Sake is a Japanese wine made from fermented rice. Now that you know that fun fact, where should you go to drink it? Below are our five favorite sake bars in Manhattan. Kanpai, as they say. By Jessica Allen.
During the day, Hi-Collar is a kissaten, a traditional Japanese café serving high-end hot and iced coffee, tea, beer, soda, cakes, and light lunches like fruit sandwiches, kissaten-style pasta, and Japanese pancakes with specialty butter. At night, however, Hi-Collar transforms into a sake bar, an intimate, most excellent sake bar. In addition to its selection of carefully curated, hard-to-find sake, try the soba ale, made from buckwheat.
Sake Bar Decibel bills itself as the city’s “original Japanese sake bar,” and it just might very well be: it has, after all, been in the business of transporting guests from the streets of the East Village to the watering holes of Japan since 1993. Among the options for sake are Amanoto, Takumi, and other types of junmai; Kimoto, Okagura, and other types of honjozo; and several kinds of unfiltered sake. Try them all, just not in one night.
If you’re looking for a huge selection of sake, look no further than Sakagura — assuming you can find it. Located off the beaten path, in a basement on 43rd Street, Sakagura has been happily, heartily serving customers since 1996. In addition to more than 200 kinds of sake (the menu is about as long as your average New York Times bestseller), this bar offers Japanese-style tapas and desserts for lunch and dinner (reservations recommended).
Unlike some of the other spots on this list, SakaMai is a restaurant first. That’s not to say that this Lower East Side establishment doesn’t have a to-die-for sake list, because it does, it absolutely does. A recent New York Times review described said list as “smart without being too scholarly.” So order a cup or three with your duck speck (house-cured duck breast with sansho pepper) or chicken nanban (fried chicken confit with a smoked paprika tartar sauce).
Here’s where the cool kids hang out. This tiny, 30-seat Lower East Side restaurant specializes in (a) sake and (b) food that pairs well with sake, such as Berkshire pork belly in a sweet dashi broth or sea urchin sashimi. Highly trained, licensed sommeliers are on hand to help you find a sake to suit your palate from among 50 or so rare and unusual options. After all, Yopparai does mean “drunkard” in Japanese.