Azasu is the restaurant I have wanted to visit for the last two years. I have seen multiple media articles giving all positive reviews as a real Japanese street-food eatery. Thanks to Timothy Sullivan, the founder of UrbanSake.com, finally I managed an opportunity to go there. Tim and his friends arranged a private sake-tasting event and I was graciously invited to join. I arrived early to do some research and was amazed at the restaurant’s décor. It almost seemed as if I were in a neighborhood eatery in downtown Tokyo. There have been a lot of izakaya restaurants that have opened in NYC over the last few years, however, I have not visited any that seem as authentic Japanese as does Azasu.
Azasu has a comprehensive menu that ranges from popular Japanese dishes such as karaage, gyoza, and takoyaki to unique choices found in NYC like kushiage. Kushiage, also known as kushikatsu, basically is some type of deep-fried meat and vegetables served on a skewer. In Japanese “age” or “katsu” are deep-fried cutlets of meat and “kushi” is the skewer. These types of dishes are my favorite appetizers, the ones I ordered at Azasu are the best of have ever eaten outside of Japan. Because kushikatsu can be made with chicken, pork, seafood, and various seasonal vegetables, it is an opportunity for this type of restaurant to show its creativity in the selection and pairings. I would have to say that Azasu is as creative as peer restaurants in Japan.
The selection of ‘cup sake’ is another uniqueness of Azasu. In Japan it is very common to find sake, especially in vending machines and train stations, in little six-ounce glass cups (equivalent to a tiny glass jar in the US). At Azasu there are almost 20 varieties of this cup sake that range from basic to high-quality (what we would call daiginjo and junmai daiginjo).
Visit Azasu during happy hour before it gests crowded – you definitely will enjoy the decorations of Japanese cartoon culture!
Price: Private Sake Tasting $40
Neighborhood: Lower East Side
Dress code: Casual
Dining alone: Yes, but maybe good place for group gathering