Sakamai - Very Good
Having been twice now, once shortly after it opened and once again more recently, I feel reasonably comfortable calling this worthy of the trip. I found the food to be both creative and well-executed. The chawanmushi in particular was rather good, the roughly chopped duck providing a gritty contrast to the rich yet surprisingly subtle foie gras. As it took a bit longer than usual, the chef sent us marinated fresh tofu, by way of apology. An unnecessary gesture, as we scarcely noticed the wait, but appreciated. The tofu itself was somewhat sweeter than usual, seemingly in an effort to counter balance the marinade.The kampachi brushed in shoyu and topped with shiso and myoga was another success, as the fish was exceedingly fresh, and the assortment of herbaceous garnishes did not overwhelm it. The bone marrow and steak tartare dish was unfortunately a bit of a letdown, as the marrow was lost amongst the profoundly mustardy tartare. Of the cocktails my partner and I sampled, the Kuchiba (referred to by the waitress as Ento) and the Rikyu were our favorites, due in large part to their darker, alcohol forward natures. The smokiness of the former, while described as theatrical, is much more apparent in the drink's taste than its presentation. The sake selection is impressive, and is quite well curated for the food on offer. Front of house was friendly and efficient, and service, while a bit scattered at times, was knowledgeable and genuinely aimed to please. As Sakamai settles in, I have little doubt that the menu will begin to incorporate further nuanced renditions of classic dishes, and that the service will become more seamless.
(Some of the focus in the pictures is off; my apologies. Sake tends to do that to folks.)
I tried a few dishes at Sakamai last night: the uni crostini, the skate wing, and the kampachi. Of the three, I was most taken with the skate. It was dried, like jerky, but the flavor was still relatively mild and texture wasn't overly chewy. The uni was pretty bland and dull, although there was nothing in particular wrong with it. The kampachi was likewise fine - the toppings didn't really register. (I don't award extra points for fresh fish. I appreciate it, but I also expect it.)
My first drink was the Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, which was lovely, and dramatically presented - includes actual smoke! It was also $15 and would've fit in a tablespoon. Service was excellent, and not slow at all. We sat in the very front room, so the hostess was always right there; that might have had something to do with it.