I discovered this hidden bar/lounge through a fun event. It is located underneath the IchiUmi, which I have been to once several years ago, and I was not very impressed. When I was looking for Ichi Cellar, I was surprised to find the location, but if you look at the name of IchiUmi and Ichi Cellar, it makes total sense. Once you get to IchiUmi in Korean town, you will see a bright screen on the window that says Ichi Cellar with arrow pointing down. as soon as you step in, there is a staircase to your left, which does not look so great, but as soon as you go down the stairs, you will see a pretty nice space.
The bar/lounge is very spacious, surprising in Manhattan standards. There are several seating areas in sections, with lots of tables and chairs. One area is nicely lit, and other areas are lit with dimmed colored lights. Some has more of long tables with benches, some has more of traditional, lounge-style tables which is lower height, and of course, some bar tables and stools which are taller. I thought it was really nice, you can pick and choose which area you want to sit, based on how you feel, you can get different ambiance without going to a different bar/lounge.
They have a nice bar in a shape of a skinny half moon, with bar seating, and they have all kinds of drinks, including Soju and Sake. The bartenders can be friendly and unfriendly, which is normal, at most places. If you are lucky, you get a really nice, friendly staff.
The bathroom there is pretty interesting, you go down this colorful hallway at the back, and you will come to a beaded curtain on your left. Oh, and there were some tables and chairs in that hallways as well, if you want some privacy from the rest of the bar/lounge, I say this is the spot.
Behind the beaded curtain is a nice large sink to wash your hands, and doors on the each side with “M” and “W” on the door. You might want to pay attention as they were not as clear as you might think it should. It is very pretty though, and spacious, once again. I really liked this space, and also, if you just want to wash your hands, the sinks are at your reach, very easy and without getting through a long bathroom line you might see at times.
I tried Lychee Soju cocktail, and Sparkling Jello Sake. I love Lychee, eating fresh ones, drinking a lychee drink, alcohol and non-alcohol, any and all form. So I was excited to see this on the menu. And it was so tasty! They didn’t make it strong, so it was more like Lychee juice with a hint of soju. I had several of these and didn’t even get a slightly fizzy feeling. It still was super tasty though, unless your goal is to get drunk, then it would still be ok to have not-so-strong drink, for as long as it taste good, right? So, then, Sparkling Jello Sake, say what??? I have never heard of such thing, and I had to try. It is from a can, smaller size than regular, say, a soda pop can. It is from Ikezo brand and made in Japan. They had peach and strawberry, and I tried the strawberry one. It was so interesting, they actually made a sparkling sake into a jello! After it is shaken in the can or in the cocktail shaker thing, it is much loose, but still keeping that jello form, very interesting texture to drink, and super delicious too! You have to try to know exactly how its like…
So, let’s talk about food! After the experience from several years ago upstairs at IchiUmi, I was not so enthusiastic about the food. But, I gotta say, I was pleasantly surprised! It is completely separated from the upstairs, I have to assume, they have unique dishes with Korean twist. They don’t over do it, so that it is not too strong or too spicy, but a great blend of the flavors.
Since this was an event, we got to taste most of their main offerings, starting with Kimchi’inguine (regularly $14.99) which is linguine with stir fried Kimchi, shrimp, parmesan & tomato basil paste. I though it would be too spicy with Kimchi, but I gotta say, it was really great! The spiciness was well controlled with tomato basil paste. It had a great sauce flavor with parmesan, tomato, and the nice kick from Kimchi. It was very different but at the same time, familiar flavor from the usual tomato basil taste, the western and eastern ingredients came together really well. They also had some shrimp with stir fried Kimchi, which I am not sure it is on the menu, or a special event menu. Either way, it was good, the shrimp was plum, and had a nice little kick to it from the Kimchi, without it being too spicy.
One of their most popular offering is their wings. Ichi Cellar Chicken Wings (regularly $9.99/7 pcs). They have few sauces for the wings, but trust me, you don’t need them because they are sooooo tasty just the way they are! The way they season it, I don’t know what kind of spices they use and how they prepare it, but it is exploding with flavors! Crunchy on the outside, super juicy in the inside, we could not get enough! They have a happy hour special, 24 pcs of wings with a pitcher of draft beer for $25, a great deal! Then we tried Gorgonzola Pizza (regularly $14.99), with Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, apple slices & banana vinaigrette salad (not shown), The pizza didn’t really look like much, but once I had a bite, I was a believer. It was so good! The apple slices were a nice surprise, I don’t think I ever had a pizza with apple on it, but it worked perfectly with Gorgonzola, it was really good! With no heavy toppings, it felt light, and the crust was nice and thin, perfectly baked. (Please note I just took 2 slices off the big plate, so this is not the regular portion)
They also brought out a huge plate full of golden eggs. It is their version of scotch egg, called Crunch Rice Egg. It is made with freshly ground beef and stir fried Kimchi (regularly $6.99). I don’t know what is the regular order portion would be, but they are nice big size, and very tasty! I like scotch egg already, and they did make it extra interesting with rice and Kimchi. Again, the spiciness is well controlled, so it only has a slight kick to it. It is perfectly fried on the outside, creating that “crunch”, and the eggs are nicely cooked in the inside.
At the end, I was quite impressed with the space, drink, and food offerings. You really don’t get that much of open, spacious bar/lounge in Manhattan, and with great, creative, tasty food and drinks, what more can you ask for? I know I will be going back there for more of those incredible wings! You too, why not stop by during happy hours for some wings and beer after a long day of work? It is one of the best way to relieve your stress!
Ichi Cellar – 6 E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016