phenomenal, better than anything in this post, and many many small plates food. NYC Izakayas or small plates food places are great. There also some non-Izakaya places that are somewhat equivalent:
Takashi serves Japanese/Korean barbecue and comes form a family that immigrated from Korea to Japan I believe in the 40s. Wonderful and unsusual.
Hakata Tonton specializes in a Japanese version of "pig to tail" cuisine. So many ways of serving pork-lots of fun and delicious.
Tori Shin specializes in all fasion of grilled chicken on skewers. Had a michelin star. Very traditional style, and delicious.
Totto Ramen or Yakitori Totto; One does oen of the best "ramen" in NYC. Ramen is a big craze in NYC these days, and one of the most difficult restaurants to get into these days is Ippudo-a pretty good ramen place. These places are fun and delicious. Yakitori totto does skewered chicken and vegetables-great.
Then ofcourse many of the other posts here are great too. NYC is a great town for Japanese food.