I am always looking for a “hidden” restaurant in NYC (or anywhere for that matter). When I found this place, I was very excited to visit them. Their name, Sakagura means a sake warehouse, so they have over 200 kinds of sake there, which is very impressive. They are more of an Izakaya which I really enjoy, but they are also open for lunch, offering great dishes. When you get to the building, you will find a staircase door, specifically for Sakagura. It is kind of fitting that it is in the basement, almost like a secret wine cellar through a secret door down a mysterious staircase…
We arrived few minutes before they opened for lunch, so the door was still closed. They had nice wooden sign on the wall right above the door, and by the plant. We were so excited when they finally opened the door. They had old-fashioned Japanese and sake themed decorations.
They also had a sample of today’s Lunch Special and pattisier’s recommended dessert at the front door. It is interesting the moment you step into the front door, you are transported into a restaurant in Japan. It is so cool, every inch was decorated perfectly!
At the hostess counter by the entrance, I spotted this super cute, miniature home grill and sake set with prayer for safety of family. Unfortunately, the older female staff who was manning the station was not friendly at all, rather rude, but not every staff can be perfect at all locations we visit.
The main dining area was beautiful. Had a large bar to the left, kind of a “booth” seating to the right, and more table seating in the middle. It is quite a large space, I was surprised to see this big space in NYC, but I guess you get to have this amazing retail space down in a basement.
Even though there is no window, they had plenty of lighting to keep this place bright, some lighting resembles windows or old-fashioned window fixture of old Japanese houses, so you almost forget that it is in a basement. The bar is really well stocked, as advertised. Simple but yet beautifully designed.
At the end of the main dining room was another smaller dining room, with lots of tables, mainly reserved. We were lead to one of the tables in this area.
The one awesome decoration they had in this room was this huge, Kabuki face decoration on the ceiling. Our table was right beneath it, which was cool.
Speaking of decoration, they had an old kitchen cabinet at the corner of this room, with all sorts of cute Japanese ornaments in the inside. It was interesting to see, I wonder if any of them were antique…?
Right when I finished exploring the space, our drink was arriving. To my happy surprise, they were offering Jello-Sake Shot by Ikezo. I discovered this amazing drink at Ichi Cellar in midtown (you can read my blog here: http://www.foodlovergirl.com/ichi-cellar/), and I loved it so much, I was so happy to see it on their menu! It is a light, refreshing sake cocktail with peach flavor (they have a few flavors, but Sakagura only offered peach). The most interesting thing about this drink is that it has jelly-like texture and slight bubbling like champagne. Soooo tasty and fun to drink!
As for the food, we came here for one thing and one thing only. Their daily lunch special. They only serve it 30 a day, and at great price. On this day, the lunch special of the day was Takana Mentai Don ($11.50), and it comes a choice of hot or cold soba, and Spicy Codfish Roe, Whitebait and Takana Leaves Over Rice. The lunch special always comes with soba noodle, and they change the donburi. I was so excited to get this dish. And all this for $11.50 in NYC is really awesome deal. We chose cold soba, and it was a really good, high quality soba noodle, great texture and flavor, cooked just right. The donburi was delicious also, with good amount of white bait, and everything was so fresh. Enjoyed every bite of the lunch special.
At the end, they brought “soba-yu” in a pot specifically for soba-yu. It is the hot water that soba noodles have cooked in.
While we were eating our lunch special, a table next to us arrived and wanted to order the lunch special. The waitress told them that they have already ran out of it for the day. They only serve 30 lunch special of the day, and they usually ran out of it within 30 minutes or so. The reason why we arrived before they opened.
Another cool thing that they have, is their bathroom. It is so unique and interesting. They are located near the entrance, and is round shaped doors is hard to miss. From the outside, it is all wooden structure, but from the inside, I was surprised to see the old, metal, almost industrial looking door. It was pretty spacious and modern.
And of course, they had ToTo toilet seat which was awesome. Another interesting item in the bathroom was an old-fashioned Japanese incense. I recognized the scent immediately. It is not floral or aromatic, but unique scent.
The service was good at the beginning, but after our food was brought to the table, I felt like the waitress completely forgotten about us. The restaurant was packed, and she was going around all the tables around us, but never came to check on us, at all. We had to try to get someone’s attention, any one who would look at us, just to get a dessert menu. After we looked at yummy options, no one came to see if we wanted to order a dessert. After a while, we decided we would just pay and go. That took a while too, as we had to catch someone to get our bill for us. So, the service basically went from 100% to 0% very quickly.
The food and drink was great, it certainly was a hidden gem. I would love to go back for some more lunch special. I just have to be prepared for another possible bad service (or no service). The staff were all very nice, but they do need to be able to pay attention to all of their tables and customers a bit better.
Sakagura – 211 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017