10 Great Sake Dens
by Michael Anstendig, New York Observer contributor, 02/27/2009
9. Sake Bar Hagi
152 W. 49th St. • 212-764-8549
Beneath the heart of Times Square, Sake Bar Hagi enacts a faithful re-creation of an authentic Tokyo subterranean pub experience. Accordingly, it’s a favorite of Japanese expats and a few adventurous Americans. Down a terrifyingly steep flight of stairs, the 11-seat bar is usually packed, with a wait for table seating. There’s not much decor, just plain white plaster walls with wood wainscoting, gray stone floors and tatami-backed banquettes. Flat-screen TVs abound, projected sporting events providing a slightly frat-house feel. The selection of sakes is respectable at around 20, with 10 shochus for those needing a stronger kick. Chikurin is a good starter, a junmai ginjo brewed from estate-cultivated rice, exuding hints of lychee and pineapple. Another good sipper is the Ginban, a junmai daiginjo from Toyama with a melon-tinged aroma. Both go well with the okonomiyaki, a pan-fried batter disk topped with savory pork and vegetables, or with the spaghetti and cream sauce spiked with spicy cod roe. Sake Bar Hagi is a great way to experience a high-spirited side of Japanese culture not often found in the swankier places.
Browse a lifetime's worth of drinking and dining reviews at Observer.com.