Kanoyama Sushi Restaurant. Scott introduced me to this place on Superbowl Sunday several years ago. As you may know, this is the one evening of the year when you can really have your pick of restaurants. While the world was enjoying the Superbowl halftime show, I was enjoying the spectacular sushi.'>

IF you live in New York City and you love sushi, chances are very high you’ve discovered Kanoyama Sushi Restaurant. Scott introduced me to this place on Superbowl Sunday several years ago. As you may know, this is the one evening of the year when you can really have your pick of restaurants. While the world was enjoying the Superbowl halftime show, I was enjoying the spectacular sushi.

Kanoyama Sushi Chefs

Kanoyama Sushi Chefs

Kanoyama suddenly became even more crowded when the NYTimes’ Frank Bruni singled it out as a destination for the “Affordable Luxury” of sushi. Um, thanks Frank…

I’ve loved this restaurant ever since that first superbowl sunday! But what’s the big news on the block? Well, Kanoyama has expanded next door and opened a new sake bar in the east village. Whoa, that IS big news!

Behold, Kanoyama Sake Bar (175 2nd Ave @11th St. 212-777-5266). Our friend Kiyoe-san is behind the bar and helping dole out the nihonshu. If you stop by, please tell her that UrbanSake.com sent you!

Kiyoe-san Introduces Sake at Kanoyama

Kiyoe-san Introduces Sake at Kanoyama

The sake list is solid and well thought out. Take a look at the Kanoyama Sake List as per their website.

In addition to sake, they also offer oysters! um, yum, right? right. On my first visit to this new sake bar, I ordered a dear favorite of mine – the Kikusui Funaguchi in a can. It’s a genshu, nama, and honjozo… and a linchpin in anyone’s ‘get drunk quick scheme’. I find it utterly delightful and it’s a fruity way to wind down an evening. I actually had it instead of dessert!

So give Kanoyama Sake bar a try. Besides Funaguchi – they have many wonderful sakes to explore. I’m excited to see where this favorite sushi bar goes with it’s sake! All I can say is bottoms up and best of luck Kanoyama – Kanpai!

Enjoying Kikusui Funaguchi at Kanoyama sake Bar

Enjoying Kikusui Funaguchi at Kanoyama sake Bar

A recent visit by my newlywed vegetarian sister was a perfect excuse to go again to our favorite NYC Japanese vegetarian “Shojin Ryori” restaurant: Kajitsu.

Dassai 39

Dassai 39

Kajitsu is really a magical place. It’s really as if someone picked up a first rate Shojin Ryori restaurant from japan and plopped it down on East 9th street. The service, food, atmostphere and sake were all spectacular. It’s really everything I truly love about japanese cuisine and culture condensed into a meal.

“Nama-Fu” (生麩) was one of the star attractions of the meal. Fu is a wheat gluten (aka seitan). The “nama” part means raw. In our case, the fu was served as tempura. It was lightly chewy and delicious. Our waitress told us that the restaurant owner also owns a fu shop in japan, so that Kajitsu has access to only the best fu around. it tasted like it. After a few sips of delicious Dassai 39, “Fu” seemed such a funny name that many Abbott-and-Costello-like “Fu’s on First?” jokes ensued. A little Dassai makes everything better.

If you get to NYC’s east village, don’t miss the chance to have dinner at Kajitsu. It’s fantastic, delicious and simply amazing. If you’re freaked out by unusual ingredients like Agar Agar and Fu, my advice is to sit back, question nothing and just eat everything that’s put in front of you. That’s my recipe for a FU-fulling meal.

See the notes in this slideshow for more info on our dinner at Kajitsu.

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On a recent trip to San Diego, thanks to their Zagat rating of 28, I was luck enough to discover Sushi Ota. The sushi was really quite good and best of all, they had a solid list of sushi friendly sakes. They had Hakkaisan Junmai Ginjo on the menu, so I ordered that to start. The waitress let me know that they also have Hakkaisan Ginjo. So what the heck, I got a carafe of each one. In this mini Hakkaisan smackdown, Junmai ginjo came out on top as far as pairing with sushi. However, the Ginjo is my favorite in general. Everyone wins!

See the notes in this slideshow for more info on Sushi Ota.

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A quick overnight trip to Las Vegas this past weekend for a friend’s birthday left me very little time to explore the sake scene in Sin City. That doesn’t mean, however, that my stay was totally nary a nip of nihon-shu.

Boo Ya! It's Shibuya

I talked my friends into spending one of our meals together at Shibuya Restaurant. Located inside the MGM Grand Hotel, I selected this restaurant in the hopes of exploring it’s extensive sake list… and with my fingers crossed for discovering some hopefully authentic and delicious Japanese cuisine.

Some Wasabi With That?
The space itself was large and, although situated away from the casino’s blinking slot machines, was decorated with just enough flash to make sure you didn’t forget you were in Vega$, baby.

Next Course Sashimi?

Next Course Sashimi?

The food, in a nutshell, was quite good, but prepared dishes lean strongly into the Japanese fusion camp ala Morimoto or Nobu. I am much more of a devotee of the Japanese authentic camp myself, so this is good to know if you’re an authentic camper, too.

The Sushi I enjoyed at Shibuya was well prepared but a touch too heavy on the wasabi. I’m a wuss in this department, but if the chef is going to pre-season the fish with wasabi, it’s better to take a lighter hand.

There was a delicious crab salad that was served in a very, well, flashy Las Vegas way… a bowl of the crab salad was served perched over a fishbowl with a live fish swimming around. Can’t help thinking the poor little guy isn’t too happy working at a sushi joint.

Show me the $ake!
The Sake menu was large and the Shibuya website boasts that they have “the widest sake selection this side of the Pacific.” It was a good list to be sure – way above what you could find in most Japanese restaurants but I’m sure that NYC’s Sakagura Restaurant has them beat in the ‘widest sake selection’ department… assuming Nevada and New York are on the same side of the Pacific.

Sake Bottle Display

Sake Bottle Display

All the sake on the list was expensive. I believe it is more expensive that you would pay by the bottle in New York City at most restaurants. But hey, perhaps you just won big at roulette and need to relieve yourself of some of that weighty cash. Let’s of delicious sakes to help you out! I was excited to talk sake with the Shibuya Sake Sommelier. When I asked if they had a Sake Sommelier on staff, I was disappointed to be told “Not tonight”.

So I was on my own and to start us off, I guided my friends to the Sougen Junmai. This is a clean, crisp drink that really started to shine when our first courses arrived and we were able to pair it with food.

Next, we enjoyed Wakatake Junmai Daiginjo. This sake is along the same vein as the Sougen being clean, but as a junmai daiginjo grade, it’s more smooth and has more fruit coming across on the palate. The 16.5% alcohol content was a bit strong for a few folks, but should I be concerned that this didn’t bother me in the least? An interesting note on the service of sake. When a new sake is served, they give every guest a business card with the vital stats of each sake. It’s a nice touch and I’ve never seen this done at a restaurant before. It does make sense as I’m sure lots of people ask their server… “now what was the name of that first sake we had??”

So, if you find yourself looking for a little sake oasis in the deserts of Las Vegas, don’t hesitate to give Shibuya a try. The nihon-shu selection is fantastic so if drinking sake is your game, this is one table in the casino where you’re sure to come out a winner every time.

Nanbu Bijin Junami Nama

Nanbu Bijin Junami Nama

I love New Year’s Eve traditions… but I really love a New Year’s Eve traditions that involve sake! No problem for me, as I’ve got one!

Scott and I have made it our tradition to head to Sakagura Restaurant each New Year’s eve to celebrate in true style and luckily for me, this year was no exception! From the moment we sat down, Sakagura manager Mr. Kadoi made sure that we were well taken care of. He personally helped us select our sakes for the evening and he’s got one of the best palates in the city, so I knew we were in good hands.

Sougen Chilled vs Sougen Warmed

Sougen Chilled vs Sougen Warmed

I wanted something fresh and interesting to start off with and after a few samples of alluring Kubota sakes, we decided on the delicious Nanbu Bijin Junmai Nama. This Namazake from Iwate Prefecture was supple, and spoke to me of soft fresh fruit. I enjoyed the gentle nama flavor profiles, and was so happy to be reminded of this sake’s specific charms. It has such a nice, pleasant level of nama juiciness without being overwhelming or brassy. Nanbu Bijin Nama went down easy and was the perfect brew to let one’s mind wonder to the sky high hopes for the new year. Alongside the nama, we feasted on a sashimi platter that was darn near perfect.

Mr. Kadoi at Sakagura

Mr. Kadoi at Sakagura

Once we hit our stride, I ordered a wonderful treat: Sougen Junmai. Kadoi-san let us sample Sougen chilled and warmed side by side. This was really facinating. The chilled sougen was more clean and easy drinking, while the warmed Sougen (warmed to the perfect nurukan temperature by Kadoi-san) came across as richer and rounder on the palate, and of course perfect for a cold New Year’s eve. Both were extremely enjoyable and it just goes to show you, sake is the most versatile booze around. (Yeah, don’t try this nurukan trick with your prized Pinot, ok?)

After a lovely meal and these fantastic sakes, it was time to head out into the night to welcome the new year. I can’t think of a better place to get 2009 off to a fantastic start. Special thanks to Kadoi-san and all the wonderful folks at Sakagura for the wonderful evening. …and it goes without saying that dinner and drinks at Sakagura beats out New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on TV. um, Seacrest out!

bon_nama_junmai_daiginjo.jpgI recently went to Kyo-ya (94 East 7th Street, 212-982-4140) and I have to say, it was one of the best Sake-food pairing restaurants I’ve been to in a while. This place rocks.

The first sake we tried was a fantastic Born Muroka Nama Genshu junmai Daiginjo (Fukui Prefecture., SMV +4, Acidity 1.4), which is aged at 0 Degrees C for 1 year. This gives the sake a complexity and depth that is really stunning. I would recommend this sake as a warm up to any Japanese meal. Fantastic.

sweet_potato_tempura.jpgThe next item of note was a really amazing sweet potato tempura. Sounds simple enough, but Kyo-ya rocks it. Scott and I shared a delicate sweet potato with a whisper light tempura crust. on the side, they offered salt and home-made soy sauce. It’s hard to explain how very very different home-made soy sauce can be to someone like me that grew up on the syrupy store bought stuff. Anyway, if you go to Kyo-ya, and you should, be sure to order this dish. Heaven on a plate.

yuki_no_bosha_nigori.jpgWhat does one pair with heaven on a plate? Well, I did my best and selected the heavenly Yuki No Bosha Junmai Ginjo Nigori (Akita Prefecture, SMV +1, Acidity 1.4). The touch of creaminess that this nigori offers offset the tempura perfectly. Both Nigori and tempura could be strong flavors, but here, they were so elegantly produced, it. really spoke to me.

The rest of our evening at Kyo-ya was a swirl of delicious tastes and flavors all mixed liberally with good sake. If you are looking for a special occasion restaurant or for a special reason to treat yourself, please run, don’t walk to Kyo-ya. If you see me there, I’ll be the guy with the three orders of Sweet Potato tempura in front of me.