Have you ever seen that show Survivor Man? It’s about this MacGyver-type survival expert guy that gets dropped by helicopter into a remote, harsh and desolate area (mountain top, death valley…) and he has to survive for a week and film the whole thing showing his survival tricks along the way. I felt a little like Survivor Man myself last Wednesday night when I was leaving the Japan society after seeing a movie there. I found myself stranded in unknown terrain, (midtown east), starving (for sushi) and dying of thirst (for some sake).Luckily for me, Scott’s survival instincts quickly kicked in and he rememberd a japanese restaurant in the area recommended to him long ago by a japanese hairdresser who has long since returned to Japan. A recommendation from a native, even one possibly past it’s expiration date, was good enough for me… so we were on the hunt for ISE restaurant.
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 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!
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!What I HAVE been doing is lifting the masu and sipping from the glass until the sake is about 1/3 gone, being careful not to spill. Then I’ve been taking the glass out, letting it drip over the masu for a second or two and then pouring the remaining sake into the masu and drinking from there, setting the glass aside. sound right? Can anyone advise me? The second sake I tried was the Ichinokura Himezen, a very light Junmai. This sake’s key word was neutral… in a good way. Very middle of the road in it’s flavor profile. again very drink-able. delightful. Scott also had a glass of Ichinokura and he was kind enough to let me finish his. The big news on this sake is that it’s only 8.5% ALC content. So you can enjoy more – i’m sure this would refresh you perfectly on a hot summer day.ISE is a real treasure. If you find your self lost in the Urban Jungle, knowing about this place and their neat sake selection is one survival skill you can’t live without.