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Monday, April 5, 2010

Sake Bar Hagi (New York, NY)

April 2010

152 W 49th St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 764-8549

This place reminds me of Village Yokocho. The wait can be crazy and the food is just so-so, but somehow it all adds up to be a pretty good time, probably due in large part to the cheap, free-flowing booze.

A few buddies and I snuck out of work early to grab a quick bite to eat last week. It turned out to be not such a quick bite since even early (around 7:30 p.m.), there was a 45-60 minute wait. We wrote our names and phone numbers on the list and had a drink at the (kinda sh*tty) Italian restaurant / bar three doors east. Exactly 45 minutes later, Sake Bar Hagi called with the good news that our table was ready.

We had:

- okonomiyaki (greasier and fluffier than other okonomiyaki I've tried; my friend, who grew up on the stuff, called this version "gringo")
- edamame (fine, hard to screw up, not overboiled)
- beef liver sashimi (mm... frankly not my favorite; under other circumstances, it might actually appeal, but this stuff didn't have the clarity of flavor that fresh meat has)
- chicken skin skewers (good)
- grilled rice balls with ume and salmon (well grilled, but came out long after all our other dishes, when it should've been an accompaniment)
- fried smelt (greasy and delicious)
- stewed tofu with scallions (average quality tofu)
- seared tuna with fried garlic and ponzu (great!!)
- fried natto / tofu skin pouches (good if you like natto)

Probably the best way to eat, here, is to emulate all the inebriated salarymen who still compete with the hordes of midwestern tourists and college-aged couples for a table. Order a bunch of the fried offerings and use them to soak up all the cold Kirins you chase them with. Gourmet food it is not, but sometimes Kirin with grease just hits the spot.

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