Tag Archives: sake

Sushi Lab

First, check out my Ride & Review HERE:


This joint was offering a 12-piece omakase for just $60 during restaurant week, so my wife and I jumped on it!

I would definitely come back here again for the 15-course $100 omakase. We noticed that they really bump up the quality when you go for that.

That’s not to say that the 12-piece wasn’t worth it. To the contrary! It was a sweet deal.

320 E 11th St.
New York, NY 10003


First, check out my Ride & Review video HERE:

My wife discovered this newly opened joint in our hood called Kaki. They have a 15-piece omakase that includes sake for just $75. WHAT A STEAL! The pieces are clean, beautiful and delicious. A bit more on the traditional side in terms of presentation.

Here’s a photo dump of all the pieces.

I will definitely be back. We really like this spot!

129 Rivington St
New York, NY 10002

Takumi Omakase

This little joint serves up a very affordable and tasty 15-piece omakase for just $89, and on Sunday at the 5pm seating you also get free sake!

Here’s a look at everything we had. They were kind enough to swap out the scallop piece for my wife who is allergic.

181 Essex St
New York, NY 10002

Zest Sushi

Weird name, great happy hour.

Zest Sushi has a very extensive menu of items for just $5.50 during happy hour, which also includes their beer and sake offerings as well. My wife and I tried a bunch of stuff, and pretty much everything was great. Here’s the run down:

Mini salmon don.

“Salmon Dream” torched sashimi.

Skewers of crispy squid tentacles.

Crispy oysters (this was the only item I wouldn’t get again).

Takoyaki (fried balls of octopus with bonito).

Crispy salmon skin roll.

For drinks, the better bet is to get the sake. They give you about 10oz for $5.50, and it’s pretty good.

249 Broome St
New York, NY 10002


I took my wife to Kissaki for her birthday since she likes omakase restaurants. This place did a great job. We went with their 13-course tasting menu, swapping out sashimi for nigiri on the sushi pieces, and we also shared a sake pairing (four generous pours that progressed through the meal).

My favorite items were the Santa Barbara uni, the thin sliced squid, the Japanese barracuda, and the Spanish mackerel.

I’m no omakase expert, but this place seemed to deliver very good quality at a great starting price point of $120 (for the nigiri – add $60 for the sashimi).

My only gripe: they should offer a combo of both nigiri and sashimi, since some of the nigiri sushi looked really interesting with wild toppings and flavors, while the sashimi pieces were more traditional and plain. A mixed piece menu would be a great way to get a taste of both modern and traditional.

319 Bowery
New York, NY 10003

Rabbit House

My wife picked up a Pulsd deal for this place that got us a six course omakase with three glasses of sake each for $89.

We opted to share six different glasses, one to pair with each course.

Yes, they do serve rabbit, and the theme of the restaurant definitely involves rabbits.

Before the omakase began, we were served a delicious, warm wedge of country bread with olive oil and pepper.

Prior to eating rabbit, we ate rabbit food. The first course was miniature crudite with a blob of miso paste, and an oyster shooter with wine jelly.

Next up, beautiful and delicious tuna tartare with fried lotus root.

Then we had this trio of beef tartare, cheeses and pork spare ribs.

After that, a yellowtail preparation that included both cooked and raw styles.

Then came the star of the show – the “trapped rabbit.”

This was pretty nice, and similar to a porchetta of sorts (rolled whole muscle cuts that are cooked, then sliced). It came with a side of dressed greens, colorful carrots and mushrooms.

Last was the black sesame custard. This was a tasty but not overly sweet way to end the meal. I enjoyed.

Over all this was good but not great. The Pulsd deal is definitely worth it, though, if it’s still available.

76 Forsyth Street
New York, NY 10002


For documentation purposes, I’ve decided to include this little basement sake bar in my reviews. I didn’t eat anything, but I did try a nice Japanese cocktail made with yuzu, grapefruit and shochu.

In any event, I’d like to come back here and give it a more thorough write up. For now, just enjoy the info.

This joint is a small, authentic, almost speakeasy like bar in the basement of an East Village building. The lighting is dim and red, and the drinks are flowing. It gets pretty packed, even on random weeknights, so get there with some time to spare.

decibal interior

240 E 9th St
New York, NY 10003


Inakaya gets some flack for being a big, thematic Japanese joint that’s right near the armpit of NYC, Port Authority. The area is essentially a wretched hive of scum and villainy, the likes of which make the Mos Isley Cantina look like a comforting, safe place.

But the restaurant? Really nice. I was thoroughly impressed with the six course tasting menu for two that my wife scored for less than the price of one.

inakaya menu

We essentially tried one of each, with the exception of the roasted rice ball, which looked delicious.

We started with drinks. I guzzled down these two Asahi beers, a dark and the super dry, while my wife sipped on a traditional box o’ sake.

inakaya drinks

I loved the fact that the guys cooking behind the bar would serve up each drink or food course on a long wooden paddle that they stretched out across the bar table. Pretty fucking mint:

inakaya seating

inakaya cooking

inakaya paddle

Starters were the tempura (shishito pepper, fish, and shrimp with shredded nori) and the tuna and yellow tail carpaccio with salmon tartare. These were delicious. The tempura was perfectly crispy and light, and the fish dish was garnished with paper-thin salt flakes that really made the flavors pop.

inakaya tempura

inakaya fish

Next were the quad-color mixed seaweed salad and seared tuna spinach salad. Also delicious, deftly dressed, and wildly flavorful.

inakaya seaweed

inakaya seaweed 2

inakaya tuna

Next came the grilled veggie assortment: asparagus, eringi mushroom, and eggplant. I liked everything here, but the eggplant could have benefitted from a skinning or peeling. That skin can be a little thick at times. The asparagus and mushrooms were awesome though, especially when sprinkled with some of the Japanese spicy pepper condiment.

inakaya veggies

inakaya spice

After that came the surf and turf: grilled half lobster and a generous portion of kobe beef (the menu says 2oz but it was more like 4oz). The beef was served with a nice dipping sauce that brought out the earthy flavors of the meat. I generally prefer a steamed lobster but the grilled one here wasn’t too bad. Lots of times places will mangle the grilled lobster and overcook it. Not the case here.

inakaya beef

inakaya lobster

Our sides were the yellowtail and scallion roll, which was just okay. Nothing too fancy. And the double steamed rice with mushrooms. THAT was yummy. In hindsight, I wish we had gotten the roasted rice ball instead of the sushi roll, but hey.

inakaya sushi

inakaya mushrooms

Shit there was even good miso soup! It came with a good amount of tofu skin in it (my absolute favorite for soup fodder).

inakaya miso

Dessert was really simple. Green tea ice cream and fresh fruit with whipped cream and a sprig of mint. Basic, fresh and good. The fruit plate was a little small, but otherwise no real complaints here. We were full anyway.

inakaya icecream

inakaya fruit

This place is totally worth it, in my opinion. $65 is a good deal for one. My wife nailed it with $55 for two through some crazy ass deal she found online. If you can do the same, I highly recommend doing it. Total win.

231 W. 40th St.
New York, NY 10018

Tabelog Event At Maison O

The good folks over at Tabelog saw fit to invite me to once again join them for one of their elite tasting events. This time, the event was at Maison O in SoHo to celebrate Japanese department store Isetan’s newest pop-up store that was open in SoHo for fashion week, in line with Japan’s “Nipponista” movement.

What is “Nipponista,” you ask? It’s part of a Japanese project called “Cool Japan” that was created to spread Japanese fashion, design, art and food throughout the world. “Cool Japan” and “Gross National Cool” became slogans for Japan’s growing and expanding cultural movement, which eventually arrived here at NYC fashion week.

Chef Tadashi Ono, the former executive chef of Matsuri, presented his culinary creations at the Tabelog event. We enjoyed a special tasting menu of Dashi and Agar, along with Mizubasho sake pairings. As with any good meal, you start out with some booze. Our official booze man was Shoichi Nagai, of the Mizubasho brand. Here is a shot of him explaining the differences between some of the sake we tasted:


See below for the mouth-watering images of our meal and sake pairings.

First we had some sparkling sake with dashikarikori-kan (dashi jelly) with black truffle, sitting on a slice of radish and topped with scallion. The sake was like champagne, only better, because I hate champagne and I love sake. The dashi was earthy, had a really nice meaty texture, and it delivered a great crunch from the radish.




We also had a Kumamoto oyster with ponzu ice to go along with the with sparkling sake. It was tart, with a sour, grapefruit type of finish, but very crisp and clean.


Then one of the dashi specialists explained to us the difference in miso soup that uses just miso + water versus miso + dashi, and he showed us the two main components of dashi (kombu kelp and katsuobushi/benito flakes). We were easily able to taste a vast world of difference between the two cups of miso. The miso + dashi was way more rich, earthier, and generally much more awesome.






Next came the fish course: black cod with a sake and dashi-kanten gravy (dashi plus agar for thickening and flavor). It was paired with a cold-aged, 2-year sake that was crisp and complex. We drank it from two cups (one glass and one tin) and the type of cup you drink from actually alters the flavors. Tin cup is much better. As for the cod; the aroma was amazing, and the flavor was light but powerful. It was cooked perfectly.



Our next course was beef rib eye with caramelized onion and grilled rice ball. NOW we’re talking! The onions were the real star here. They were minced and delicious. The dish came with a grilled shishito pepper too, which was nice and smokey. The steak was slightly over-cooked, but still very tasty and tender. I didn’t mind at all. The rice ball was crisped like it was grilled on the same surface as the beef, and it even retained a little of that meaty flavor from whatever it picked up off the grill. The sake pairing was a 2004 vintage, 10yr cold-aged sake that was limited quantity (only 40 bottles remain). It was clean and easy to drink, light, flavorful, and paired remarkably well with grilled meat even though it wasn’t as robust as a red wine.



For dessert we had a sweet, 2009 dessert sake that was reminiscent of ice wine. They said it would pair nicely with everything from sweets to fois gras and even uni or salmon roe. I could see it for the uni, as the taste was somewhat aromatic and perfumed, as is uni. This was presented with a coconut panna cotta and green tea tiramisu. The tiramisu had great flavor, and the panna cotta was firm and packed a lot of punch for something that looked so light.



Then chef Ono came out to greet us and talk with us.


And here’s a decor shot for the road:

20140212_185322_LLS color pop

And a list of the menu items we had, just in case you are keeping track:


You can see a quick video of the event HERE, although the page itself and most of the video contents are in Japanese. Unfortunately my incredibly handsome face didn’t make it into the edited clip. It could have benefitted from my gorgeousness, or at least from that of my stunning wife.


Tabelog Event at SakaMai

I’ve been meaning to yap it up about Tabelog for a while now, but the timing is perfect now for this entry. Basically, in a crude and overly simplified description that cheapens what I mean to say, Tabelog is the Japanese version of Yelp – only a shitload better. In Japan, Tabelog is 5x larger than Yelp; they dominate the food review market. The company has recently endeavored to break into the US and global market, with their first state-side stop being NYC, of course. That’s where Johnny Prime comes in. The awesome folks at Tabelog recognized my manliness and contacted me (and other well known and influential food bloggers) to be a part of the process – to give input on the website, to act as the voice of the user, etc. And most fun for us foodies – they also asked us to be judges for their NYC restaurant awards. Of course I fucking jumped at the opportunity to voice my opinion on things; namely, their “best steakhouse” category… Which, sadly, went to Peter Luger… Yeah… BOO… HISS… I was a bit surprised too… Oh well. Clearly some of the people who voted on this category need to get out to some different steakhouses, or they need to thoroughly read my site. I guess this just means that my important work must go on. I have more to do… Thankfully, Tabelog provides another great format and outlet for my manliness to disseminate to the world abroad. So thank you Brock and Ken for taking me into the fold. I’m honored, humbled, and thrilled to be a part of this.
Anyway… After being introduced to the newly launched US website I found that I REALLY liked the format. Not only that, but Tabelog allows food and restaurant reviewers a hell of a lot more control over the content and overall look of their reviews. Tabelog was smart to make the review process personal, so that you can almost get to know the writers just as much as the restaurants. Reviewers on Tabelog have their own little corner of cyberspace to stand on their milk crate and shout out their unique message; it’s kinda like Facebook meets restaurant reviews in a way. Meanwhile, Yelp has a whole shitpile of obnoxious restrictions like no use of hyperlinks, no self promotion, no mention of your website anywhere in your reviews, image restriction this, content restriction that… To some extent I understand the concern, but it has gotten a bit ridiculous lately. Yelp also doesn’t allow for embedded images in the body of the review, and they also hide or block certain reviews based on some fucked up algorithm that they THINK works to weed out what they perceive as “biased” reviews from tainting the process. Good intentions, but the reality is that many times this “feature” actually HARMS small businesses; I’ve seen it happen with people that I know who run small shops. Even despite numerous efforts by these small businesses to contact Yelp to alert them of problems or attempt to rectify situations, Yelp ignores, or pulls out some pre-conceived, pro-forma, bullshit-laden excuse/rationale. Tabelog has none of these ridiculous issues. Whoever is running the Tabelog tech is a fucking wizard, and the layout, user interface, and intuitive organizational nature of the site simply blows away the competition. Granted it is still new here, and things are just starting to heat up for them in NYC, but MAN do they show promise… I’m really looking forward to their explosion into the US market. And it’ll be fun because I’ll be there for the wild ride. Exciting.
So now, literally, to the meat and potatoes… Last night Tabelog threw an event for their NYC judges at the incredible SakaMai restaurant; a real deal legit Japanese place on the lower east side. The Tabelog folks were cool enough to let me bring my wife as well, who, as you might already know, is The Cake Dealer and also an awesome food blogger herself. The food at SakaMai was off the hook – pretty much perfection. Check out the pics and captions below.
First is the menu. Pics of the dishes go clockwise from bottom left:
Here is the carrot puree with dashi gelee and summer truffle. At first I thought it was some kind of uni puree based on the color and bright, brine flavor. This was one of the most delicious items of the night. I think I sucked down three of these mutherfuckers.
Next is the meat: filet mignon tartare with uni, wasabi mascarpone, and poached egg. I had three of these too. Hands down one of the better tartares I’ve ever had. It was earthy, it had great texture, and the poached egg introduced just the right amount of fat back into the dish.
Now for the trout and caviar sushi. I only had one of these, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. It was delicate, but full of great flavor. Very clean, crisp and refreshing.

Lobster croquettes with lardo iberico and sansho peppers. I went back for seconds here. Just a great, soft yet powerful punch of velvety flavor inside that crispy fried outer shell. And sitting on a little puree of potato.


Now for more meat – this time a chicken + fois gras burger. Fucking delicious. I only had one, but I could have put away a dozen of these fuckers quick and easy – so quick it would rival my old drunken 3am White Castle runs. And I don’t care what you say: White Castle sliders rule. Just don’t save any in the fridge overnight or else the next day the entire appliance will smell like rotting trash.


MORE MEAT! Iberico pork on a bed of farro salad. My first bite was extremely chewy but I think that’s because I got one of the fatty/gristled ends. My next two servings were perfect. When I first saw the color of the slices I thought I was dealing with flank, skirt or strip steak: a nice pinkish center. But when you delve into high quality pork, the “other white meat” can be served a little less cooked. This was some yummy shit:


Dessert: strawberry compote with mascarpone and a truffled balsamic drizzle. Fuck the strawberry though. It was great but I could drink that fucking cream all day. I’d rub that shit all over my face and gobble it down like Jenna Jameson if I had to.


Now onward to the booze! SakaMai offered us up a delicious selection of sakes, served up by some serious sake experts – so serious that they are called samurai. Serious. No joke. But seriousness aside, the one samurai we spoke to was hilarious, reciting jokes about the history of certain drinks.


We tasted a nice array of some very different sakes and booze. Below are two pics: one of our favorite sake, which was very clean, crisp and pure… Then a spicy plum alcohol which was accompanied by a funny story told by the sake samurai.



And last but not least, the talent and brains behind it all. First Tabelog: this is a shot of Brock (left) and Ken (right) telling us about the company’s plans and how we fit into the equation.


Next is SakaMai owner Natalie (left) and Chef Akiyama (right), who told us a lot about their restaurant and fielded a wide array of questions from us food nerds.


157 Ludlow St.
New York, NY 10002