Sakagura ~ Orderinny

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sakagura

Eel encased in Tamago
The persistent rain and Ying's tight schedule ruined our plans to have Asian tapas down in LES, so we decided to pursue small plates of a different sort at Sakagura, which came to our attention by way of a NY Times article and Yanru's Japanese salesperson acquaintance's recommendation. Sakagura is known in the city as a place for sake, but even if you are not a fan of sake (we weren't), it still makes for a great spot for authentic, non-sushi (as advertised by the restaurant's website) Japanese grub in an unpretensious, but un-ghetto like underground restaurant.
For the uninitiated, Sakagura can be tricky to find, as it is stuck in the basement of an undistinguished office building in midtown. It did not help that google maps was playing tricks on me and gave me a wrong location. But no matter, we soon got to the address, and after walking down a scary looking flight of stairs into the basement, we soon found ourselves in a clean and cavernous space, nothing like the dank and narrow staircase that led us to it seem to suggest. The room was dimly lit, but not so dark you cannot see your food, and while suitable for rambunctious groups, was quite enough so that pairs and trios of diners will find it easy enough to conduct civilised conversation as well.
The food comes in small plates, well-priced under $10. Our server recommended that we each picked 3 plates, but a better suggestion might be to start with 2 each and work your way through the drinks and dishes before ordering more. We ended up with 8 dishes, including a dessert and that made for a filling meal already.
The NY Times likened Sakagura to a pub, but as with everything Japanese, the food was just daintier, prettier and tastier. We had a range of dishes, from the raw fluke sashimi served with ponzu sauce, to the heartier meat dishes like the chunky 4 sq inches of BUTA KAKUNI (fatty pork belly simmered in a soy and sugar sauce) and shredded beef ribs slow-cooked in a flavorful broth and served with a generous lump of shredded daikon. The Japanese omelette is familiar to everyone who eats cooked sushi, but comes with a twist, or a sliver of broiled eel folded in the middle. The deep fried dishes were also well executed. The tori-kaarage was moist and the marinade smelled wonderfully gingery, and the shrimp balls were soft and almond slices encasing it provided a good crunch. Personally though, i thought the almond could have been better served if it had been crushed into smaller pieces instead. The salmon ochazuke (rice in broth, topped with a slice of poached salmon) closed the savory part of the meal, simple and austere, cleansing the sweet, tart, salty flavors off our tongues with the tea broth. While simple and non-too original, we felt comforted by the home-style food, dishes a Japanese mum with a deft hand at seasoning would make for her brood, and dishes we wished we could make at home, with a little more care and a little bit more time on our hands.
Of course we had dessert... We shared a pear mille feuille, which was presented as a sandwich, only that the puff pastry contained more butter than any pullman loaf you've eaten, and the filling was soft pear poached in simple syrup, served with a dollop of cold creamy custard. The mille feuille was served with a scoop of houji icecream that alternated between sweet and bitter. Yummy.
Since sake was the name of the game, we also tried a flight of 3 sakes and reaffirmed our conviction that sake was not our poison of choice. However, alcohol does tend to make us chattier so we sat and talked for almost and hour after the meal was complete and our bill was paid for. And there was never a rush to check for the bill nor did the servers shoot us disapproving looks the whole time. This restaurant is a keeper.

Sakagura
211 E43rd St, B1 (Bet 2nd & 3rd Ave)

1 comment:

Peishan said...

wah, hurry up and come to chicago and recommend restaurants for me! no use reading about yummy ny restaurants when im here... :D

also, did you know the freshest way to cook the eel in tofu is to boil a live eel and tofu? the tofu's cooler than the water, so the eel will burrow into the tofu. ;)