I’ve been on the lookout for a sake bar that could become my “Cheers“. You know – “where they they always know your name…” Sake Bar Hagi has been on the short list since our first visit last September and a recent trip there made Hagi’s a front runner!
There’s a lot going for this place: The Time’s Square location is central, the service is friendly, the japanese bar snacks are yummy, and the atmosphere is casual. The one thing that impressed me the most, however, were the offerings on the seasonal sake menu. I discovered on this visit that Hagi was offering three Autumn Namas. Namas made for the Fall are much less common, so I was excited to find them at Hagi.
Nama of course is unpasteurized sake (sometimes called “draft” sake). It’s usually produced seasonally for the spring and is extremely perishable so it’s meant to be consumed quickly. These springtime Nama sakes are known for the expansive fresh, alive flavor. Autumn Namas seem to me to have an earthier, huskier countenance while still having a unique “alive” dimension that all namas provide.
The first sake I tried was Urakasumi Hiyaoroshi (“Misty Bay” Miyagi Prefecture, SMV +1.5, Acidity 1.4). This sake came across as quite fruity, although my initial reaction was that it tasted one-sided and one dimensional. This point aside, I found it quite delicious, with a hint of nama freshness, but more subdued that what you would find in a springtime nama.
Next I had some of Scott’s Wakatake Onikoroshi Akino ki-Ippon (“Demon Slayer, Shizuoka Prefecture. SMV +1, Acidity 1.4). Hello badboy! This nama was bigger, bolder and brasher than the Urakasumi. I felt a little scratch from noticeable alcohol on the finish. This sake is a more in-your-face nama with fuller and rounder flavor. My favorite tonight.
Last but not least, I enjoyed the Wakaebitsu Gizaemon (“Young Smile, Mie Prefecture, SMV +2, Acidity 1.6). This third selection came across as earthy and sharp. On the palate, there were hints of softer fruit… could have been pear & apple as the tasting notes suggested, but quite mild fruits in any case.
Scott’s comment on the Wakaebitsu: Strong Grape Jolly Rancher notes. hmm.
These autumn namas were all really enjoyable. Now, the only issue I can see is that the rest of New York seems to have discovered this place, too, so the waits can be long. Obviously, I think the wait is worth it. Otherwise, just get there well before or after the 8pm rush.
Well, above and beyond everything else, I think the one thing that made me feel like Hagi could be my “Cheers” was seeing the guy who passed out at the bar next to me. Ahhh… welcome home.