Monthly Archives: October 2015

Sakamai

Since I met Shochu Master Stephen Lyman of Kampai US, who poured selected shochu for New York’s first Shochu Happy Hour here, I have wanted to dine at Sakami. And it was important to wait for the right time with the right people in order to fully appreciate the ‘Sakamai’ experience. On a Friday evening at the end of summer I decided to go with two gentlemen I recently got to know – one is an American lawyer and the other is a Japanese banker. Both have lived all over the world and understand what real Japanese food is and tastes like. (And they have no food restriction, this is important to fully enjoy true Japanese food.)

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We started with Sui Gyoza (boiled pork dumpling with ponzu sauce and hot sesame oil) and Kakuni Sliders (braised pork belly, mustard, and tomato on brioche buns). Even though I often see pork buns in various Asian restaurants in the city, I would say these are one of the best I have ever had. They use Mugifuji pork and it seemed to melt in my mouth. Next was yakisaba sushi from the seafood menu, which is grilled mackerel on sushi rice with a spicy sesame-soy taste. One friend really loved it and was tempted to order seconds. But instead he decided to save room for chicken namban. This is actually a popular food in Miyazaki Japan where Sakami’s Chef Akiyama came from. It is fried chicken with tartar sauce. Every time I visit Miyazaki, I try the dish in various restaurants as each has chef has his/her own style. Here the tartar sauce was seasoned with red paprika. As a “shime”, or last course, we opted for the Cha Soba Salad which is basically a green tea soba salad. The noodles were flavorful and delicious and a pleasant surprise to my taste buds!

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While we were having our food we ordered variety of sake and shochu. What makes Sakamai different from other Japanese restaurants is the high quality of service combined with their knowledge of paring beverages and dishes together (not that other Japanese restaurants can’t do this – it just seems Sakamai is a step above the rest and they can do in native English, not in Janglish (Japanese English). Seriously, this is very important for non-Japanese speakers if they really want to understand about sake. This time we could pair the perfect sake and shochu with our food selection, thanks to Jamie Graves, the General Manager at SakaMai. He attended the World Sake Sommelier competition in Tokyo as one of ten finalists; he was also one of finalists for a Judge’s Selection Award in 2014.

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http://sakamai.com

Price: $200 including tip for 3 of us

Neighborhood: East Village

Dress code: Smart casual

Catering and Private Parties are available

Teshigotoya(Closed)

The opening of Teshigotoya has been announced for a while and my Japanese friends in NYC were very much exited about it. I finally had an opportunity to dine there on a weekday night. Teshigotoya means “hand-made place” and the restaurant is literally preparing their food in that fashion in an open kitchen visible from every table. According to Chopsticks NY magazine, Keita Rosenfield, the chef of this amazing cozy place, is big on seasonal ingredients. When I visited with a long time Japanese friend, there was a long list of autumn menu choices showcasing harvest delicacies. Even though we were tempted to try some of these options, we decided to choose from the regular menu dishes as there were an equal number of items we wanted to try.

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We started with ‘Potato Salad Cake’, which upon arrival seemed more like a beautiful dessert than a dish of potatoes and vegetables mixed in. It had several red layers that I believe were thinly sliced beets with authentic Japanese potato salad in between. The taste confirmed that it was homemade and seemingly from the freshest ingredients. Next was corn tempura. This is only the second time I have found this dish in the US. Teshigotoya’s version is definitely a handcrafted appetizer because the corn kernels were still intact, deep fried, and served in small rectangular bites. I could taste the sweetness of the corn even after the frying, and it was beautifully served against a squared section of the cob. We were about to order another “Okawari” which is refill.

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For the main entree, it was a tough decision as there were many attractive items on the menu – both meat and seafood. Since both of us had eaten sushi the day before, we opted for a couple of meat dishes to share. I order a grilled pork steak with a demi glace sauce. The pork was tender and perfectly grilled with the sauce being nice and thick. The price was only $15 and I was very surprised given the size and quality. The second dish was garlic-fried rice with a ribeye steak. According to the menu, the dish was categorized as “shime” or “last dish”. In Japanese dining culture, rice and noodle are often served in the last course. I was expecting something like traditional fried rice with small cubes of steak tossed in. Instead, however, it was more like a regular ribeye steak (with very little fat and had the texture/tenderness of filet mignon) served over a generous portion of fried rice. My friend and I really liked this choice, and both of us agreed to come back here sometime soon again – just to order this dish again.

There were also several varieties of Sake, Shochu and Japanese beers available to pair with delicious dishes. The very knowledgeable staff will guide you which beverage suites best to your choice of tapas.

http://teshigotoyanyc.wix.com/teshigotoya

Price: $120 including tip and several beverages for the two of us

Neighborhood: East Village

Dress code: Smart casual

Nice for date, small group, relatively quiet

Takeout: Yes