Friday, February 24, 2012

Lovers: Sake Bar Hagi

We were three girls (like triplets wearing similar shades of blushing nude & black) with no plans with our male counterparts on Valentine's Day, so we decided to hit up the highly rated Izakaya, Sake Bar Hagi for dinner. Peach sake, Japanese tapas, and spending Vday with my two favorite girls in the big city... how could the dude top that? 

We had some trouble finding it at first because the sign wasn't very clear. We hopped into another Japanese sake bar next door, but immediately knew it was not it after seeing all the empty tables inside! But we politely asked, "Is this Sake Bar Hagi?" "No, that's next door. But we have sake too!" They must get that question a lot, but props to him for trying to get some business from us! The sake bar was downstairs in the basement and I must warn you, it's a tight squeeze to get in there. They don't take reservations, so you just have to try your luck with this one. The fact that it's always mad busy does not help, and for us, it was also Valentine's Day. We were lucky enough to only have to wait 15-20 minutes after signing in on their clipboard when we arrived. You have to add your name to the list yourself, otherwise you'll be standing there thinking you're waiting in line for a really long time, while others that arrive after you have long gone and past you.

I suppose the inside decor would be what you would imagine a traditional Japanese sake bar to look like: cozy and filledd with wooden tables that were placed rather close together. If eating close to strangers and listening to their conversations is not your thing, maybe you should skip this place. They do have a bar area in the back with flat screen tvs as well, although I only saw it when I first walked in. This is also another one of those places that attracts a lot of Asians, but I'm sure there's been an increase of non-Asians eating there after Anthony Bourdain featured it on his show. Maybe the non-Asians didn't think a sake bar was romantic enough for Valentine's Day, I don't know.

LC said we should try their Peach sake, apparently it's fantastic! We might as well get it, even if it's $40 for a baby bottle. How disappointed would you be if I told you I went to this great sake bar but didn't even try their sake? But no worries, we ordered it and it was like love at first drink after we toasted with our Peach sake (sorry, no picture of the pretty bottle)! It was so sweet and had no traces of alcohol, almost like sparkling apple cider! For those out there that have had bad experiences with sake and love fruity drinks, I highly recommend you try this one at Sake Bar Hagi! 

Fried Pork Belly, Chicken Gizzards, Sashimi

Oh chicken gizzards, had I known what you were when LC first order you, I would have vetoed it. Wait, I lie. If I can eat goose liver, cow intestines, pig's blood, I won't have a problem with the guts of a chicken. But I didn't know what gizzards were until I googled it for this post! I loved it! It tasted like fried squid to me, a bit chewy, but in a good way. LC like the fried pork belly more, but I wasn't a fan... it tasted like bacon to me. What's wrong with that, you ask? I know I'll lose a few readers after saying this, but I don't like bacon. I can eat it in a burger or club sandwich, but not by itself. I just don't like that it's so greasy, salty, crunchy (it hurts my teeth and the roof of my mouth), and unhealthy for you. So if you're a bacon lover (which most people are), LC can recommend the fried pork belly (fat never tasted so yummy).

 "The salmon was so Gerthy and mouthgasmic." -Prada

Prada's words couldn't be more true. This has got to be the freshest salmon that's ever appeared before me, but too bad there were only five (although thick) pieces on the plate. We wanted to order more salmon, but we wanted a variety of dishes and it's always pricey for a tiny amount of raw fish. 

"The fish hair really freaked me out and I was scared." -Prada

Pan fried octopus balls (takoyaki) and a sweet sauce with "fish hair" on top. Relax, it's not actually fish hair, more like dried fish flakes. What's so freaky about them? You can't see it in the picture, but the fish flakes were dancing on top of the octupus balls. Now that's not something you hear everyday! The flakes move because they're so light and when half of them are stuck to the sauce on the takoyaki, the other half will dance around if someone walks by and creates a breeze (think of a piece of paper stuck to gum on the ground on a windy day). There should have been a video to accompany this photo, maybe next time. The takoyaki was really good though; lightly pan fried for a slightly crisp skin on the outside of the ball of dough, and gooey on the inside with little chunks of octopus in the middle! Octopus is quickly becoming my new favorite sea creature.

I don't remember what this was called, but I call it Japanese pizza

It's essentially Japanese pizza or pancake, but I don't remember it too well. It just wasn't as good as everything else we ordered. Also, this was the last thing we munched on so our bellies were quite full from all the other small plates of bite sized deliciousness. You know how it is, there's always that dish that no one wants at the end of the night, and everyone is hoping someone else will eat it. Yeah, this is the one. I personally didn't like the thick, sweet brown sauce they coated the pan fried dough with.

Assorted yakatori was nom nom nom

Just like the sake, it would be a damn shame if you went to a Izakaya without ordering yakitori! This may be incorrect, but alcohol and meat on a stick go hand in hand. It's the perfect combo, we even have two hands to hold each (forgive my lameness, it's the end of the day)! So yes, I suggest getting a plate of yakitori to go with your sake or beer. We wanted a little bit of everything so we got a mix of meats: chicken, beef, pork, duck. Which is which? Um, we couldn't tell either. But they were all equally good. Maybe it didn't hit "the best yakitori" status, but we had no complaints about it. 

We ordered another dish later when we realized there were no veggie plates on the table: Salmon Salad.  It had green leaves and cut up pieces of cooked salmon on top, no other vegetables that I can think of. This salad surprised both Prada and I when we took our first bites. We had no idea that there was a wasabi in the dressing so after Prada said, "Wow, I think wasabi came out of my nose, " I repeated after her with, "OMG! That was so strong it came out of my nose!" And we proceeded to eat more and continued to react the same way. It was a strange feeling because the wasabi completely cleared out my nasal passages and I would exhale hot air every time. I'll admit it was fun for me, hence why I kept eating it. 

Some final thoughts about Sake Bar Hagi: It's one of those places that you wouldn't know existed unless you knew what you were looking for! This is a great place to go if you want grab a drink with some friends and share some fried Japanese tapas. Not only is it relatively cheap, but their food is very well prepared and most importantly, authentic! The service isn't the best, as Prada said, "The waiter hates us", after we tried to get his attention (but was ignored) when we were ready to order. It's not their fault that they're just so busy all the time. Plus, they know their customers are willing to wait... for a table, for their food, and for their sake. 

152 West 49th St.
New York, NY

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