157 Ludlow Street
New York, NY 10002
Sakamai recently opened in the LES, right opposite Pianos. Although they’ve officially opened, their sake list is still in the works because they want to properly train their staff. This place may not be what you expect for a sake bar. They have a selection of sake based cocktails that were created by bartender Shingo Gokan of Angel’s Share, who won the Bacardi cocktail competition in Puerto Rico earlier this year. They also use Japanese whiskeys in their drinks. They offer flights of sake so you can try certain styles or brands of sake. But their food is not strictly Japanese. On the menu, you will find items like dry aged steak, beef tartare as well as crudos with a hint of Japanese flavors.
The concept of this restaurant is refreshingly new, and if it succeeds, it will undoubtedly make sake a more familiar beverage. Sure, everyone knows about sake and American college kids like to sake bomb. There are numerous restaurants like Sakagura, Yopparai and Sake Bar Decibel that have a pretty solid non Japanese customer base. But I like Sakamai’s aim to show people that sake doesn’t only have to be paired with Japanese food. People would assume that no sake can work with a steak but there are more full bodied, rich sakes like nama genshus that can stand up to a reasonably fatty steak.
The decor is not what you would expect of a sake bar and they have a cozy area with a fireplace. Upstairs is an area for private dining. It definitely has a more sophisticated feel for an LES spot and may not fit the price range for the LES dwellers, but I’m sure sake enthusiasts will soon frequent Sakamai.
The beef tartare and egg on egg on egg were our favorite dishes. The beef tartare was seasoned perfectly (I find that there are a lot of mediocre beef tartares out there, mostly because they are not seasoned enough) and I loved the cracked black pepper in there. The fried chicken was the weakest of the dishes. We had a carafe of Oze no Yukidoke Ohkarakuchi Junmai and a nama genshu (unpasteurized and undiluted)- Narutotai. We didn’t order a crudo but a lot of times I feel that sakes pair better with raw fish than white wines.
I look forward to checking this place out again once they have their full sake list!
I went back for a second round and had an even better food experience there. I also had some warm yamahai from Tengumai and it was so smooth and well rounded (also perfect for a cold night).