Friday, February 19, 2010
Sakagura: Japanese Tapas Heaven
Restaurant Name: Sakagura
Restaurant Location: 211 E. 43rd Street, NYC
Last week my husband and I had one of the best meals we've enjoyed in some time. The food was sublime, the service impeccable and gracious, the atmosphere tranquil and romantic.
So, where is this lost paradise, this culinary katmandu, you ask? Answer: in the basement of an apartment building in the lonely canyons beyond Grand Central Station.
Sakagura is indeed tucked away in an unlikely venue, but when you make the final turn around the staircase, you enter another world. It's like finding a secret doorway to a magical land.
Sakagua is basically a Japanese tapas & sake house. Don't go here expecting sushi, because they don't serve it. Instead, you will find an extensive, authentic menu of Japanese small plates, all of which can be happily enjoyed with a selection from their incredible sake menu, or with a lovely cold beer.
We tried a good handful of dishes, though I wish we'd had time to try even more (we had to rush off to the ballet). Favorites included:
Hirame Ponzu, or Thinly Sliced Fluke Sashimi Topped with Grated Dikon Radish Dressed with a Citrus Vinaigrette. The sashimi was so, so, so good. I could have eaten plate after plate of this fresh, delightful dish.
For hot dishes, we loved the house special Buta Kakune, or Tender Pork Belly simmered in a sweet, salty, savory addictive sauce. This is one of the best pork belly dishes I've ever had. The entire portion of meat was incredibly tender and the sauce coated and clung to the whole fatty, glistening mess in a way that begged you to just pick up the delicate little bowl and pour it straight into your mouth.
The Gyu Miso Nikomi, or Shredded Beef Back Ribs Stewed in Miso Topped with Grated Dikon Radish were also a big hit at our table. The meat, again, was really tender and the sauce, while savory, had some indefinable element of sweetness that was completely seductive.
Other delightful bites included:
Ijura Oroshi, or Grated Daikon Radish Topped with Fresh Salmon Roe. The radish was like a pillow, or a cloud perhaps, on top of which glistening orange roe were perched. A little soy sauce added just the right amount of flavor to this subtle, silky dish.
The steak grilled on a hot stone was more fun than it was outstanding, but the beef was of extremely high quality and the novelty of cooking it on the hot stone gave the meal a playful element.
Desserts at Sakagura are also excellent - we shared the Black Sesame Creme Brulee, which was creamy and not too sweet. Very, very good.
Best of all, the service at Sakagura is top-notch. I was extremely impressed with their attentiveness, timing, and generally friendly attitude. It made me realize how often service at many NYC restaurants is lacking, or lackluster.
In sum, we honestly can't wait for an opportunity to go back.