Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eating New York - Sake Bar Hagi

A couple of seasons ago on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, he visited a hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant in Times Square called Sake Bar Hagi. I filed that away in the back of my head for a future trip to NY. When Mr Minx and I went up for Fashion Week, I thought it would be the ideal place in which to dine with my friend, the somewhat-infamous, always-entertaining, and fabulously snarky Mr David Dust.

Sake Bar Hagi is an izakaya, or a watering hole that also serves food, comparable to Spanish tapas. It's a very popular place, and from what I read on teh innernets, it's best to get there early to avoid waiting in line. So we decided to meet when the doors opened at 5:30. Even at that early hour there were several tables filled. (When we left around 7, there was a line out the door.)

David didn't have much experience with Japanese food before, and what I hadn't eaten I had at least read about, so I did the ordering. We started off with the kushiyaki (things on skewers) sampler: beef, pork belly, garlic, chicken meatballs, and chicken...

...an order of gyoza and an order of fried calamari.

The skewered tidbits were all delicious, particularly the steak. The gyoza were good/standard, and the onion ring-like calamari were a little chewy, but they tasted fine.

The specials menu offered corn dogs, so we tried two. They were actually seafood sausages dipped in standard corndog batter, and served with ketchup and mustard on the side. Good, but somewhat weird. Tasted better than tofu pups though.

Next I ordered some more unusual fare: fried gobo (burdock) chips. They had that essential starchy/greasy/salty thing going on and tasted a bit like dark-cooked potato chips, or maybe even plantain chips. The accompanying dip was a creamy honey mustard.

I've always been curious about takoyaki, or octopus balls. Ok, they're not octopus balls, but balls of starch with octopus meat inside. Kinda like round, squishy pancakes. They were topped with a preponderance of dried bonito flakes that moved around eerily as if they were alive. The red stuff is pickled, non-sweet ginger. Interesting, I can say I ate them, but not a big favorite at the table. David wouldn't even try one. I think the bonito freaked him out a bit. :)

Because the first round of skewers was so good, we went for a second, this time asparagus wrapped in bacon, duck, and beef. So good.

Finally, we ordered a noodle dish from the specials menu. It was stir fried with bits of pork, onion, and green beans. I thought it would be somewhat like the Chinese "ants climbing a tree" but it was far richer.

We washed everything down with glasses of very apple-y apple sake. And lots of ice water (one needs to stay hydrated in NY).

All-in-all, a pretty great selection of stuff, and I would definitely eat there again and again. Plus, everything is cheap - the noodles were the most expensive dish at $9.50, and the skewers were about $2 apiece. We ordered a lot (and had trouble finishing), but someone with an average appetite could probably get out of there for under $20, not including alcohol.

Sake Bar Hagi
152 West 49th Street (between 6th and 7th)

Sake Bar Hagi on Urbanspoon


David Dust said...

As always, you picked the absolute perfect place for us to dine. Thanks to you, I can add Sake Bar Hagi to my list of "neat places to take people when they visit NYC".

But I still won't try those Octopus Balls...


Briana said...

Recently, my husband and I treked into the city for an overnight and we dragged a friend (who lives in the city) to Hagi for dinner. We tried octopus balls (weird, but tasty), Daikon (wonderful), and a selection of yakitori (delish!). The boys both had Miso soup. Both our friend and I had Sapporo and we were all stuffed when we left. The whole meal cost less than $50, which is amazing in the middle of Manhattan. None of us can wait to go back. Luckily for our friend, he won't have to wait.