eat. shop. love. nyc.

NY Loves Japan Sake & Tasting Benefit

New York’s premier sake and restaurant community has partnered with Project by Project to host New York Loves Japan, a sake and chefs’ tasting to benefit relief efforts in Japan.

The benefit takes place this Wednesday, April 27, 2011, at La.venue in Chelsea, featuring 100 tastes of sake with food pairings to pay tribute to the culture and the rebuilding of communities in Japan. See Event Details.

Food sponsors include 15 East, Bond Street, Bozu, Buddakan, EN Japanese Brasserie, Geisha, Hibino, Kajitsu, Kyotofu, Kyoya, Matsuri, Sakagura, Tanuki Tavern, wd~50, and Unique Eats Chef Lee Anne Wong. For a full list of sake sponsors, click here. The list is quite impressive.

VIP Admission: $175

  • Early Event Admission Starting at 6 PM
  • Private VIP Daiginjo Sake Lounge Starting at 6 PM
  • Sake Cup Gift Bag
  • Plus General Admission Ticket Privileges

General Admission: $100

All proceeds will benefit the Japanese Red Cross Society. Your donation will support disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

General Admission Tickets will be $125 at the door, so buy your tickets online now!


Sake Bar Decibel
March 7, 2011, 10:00 am
Filed under: Drink | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Outside Sake Bar Decibel, an ON AIR sign surreptitiously marks the entrance down the stairs to this graffiti-covered izakaya on a quiet strip of E. 9th St. between 2nd and 3rd Aves. in the East Village. This sake and small plates joint is better suited for a date or intimate outing with a couple of of friends. It’s certainly not quiet, but it’s a cool place to go when you actually want to be able to hear the people you’re with. If Yakitori Taisho & Oh Taisho on St. Marks are izakayas for rowdy college kids and Village Yokocho is a step up from that, then Decibel is the hipper, tattooed cousin of Village Yokocho.

Once inside, you might notice the black wood, the graffiti-covered walls, and servers that look like they may have stepped off the pages of some Japanese manga – one of the servers when I went had half of his head shaved with the remaining long, straight hair pulled into a ponytail and looked like some punk rock samurai from the future. The dining area in the back is outfitted with the requisite red izakaya lantern and cat figurine but is otherwise dark, save for the light reflecting off of sake bottles from a few tea light candles.

The food itself is not exceptional, but it’s solid and makes for good snacking. The okonomiyaki with its billowing bonito flakes makes for a good stomach liner (even if the one at the takeout place Otafuku a block away is better). The raw squid was very wasabi-y and a little crunchier than I had expected – I would have gone with a thinner cute rather than little chunks, but it was still pretty good. The broiled dried sting ray is served in strips and tastes like a sweeter, slightly fishier version of the dried squid served in Korean drinking establishments, and it is served with a generous dollop of mayo for dipping – this was my favorite dish of the evening. We also tried the hamachi, which I didn’t care for as I felt the fish wasn’t terribly fresh. The Decibel tofu was nice, though fairly standard. I tried the sesame chicken and it was so gamey that I actually spit it out.

Still, I’d say it’s a good place to go and have some sake or shochu or beer while chatting with friends, but the strongest draw here is the atmosphere and the booze, and not so much the food. As long as you remember that, you’ll have an awesome time.

Drink: Sake Bar Decibel (East Village) 240 E. 9th St. between 2nd and 3rd Aves. (212) 979-2733. Open Monday – Saturday 6:00 pm – 2:50 am, Sunday 6:00pm-12:50 am.

Go a la carte at Bohemian

A clever marketing scheme it may be, but dinner at the under-the-radar NoHo restaurant Bohemian is a lovely experience. I was invited at the last minute by a friend from out of town who was going in a party of three and happened to have an extra seat. I was excited about dining at a speakeasy-style restaurant with an unpublished phone number, all hush hush and super cool. It is an excellent date spot (check out the sweet bar!) because it is small (maybe 26 seats or so?), quiet, and feels like you’re hanging out in someone’s well-appointed living room. Oh, and the food’s pretty good, too.

Dark wood, hot towels, long chopsticks, Japanese print napkins. Both the decor and food were refined, restrained. Check out the bathroom. The bidet is on steroids. Perhaps the only thing that’s over the top here.

Don’t get the tasting menu. You’ll miss out on some really amazing dishes, and from what I understand from those who had dined at Bohemian before me, not everything on the tasting menu is that great. Also, if you get the tasting menu, everyone at the table has to get it, so you’ll have way too much food leftover if you order additional plates.

We decided to try a little bit of everything, and we definitely over-ordered but everything was so pretty and so tasty! I don’t regret anything, though next time I think I’ll suggest that we share the uni and mushroom croquettes (1 croquette per 2 people) instead of getting one each, I’ll skip the charcuterie platter and sweet potatoes, and order just one of the ikura (salmon roe) bowls – probably the one with the uni.

We ordered a bottle of the Dassai 39 sparkling sake ($52) as no one else had tried a sparkling sake before. I’m a huge fan of bubbles in general, so the effervescence followed by the nigori creaminess and delicate rice flavor was a real pleasure. I felt like it was sweeter at the open and drier on the finish, and it served as a wonderful palate cleanser with its mild acidity.

We started off with the large order of oysters (12 oysters for $30) from Massachusetts somewhere (couldn’t hear the waiter when he told us exactly what kind they were). They were pretty mild, but briny – the oysters were good, but not my favorite. The apple cider vinegar and key lime mignonette with diced Granny Smith apples was tart, a little sweet, and brought a nice brightness of flavor to the oysters. I probably would not order this again, but that’s mostly because I enjoy my $1 oyster happy hours immensely.

The second dish to come out was the washu-beef short rib sashimi with hon-wasabi and garlic soy sauce ($18), and it was stellar. The raw beef was so tender and so flavorful – it actually tasted like really high quality cooked beef, but more delicate and softer in texture. The accompanying pickled cauliflower was a nice touch, too. I was so distracted that I forgot to take a picture before we started eating. I think there were eight or ten pieces. Wow.

We also ordered Herve Katz’s cold cuts platter for $23, but aside from the duck, everything was pretty standard. In order of best-ness: duck, ham, chorizo, and the salami/bologna thing. It was fine, but I’d rather get my charcuterie at Jadis or L’Oublis.

One of my personal favorite dishes for the night was the foie gras soba ($15), though I am biased towards anything with foie gras in it. I don’t think I could eat the entire bowl by myself – probably best to share between 2-3 people – because it was really quite decadent. The warm duck liver lent a sinfully rich dimension to the soba noodles and soup, and I liked that we were able to control how much wasabi, grated daikon, and shredded green onion went into each bite.

The mushroom cream croquette topped with uni and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds ($13) was another favorite, and we had ordered one per person at the behest of the two who had tried this dish on a prior visit when they had the tasting menu. The croquette is about the size of a duck egg. Since uni (sea urchin roe) is basically the foie gras of the sea, this is another rich dish I enjoyed immensely, but would rather have shared with one other person. I was delighted by what I felt was a very novel combination of uni and mushroom, the epitome of umami for me.

The miso-glazed black cod ($18) was delicious, albeit in a fairly standard way. I love miso black cod at any Japanese restaurant worth its salt, so this was kind of a no brainer. The creamy mushroom and sour cherry sides were a nice touch, and the fish was perfectly seared and moist and flaky. I would come to Bohemian to have this dish and a glass of sake after work on any given evening.

We ordered two rice bowls (each $10) because we were afraid the food we had ordered wouldn’t be filling enough. That was dumb, because the ikura & uni rice bowl and the sashimi rice bowl ended up being very similar to one another – both were rice bowls topped with a lot of salmon roe, but one had uni and the other had hamachi. I like the way the ikura pops in my mouth, though, and this is another dish I might order after work one day for a light meal, though I’d likely pair it with a frosty beer and negate its lightness.

The $28 pan oven-roasted branzini with seasonal vegetables was phenomenal and huge. I can’t actually imagine one person ordering this and being able to finish it. If you order this and nothing else, it will comfortably feed two. If you ordered like we did, it could easily feed 6. My favorites of the vegetables were the roasted garlic and the brussel sprouts, and I especially enjoyed the occasional olive and anchovy in between all of the potatoes and zucchini – it was like a treasure hunt!

By this point, we were all pretty full. We could easily have ended the meal with the branzini and the four of us would have left quite happy, and not completely bursting. But we had a medium-rare, 5-ounce flat iron steak ($32) left to go. We felt we needed to order the steak because Bohemian is connected to a Japanese butcher shop and has daily steak specials; not sure if they are owned by the same people as the butcher shop or if it’s just a symbiotic relationship born of proximity. The steak, juicy and pre-cut for ease of sharing, came with some of the most delicious pan-roasted garlic I’ve ever had in my life, and was served with a potato. Sadly, given that we were all really full, I don’t think any of us enjoyed the steak as much as we could have.

I really wish we had known that the steak came with a potato, because then we wouldn’t have ordered the fried satsuma sweet potatoes ($8). That was a whole lot of potato, and while good, I don’t think anyone enjoyed it because at this point, we were ready to explode.

Knowing what I know now, I would suggest the following a la carte menus for groups of 2, 4, and 6 people respectively. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the wagyu beef sliders, so I can’t recommend that you order or not order the sliders.

2 people: beef sashimi, uni croquette, miso black cod, foie gras soba, and sashimi rice bowl OR beef sashimi, uni croquette and branzini

4 people: beef sashimi, 2 uni croquettes, miso black cod, foie gras soba, branzini

6 people: beef sashimi, 3 uni croquettes, miso black cod, foie gras soba, ikura & uni rice bowl, branzini, a steak of the day – medium rare

I can’t publish Bohemian’s phone number – that would take away the fun in your having to procure it somehow yourself – but I will tell you it’s definitely worth a visit. Just don’t get too excited and order way too much food like we did because it will end up being pretty pricey and you won’t enjoy the last dishes to come out.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Eastern Alley
February 16, 2010, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Drink, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Eastern Alley is the new Pan-Asian restaurant helmed by Bao emperor Michael Huynh’s former right-hand man Sean Scotese in the old Thailand Cafe space on Clinton St., right next to Clinton St. Baking Co. When I called to reserve a table for Saturday night and the guy who answered said, “Yes, we allow BYOB,” I was sold. It’s just until they get their liquor license in a couple weeks, so get there soon. East Village Wine & Liquor on Stanton/Clinton is just around the corner and had a bunch of chilled sakes ready for immediate consumption. (We picked up the Gekkeikan Black and Gold for $18.99 and it paired wonderfully with the Asian flavors.)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we went in for dinner because Pan-Asian fusion can mean just about anything these days, and I hadn’t yet seen a menu. What I found at Eastern Alley were traditionally Asian ingredients and flavors cooked with a more Western hand: the soy-braised oxtails with yucca cake was an unusual combination where the sweetness of the yucca really balanced out the saltiness of the meat; the pork loin and pea shoots in the sweet sesame mustard sauce (the Japanese kind that is only slightly sweet and slightly mustardy with whole sesame seeds) were very nice and light (recommended for dieters) though the adobo potatoes that came with seemed a little disjointed in terms of flavor and heft; the extra crispy fried chicken thighs with curried green lentils were flippin’ amazing – think boneless Southern fried chicken with Indian spices and bacon thrown in; the ginger beef brisket with taro and miso (shown below) must have been awesome too because there was absolutely nothing left on that plate, not so much as a single drop of sauce.

You can order a side of jasmine rice, rice cakes, or steamed buns to share for $2.50 to sop up whatever meats and juices are left on your plate, or to make little sandwiches. Totally worth it. We got the steamed buns, but I’m very intrigued by the idea of eating my meat with rice cakes… I wonder if they’re Korean style?

The dessert menu will be served starting tomorrow. I’m excited (I want to try the Salted Ice Cream and Black Pepper Marshmallows). Apps are $6-$9, mains run $14-$18 or so, and desserts are $5 – pics of the full menu below! Continue reading

Arigato, Mr. Robata (Yaki)
August 16, 2009, 6:34 pm
Filed under: Drink, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ever since my first exposure to robata yaki at Katana in Los Angeles, I’ve been a huge fan. I suppose you can’t really go that wrong with grilled meat or veggies on a stick; I love all meat on a stick I’ve ever tried: shish kebabs, carne en polito, brochette, chicken tikka, and satay. My love for grilled food on sticks was reignited on recent visits to Village Yokocho and Yakitori Taisho in the East Village (Saint Marks) with out-of-town visitors.

I’d have to say my favorite robata yaki at Yakitori Taisho was the grilled, skin-on shrimp. It went especially well with the grilled scallion skewers and sake. Continue reading