Sake Bar Hagi is a basement izakaya on West 49th. You really have to keep an eye out or you'll never find the entrance. Apart from not having "Ir-ra-se-ma-se!" shouted at you when you walk down the stairs, you feel like you've just stepped into Japan. The warm, cozy room has bar seats and tiny tables and a wall with shelves of sake bottles with names on them, the bar holding on to personal bottles for the regulars.
We were starving, but in typical leisurely drinking style, it took a while for the dishes to start coming. We started with black edamame which had a sweeter marinade. Wasabi octopus sashimi with shredded mountain yam was cold and gooey and slimey -- these are good things, mind you....
Our other cold dish was cod roe with shredded daikon.
We ordered just one yakitori skewer: the special on the board -- alligator. It was alright - you know, tastes like chicken. I think we probably shouldn't have been swayed by the exotic and stuck with a more standard yakitori like chicken gizzards and skin.
My favorite dish of the night was takoyaki (fried squid balls). In fact, I think I ate them so quickly I forgot to take a picture!
The onigiri (rice ball) was the least interesting - pretty standard, and not enough bonito inside...
Pictured on top is hamachi kama (broiled yellowtail collar). It wasn't the best I've had, but it was good - hard to go wrong with the collar, such a tender part of the fish.
We finished the meal with a yakisoba with chicken and kimchee. My dinner companions loved this dish. To me, it was kind of like stuff I throw together at home from leftovers. But then again, as the NY Times reviewer said about the spaghetti with ketchup bacon dish, maybe it's for nostalgia...
To me, food-wise this place didn't live up the rave reviews I've heard, but then again, I've had a lot of good Japanese food in my day.
What I like about this place is the atmosphere - I can see why Japanese ex-pats living in NYC would come here to hang out and drink and snack. I still stand by my favorite New York izakaya when it comes to food -- that's Mugi on W. 58th St -- but often we've been the only people in the dining room. I love Mugi, but I can see why people would rather drink at Sake Bar Hagi.
Sake Bar Hagi
152 West 49th Street, NYC