One of the true blessings of living in New York City is that there are so many, many places to drink sake and eat japanese food. One of the curses of living in New York City is that not all the many Sake bars and Japanese restaurants can measure up to the best.
Anzu is a perfect example of this. This is a place that’s been open in my neighborhood for about 3 months. It used to be a Korean restaurant, but the owners decided to try japanese and converted to Anzu.
At first blush, this was a true find. The lighting was low, the countertops were concrete and the interior was sleek. I dove nose first into the sake menu. Again, at first blush, a small but solid list – about 12 sakes, most listed as available by the “box”.
I was happily surprised to see the Umenishiki Nama Daiginjo on the menu. oooh Yeah! That would be the perfect start to this evening. I also noticed there was a Nigori for sale by the “box”.
The waiter came by to take our order and promptly informed me that — sorry! only 4 of the 12 sakes listed on the menu were in stock. Oh, they had the Nigori but only by the bottle. Then he said, “yeah, we really have to update our menu.” damn straight you do!
Well, of the few sakes they had, I just went ahead and got the Wakatake Ginjo. I think it was the best tasting of the few they did have in stock. The really ironic thing about the lack of Sake at Anzu was the oversized glass-enclosed walk-in sake/wine refrigerator that dominated the back wall of the space. How could so much space be dedicated to keeping sake chilled and on display when there were only 4 sakes to be had? Cruelty I tell you!
The server arrived at the table with the masu on a plate and a giant bottle of the Wakatake Ginjo. He poured until about two drops spilled over onto the plate and then he was gone.
I took a closer look at the masu and realized something wasn’t quite right. the masu was, well, tiny… about 2 inches square and 1 inch deep. it looked really small. I took a sip and saw quickly that my sake would be gone very soon. Any normal masu i’ve ever seen is at least 3 inches square.
The Wakatake Ginjo was just as delightful as ever, I have no complaints at all with the sake. But, the serving size was about 4 ounces. At Sakagura, they would label this a “tasting size”. The worst part about the incredible shrinking masu was the price: $14.00. Now I am not at all a dyed-in-the-wool bargain hunter when it’s comes to my Nihon-shu. I’m happy to pay for high quality service, presentation and taste. But Anzu’s efforts at “portion control” just left me feeling ripped off. As for the food, it was mixed. Some things were good, some strange, but again, tiny portions.
It seems that for this Korean restaurant, turning Japanese was not born out of their love of sake.