Decibel Sake Bar signI’ve been to Decibel once before, but this is my first post about this amazing NYC sake institution. I think it’s run by the same folks that own Sakagura, but, even though they are both in basements, the feel between the two places couldn’t be more different. Decibel goes for that gritty, dark, urban, graffiti-strewn effect. The walls here remind me of a NYC subway car circa 1978. I was out with my friend Brad for a long overdue check in and catch up. I’d like to think that Decibel is a true representation of what you would actually find in a gritty, dark, urban, graffiti strewn tokyo sake bar. Since I don’t have that round trip to Tokyo booked yet, this fill-in will do just fine.

Well, it was very dark at decibel, so my photos came out a little grainy, but I think you’ll get the idea.

Decibel Sake Bar sign I started with a super-premium sake that was one of the most expensive per glass… the Harushika DaiGinjo (5 oz.). As the waitress poured the Harushika, I asked her if she liked this sake. She said. “I loooooooooooove this sake. After a few sips, I did too. You could say this Sake had a style like your favorite brooks brothers button down shirt. comfortable, soft & well worn. Effortlessly elegant and balanced with a strong finish. yum.

I love the presentation at Decibel so much. As far as I know they are the only show in town that presents in this way. They use a traditional laquer-esque black & red masu with a 5 oz clear glass set inside. they pour the glass full and overflow into the masu box. Real sake bars in Japan (that I’ve seen on TV) have this exact same treatment. The waitstaff is also great – very helpful and friendly. Since sake is not all to widely understood, I’m sure they get asked a lot of the same questions all the time, but they seem focused on making you feel comfortable and happy.

Dried SquidMy friend Brad has been to japan about 4 times and he knows some of the bar snacks to order that may not be as popular here. Tonight, brad was brave enough to introduce me to something I’d never even heard of – shredded dried squid. it looks, quite literally, like a pile of chopped up frayed twine. And on first blush, it tastes like chopped up frayed twine. However, Brad taught me the waxon-waxoff secret of this dish. you put a small piece of dried squid in your mouth and start to chew and chew and chew…give it a full 90 seconds. If you hang in there you’ll be rewarded with a rush of fishy-squidy-seafood flavor in your mouth as the squid-jerky softens up.

A pile of these squid strips takes an incredibly long time to eat as you have to patiently chew each and every strip. Therein, however lies the secret. You simply cannot wolf down a plate of this stuff as if it were a supersize fries – You’re forced to savor and linger over a plate of shredded dried squid as you sip your sake and talk to your friends. For a harried New Yorker (who happens to like a fishy-squidy-seafood flavor), it’s delightful!

Decibel graffitiAs Brad and I masticated our way about half-way through the towering pile of shredded squid, I knew it was definitely time for a second round of sake. I went with the Dassai Ginjo.

This sake was clean and nice – but maybe a little too prim and proper. This is a sake you might have in the back of your little black book. If you don’t have anything sexier lined up, you can always give Dassai Ginjo a call as your plan B.

It’s always good to have a plan B. After Brad and I executed our Plan B and the Squid Jerky was a memory, we bundled out into the rainy NYC evening delighted by the quiet streets and cool spring air that the evening rain had brought. what a fun night.

Decibel LanternDecibel is a great place to ‘pump up the volume’ on your sake knowledge. Please make a trip if you have not been there already. It’s cool It’s got sake. It’s got cool sake. This is a wonderful place to go and bring out of town friends. They’ll think you know every underground speakeasy in the city. Heck, take your friends that live in New York, they’ll think the same thing. By any measure this Decibel is music to my ears.

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  1. […] We found ISE at 151 East 49th Street and this place looked promising from the start. the place was packed and they found room for us upstairs in what they called the “asian style room”. When we got upstairs, we found a small tatami room with three tables. Our petite waitress was delightful, but when it came to a sake recommendation, she confided that she didn’t drink sake as just a little bit made her dizzy. The sake selection was limited and traditional, but solid. I started with the Kurosawa Junmai. I was psyched to see that ISE serves their sake using the laquer (plastic?) masu with a clear glass inside just like Decibel! Only catch is that since, we were upstairs in our private “asian style room” we didn’t get the bottle presented and poured to overflowing in front of us. Kirosawa is what I would call a great dinking sake. I would compare it to a fine table wine. yummy just to have on hand and it goes great with food, but nothing to scream from the rooftops about. Just a littel side note: I’m still figuring out how exactly one is supposed to proceed with this glass-in-masu treatment. To the left is basiclly what you start out with. Sake in glass, sake in Masu. How to drink?! If you lift the glass out of the masu, it drips. The sake that is in the Masu drips off the bottom as soon as you get the glass anywhere near your face. what a waste! If you leave the glass IN the masu and sip, you will soon reach an angle where the sake in the masu pours out at you. this one strikes when you least expect it! And the sharp corner of the masu acts like a spout. Usually ends up in your lap! […]

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