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.)
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!
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.
Price: $200 including tip for 3 of us
Neighborhood: East Village
Dress code: Smart casual
Catering and Private Parties are available