Try An Izakaya For A Laidback Night Out
Izakayas are great when you are looking to get filled up without spending too much money. What is an Izakaya? Think of it as a Japanese version of an Irish bar that serves food. The food menus here are huge so you can probably go everyday for a month and get to try something new.
One thing that I must make clear about this type of Japanese eating establishment. The food is never really amazing. If you are expecting Le Bernardin, please just go to Le Bernardin. It’s bar food at affordable prices, and not a fancy bar. Probably great food if you’re intoxicated, which is kind of the point I guess. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, and I imagine that if I get to go, I will see this type of place littered on every block. They aren’t fancy restaurants. Remember this is just plain and simple bar food, just the Japanese version.
I usually go to the Izakayas on St. Marks, but a friend of mine suggested that we go to Hagi, one of her favorites. We ordered a large bottle of cold sake and so much food that even our waiter was in awe. Well he was either in awe or disgusted, I like to think it was the former. What I found the most amusing was that the tables around us saw all the food we got and kept pointing and ordering from our table, and they were Japanese!! I am honored.
Sake- We got a very large and cold bottle. Think wine bottle size. Remember what I said in my mini sake lesson? Check back here if you don’t. They have a very large selection here, so unless you know a lot about sake, get a recommendation from the staff.
Grilled smelt-Very snackable and came three to a skewer. Quite tasty.
Assorted pickles-I love Asian ones, but these didn’t tickle my pickle. Sorry, I just felt like rhyming, heehee.
Octopus balls-Typical Japanese street food and they made them very well. Think of a small round ball of cooked batter with a hidden piece of octopus in the middle.
Spaghetti with cod roe cream-The pasta was cooked well and the cream sauce had flavor. Did I love it? No, but it’s bar food, if I were drunk I probably would have hoovered it.
Large sardine filled with roe-This was one of my favorites of the night. I love roe and when it’s cooked it’s so flavorful and filling. When it comes to any seafood that has eggs in it like lobster, it kills me when people discard the eggs. They taste so good and are quite expensive if you think about it.
Pork belly with bean sprouts and garlic shoots-People rave about this dish, I thought that it was just OK. I’m a huge fan of garlic shoots so I quite enjoyed that part of the dish. I wish the pork belly were a little more flavorful. My one main connection with this dish is that it reminds me of what my grandmother would cook for me when I was growing up and still does upon request, just with beef. That might be why I didn’t love it, granny probably makes it better.
Will I be going back to Hagi? Yes, and it’s because they had one thing that completely blew my mind. It is one dish that I will be looking out for at other Japanese bars and if my friend hadn’t ordered it, I would have missed it on the extensive menu. So thank you friend! It was their fried sweet pork (sorry guys, previously I had written fried pork belly). You must be a fan of fat in order to enjoy this dish, because otherwise you will hate it. And as you can see from my Minca post, I am a major proponent of it. The best way I can describe this plate is to think of each piece as a really thick potato chip, a few millimeters thick. The outside is so crispy and when you bite into the middle it is all fat. Pure fat. Heaven on a plate. Based on this one dish, I know that there must be other star dishes on their menu, I just have to find them. Maybe it’s their sashimi, maybe it’s the yellowtail collarbone or maybe the liver or chicken skin yakitori, but I can’t wait to try more to find out.
6 out of 10
152 W 49th St, New York NY10019