Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Greasy Spoons: Sake Bar Hagi

All the best Japanese places I've been to in New York are underground. Sake Bar Hagi is a Japanese gastropub of sorts- Tokyo comfort food and $11 pitchers of Sapporo and Ki-rin is the fare. I've wanted to go here since Anthony Bourdain mentioned it on his New York show with Andrew Zimmern. It's not far from Radio City and Times Square, secreted in a basement hollow near a sushi bar, it's open till 3am, and serves quick bar food like chicken yakitori for $2 a skewer, a great bargain for sit-down bar food in NYC.
"We sell forbidden objects from places men fear to tread.."

The last time we came, there was a line out the door and up the stairs; this time we got lucky for a Saturday night after a show. We waited about 5 minutes for a corner table, and snugged in. The place is small and cozy and noisy with mostly Japanese patrons watching horse racing on big screen TVs, over platters of fried goodies and drinkin' foods. It reminded me of my short time in Tokyo and Niigata. I didn't hit many bars out there, in fact the one I remember was run by a Canadian ex-pat, with poutine served hot 'n gooey, and many shots of Canadian Club 12-year poured freely.
Belly up to the bar or snug into a table. No frogurt, though.

Here we perused the multi-page menu that had everything from fried slices of beef tongue (better than it sounds!) and spaghetti with ketchup (Japanese drunk food) to more familiar Japanese fare like gyoza dumplings and sashimi. The specials blackboard was thankfully written in Japanese and English, so we started off with a plate of Berkshire Pork dumplings, which were tender and tasty. Berkshire is a rare breed in England; the Japanese-bred pigs were brought over in the 1800's and are raised like Wagyu (Kobe) beef. It was hard to tell how marbled the pork was from a tiny bit in a dumpling, but they were very good. And only $4.
Yellowtail collar- grilled nummies in there.

It ends up being a lot like Dim Sum; they don't push carts around, but the menu is mostly appetizer sizes with a few big plates, like the chopped steak. The biggest plate we ordered was the Grilled Yellowtail collar ($7.50), which Bourdain raved about. It was excellent- rich and tender pieces of yellowtail to be plucked out from the bony collar with your chopsticks. Luckily, I picked around inside and found the biggest chunk hiding in there. It had the rich oily flavor of belly meat.
A shrimpstrosity

We sampled a few other appies too- the chicken yakitori meatball skewer ($2), a huge shrimp skewer ($4), and a huge potato croquette ($4) which was a bit bland but otherwise nice and crisp on the outside. The shrimp was flavorful but a little overdone, the meatballs were a great cheap bar snack. There's so much more on the menu, like okonomiyaki, takoyaki (fried octopus balls), and of course, may different kinds of sake. We had Sapporo, thanks. If they had Suntory Malt, my fave beer from Japan, I would have been thrilled.

Overall this is a great find, a cozy hideaway between Times Square and Radio City. Sort of like the Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien for those who love Japanese food. Or anything fried on a stick.


sarah said...

you forgot to mention how everything there either looks like penises or is the size of a penis. :)

tommy salami said...

Yeah, I forgot we also had the fried sausages. Which where somehow more disturbingly phallic than your average sausage.

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