I am so happy to see there are more bar/lounge place that are opening up for weekend brunch! This way, they get to show off their culinary skills, additional to offering bar food or small plates to accompany their cocktails or any yummy beverages. And, the best part is that I get to try them!
Located in Lower East Side, a Japanese bar lounge, a ray of light. It didn’t really look nothing much from the outside, but inside was so elegant and sleek, I was pleasantly surprised. They have a beautiful bar with hanging shelves, with industrial looking wall behind it, covered with what looks like aluminum or sheet metal of some sort. They have handful of table seating across from the bar, filled with natural lights from the large windows.
The restaurant actually is much larger, it goes long way back, as many of the NYC restaurants. The area back of the bar is really lovely, exposed brick walls on one side, and old Japanese beer posters on the other side of the wall. Really elegant design.
These old posters of Japanese beers have become so popular in the last several years, they are everywhere. At this place, they made them a bit more upscale looking with nice wooden frame, simple but solid. I have a couple of these in a postcard form, and I really like them as well, so I can see why so many Japanese bar type establishments are using them as artworks to hang on the wall.
I think they have the most collection of these, or at least the most I have seen. They had ones that I have never seen before, which was pretty cool. It was like a little art gallery of old beer posters.
And, the space, it doesn’t end there. They have another section behind it, with more seating, and another bar all the way in the back. My goodness, they are serious about serving good drinks to all the customers when they get packed in the evening. With the amount of seating they have, I can see how having two complete bar will make it so much more efficient. Very clever. And this bar at the back was also very elegant and pretty. This area also had tall, bar tables with out chairs. I think this is very helpful in a bar/lounge when it gets really busy. If you don’t get a seat, you still want a table around so that you can eat and drink comfortably. It is the worst when you have to juggle a glass and plate, while you trying take a sip or eat at the same time. So, this is very helpful!
And when I think this is it, they have more space behind it! It was like some kind of magical space that kept expanding and never stops… all the way back, they have this love, more cozy and almost like a living room feel room with carpets and upholsters chairs. They have this antique decor, with the fabric design and brick walls, and I believe they have a fireplace in the corner. This room was really awesome! And , they have a loft space on top of this room, for more private dining experience.
And that was the end of the rabbit hole. Back to the front end of the restaurant. And during my exploration, the server was super nice about it and told me I can look around all I wanted. He was so sweet, thanks! At the front, they had some cute and interesting decoration as well. At the host counter, they had this miniature sake and small plate, it was so cute! And, above the host counter was a Sugidama. Now, this was something I have never seen in any Japanese restaurant or bar. It was so cool. Sugidama is a Cedar Ball, which is what it is. A ball made of fresh cedar. This one here is just a decoration, I believe, not real. In a rural country side, sake brewers still hang this outside the door. They use it to signal fresh sake is being made from rice. In a few months, it will turn brown, which is when the sake is matured and ready. Customers can just look at it and see when the sake will be ready to drink. Pretty cool.
I hear that nowadays, proud sake sellers put this ornament to show they have excellent selections of sake. So, knowing this, I was excited to try their cocktails. We ordered SakaMai-Tai ($13) and Japanese Lychee Martini ($13). The Sakamai-Tai is made with spiced Rum, orgeat, and fruit juice blend. It was sweet, tasty, strong, and high quality, loved that deep, velvety flavor. A job well done.
The Lychee martini, well, I have a weakness when it comes to Lychee. I just love that flavor! They made their martini with herb infused Vodka, grapefruit, nigori sake, and lychee liqueur. I also like nigori sake, which is a cloudy sake, unlike most other sake that are clear like water. They are sweet sake, and was perfect for this cocktail creation. The grapefruit was not too strong, so that it won’t fight against lychee flavor, just gave a hint of extra fruity flavor. It was really excellent.
As for the food, we ordered Eighteen Spice Curry ($18) and Loco Moco ($16). The curry was very interesting, it had grilled chicken, fingerling potato, eggplant, yogurt, and charred garlic. I was thinking, “yogurt”??? But then, it worked really well with everything, to my surprise. The curry had good spiciness to it, and the the mild flavor or yogurt helped the spiciness to calm down. It was a perfect marriage. The eggplant was really nice, and grilled chicken had great flavor. It was a really nice dish.
Loco Moco came with hamburger patty, kimuchi fried rice, dashi soy gravy, and sunny side up egg. I was a plate full of joy, and once I broke the egg, it was total food porn. The patty was so juicy and packed with flavors, and it was quite large. The kimuchi rice was awesome, it was not too spicy, but had nice kick to it. The gravy gave that extra flavor, and it was delicious from the first bite to the last.
Here, you can see the size of the dish, it was a nice big plate, and the food was a good portion. Not too small or not to large. We were comfortably full after the meal.
The service was great, our server was really nice, polite and warm, and the bartender actually helped out a lot with the service as well, such as refilling the water and what not. We were there when it was not so busy, but with the server and bartender, we were well taken care of. They were both very efficient, this place had quality in food, drink, and service. I would love to go back again for more of their delicious food and cocktails, I am sure it will another delightful visit!
SakaMai – 157 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002