I feel like i’m getting a little more adventurous every so often and trying some new sake bar, or izakaya or sushi place that may be a little bit out of my comfort zone. That was indeed the case for Donburi-ya (137 East 47th, 212-980-7909). This place is odd and didn’t sit with me quite right at first. Let me set the stage a little…
First, the decor – so many japanese places i’ve been to have a beautifully focused style or aesthetic, but this restaurant was all over the place – kind of like a little bit Upstate New York country diner (think dried flowers) meets crazy toyko version of Cheers. There is lots and lots of oak-toned wood: the tables, the chairs, the bar, the bar stools, some paneling… a lot of oak.
As for atmosphere, there was a row of loudish men at the bar ordering beers and flirting in broken japanese with the very beautiful, yet tough, japanese bartender.
All this “ambiance” put me in serious need of some really good sake. Their sake menu was limited and understandably more focused on hearty robust sakes that will stand up to hearty robust pub food.
There were 10 sakes total on the menu with some well known standbys such as Masumi, Suishin, Otokoyama and Hoyo (not to mention a one cup Ozeki!). There was one Daiginjo offering that caught my eye… “Iki Na Onna”. Looked a little familiar. I ordered it and hoped for the best.
After the fact, I realized that I’ve had this sake before. I first tasted it at a Tedorigawa event at Matsuri back in January. It was one of the yummy sakes that was very freely flowing. Ikki Na Onna (Daiginjo, Tedorigawa Brewery, Rice: Miyamanishiki, Seimaibuai: 40%, Ishikawa Prefecture) is translated as “Lady Luck” and is a sake that is brewed in limited amounts each year for the Association of Lady Sake Retailers.
This Sake is good. The Brewery describes it as having a “fetchingly feminine attitude”. Well, I don’t know if that’s true. If they mean subtle and nuanced, then I guess so, but that is really more marketing speak than anything else. at least the bottle isn’t pink! I was really happy to find this sake because I don’t see it around much. It’s the most expensive one on the menu, but it’s also the best.
Overall, my experience at Donburi-ya was reflected in a funny Lost-in-Translation moment I had while reading their menu. It said at the top “No! No! Today’s Amazing Special”. Huh? I should avoid the amazing special?
Then I read it as: NO! NO! [this decor scares me!] Today’s Amazing Special [today I found an amazing, special daiginjo!] Lady Luck indeed!