I have heard about the sakÃ© bar Sakagura from every article and book on where to find sake in New York, so I knew it was a destination. I wanted to save my first trip there for a special occasion, so Scott had the great idea to go there on New Year’s eve for dinner and drinks. Scott gets brownie points for that idea because it was really the perfect way to wind up 2005, the year in which I started drinking sake in earnest. I had a feeling it was going to be great – and quite frankly it really surpassed all expectations. For me, being not too much of a foodie, I can honestly say it was the best restaurant experience i’ve had in NYC. I say for me, because everything about the tastes, service and atmosphere were just what I happen to like.
…and the sake? by far and away the best, most complex and most wonderful I’ve every tasted! I sat down at the sake bar and marveled at the sake menu itself which was the broadest i’ve seen. it was arranged by sake type with Daiginjo leading the pack. I didn’t really bother reading the ginjo or junmai sections too much as I know I wanted a Daigingo (or two…). I was thinking back to my taru experience at yakatori taisho and knew right away I wasn’t going to “just pick one” to try. they were too expensive and it felt like my whole night was riding on having a really, really, really great new sake. So, I asked our sake bar server for a recommendation. I told her I wanted a ‘very dry daiginjo’. she poured me a tiny sip of two different sakes to try. I picked the better of the two which was Ken DaiGinjo from Fukushima ($19 for about 5 ounces). This sake was good. The bartender chose to server the first daiginjo in a regular wineglass, which I have never seen before at a sake bar, but I just rolled with it. The wine glass made the sake easy to enjoy. I could stick my nose in the glass easily to smell and using the stem helped keep the sake chilled. The server also left the bottle next to the glass each time she poured which I thought was wonderful. this gave me a chance to really check out the bottle and read the label. Ken was smooth indeed, and dry. It had a complex flavor on the tongue and a bright crisp nose. The only thing that wasn’t perfect was that I felt it lacked a strong “finish”. For me, the taste was over too quickly. However, I enjoyed every single drop. SO good. The food started to arrive promptly and it was amazing as well, but I’ll leave that review to the food critic.
It was interesting to see how the sake was stored at sakagura. behind the bar there was a long row of top loading refridgerators. They kinda reminded me of the freezers they use in ice cream trucks where you open the metal door at the top and reach in from above. each refridgerator unit had a map inside the lid to guide the server to the location of the correct bottle without having to pull each and everyone out. very organized. there was also a sake room – kinda like a wine cellar – in clear view of the main dining room lined. The Sake room was easy to see as it had a glass door and was lined top to bottom with sake bottles on display. Maybe I’ll have one of those in my house someday?
When I had finished with Ken, I looked to our server again for recommendations. She presented again a sip apiece from two options and I hit the motherload… I selected the enchanting Masuizumi junmai daiginjo ($20 for a 5 ounce glass – $130 a bottle). This sake was sublime. I don’t really have the vocabulary or experience yet to do it justice. a mega ultra super premium? All I know is that I was transported. Also, it showed me quite clearly how perfect sake and good food can interact to create some magic. Masuizumi was served in a cute tumbler type wineglass – not sure if there was any reason for this, but it was a beautiful. I was sad to see the final sip in the bottom of my glass, but I made a resolution to enjoy it fully. I quickly made another 2006 new year’s eve resolution — to return to Sakagura as often as possible. Hey isn’t my birthday is coming up… ?
For earning it’s $130 a bottle price tag, Masuizumi gets a perfect 5 out of 5 sake bottle rating.