My hopes for a cup sake renaissance got a big boost this year with the opening of Azasu, a new cup sake izakaya on the lower east side. The masterminds behind Azasu are none other than Christy and Gaku Shibata, owners of the more upscale and much loved Yopparai.
The name “Azasu” is a fun and more informal contraction of the polite “arigatou-gozaimasu”, which means “thank you” in Japanese. The keyword here is informal, as Azasu strikes the perfect note between casual and cool. The seating is mostly large shared tables which is perfect for gathering in groups and making new friends.A word about the food. The offerings are yummy Japanese comfort foods with an emphasis on deep fried deliciousness. Don’t tell my cardiologist, but the french fries at Azasu are darn near the best fried potato thing in New York. Another highlight is the Takoyaki or octopus pancake balls, which are house made and heavenly. The menu is rounded out by classic crust-less white bread sandwiches and potato salad.
What pairs perfectly with all these izakaya classics? Well, if you said Cup Sake, you get an A+! There are a wide variety of cup sakes on offer at Azasu. Some of my recommended favorites include:
- Aomori Otokoyama by Hachinohe Shuzo in Aomori. Don’t be confused as there are two “Otokoyama” or Man’s Mountain sakes on the list at Azasu. I prefer the one from Aomori. This brewery is also the maker of the cult Mutsu Hassen sake that is currently only for sale in Japan. Their Junmai sake is rice-y, smooth and quite clean.
- Panda Cup by Miyozakura Brewery in Gifu. The appeal of this Junmai cup starts with the playful panda design on the cup itself, but extends to the taste as well. You’ll appreciate the noticeably dry body of this sake with hints of lactic acid. Rice steamed rice aroma, too.
- Houraisen Honjozo by Sekiya Shuzo in Aichi. Being an alcohol added honjozo style of sake, look for an enhanced aroma on this sake. It has a nice dry finish and full, round flavor on the mid-palate.
Whichever sakes you choose, no one goes home empty handed as one of the highlights of a night at Azasu is being able to take all your empty cups home with you at the end of the night. Frolicking panda cup pen holder anyone?