SAKAMAI – NYC
157 Ludlow Street (nr. Stanton) New York, NY 10002
A few months ago I was asked to be a part of the US launch of a site called Tabélog which is a Japanese food website similar to yelp but much more sophisticated and has a massive following in Japan of millions.
I was introduced to SakaMai by way of a blogger event that Tabélog hosted for all of their NY blogger participants. They rolled out the red carpet for us and had quite a spread of unique small dishes that were truly delicious as well as a curated selection of sakes. We were introduced to the owner and chef in a very interesting group conversation.
Natalie Graham the owner and creative director and actually comes from a design background. One day she decided she wanted to open a restaurant for fun and teamed up with Tanner Fahl to open SakaMai. They brought in Japanese chef Takanori Akiyama who has been working a chef in NYC since 1995 after being formally trained in his hometown of Kyushu, Japan.
SakaMai is essentially a sake lounge with excellent food. I wanted to return for a full meal after sampling the treats at the blogger event.
The first thing I noticed as I entered SakaMai the second time around is that the clientele is primarily Japanese. This is always a good sign. The space itself is long and narrow and has a very “zen” feel to it with exposed brick, rustic worn wood and very simply set tables. There are bars in both the front and the back with seating and some high tables for cocktails.
The menu is Japanese but not really sushi – of course there are raw items on the menu but it centers more around composed small plates.
In the interview with chef Akiyama during the Tabélog event, he said that he strives to make each dish even more interesting than might seem just by reading the description on the menu by using “surprise” ingredients. I would say hat he is successful in this strategy across the board.
We began with some very interesting cocktails. My two friends each started with a bourbon cocktail that incorporated a snifter full of smoke created by a blow-torching a small pile of aromatic wood chips. I began with a tangy yuzu infused vodka tonic.
The first dish to arrive was a torched uni on top of a crispy buttery toast with a sprinkle of Parmesan Reggiano. The cheese gave the creamy, earthy flavor of the uni a unique accent.
Next was the cream cheese anchovy. Anchovies are an acquired taste so this may not appeal to everyone. The white anchovy topped a miso cream cheese square on a nori sheet. This was good but perhaps a little too much cream cheese.
The truffled vegetables came next. This was essentially a big fresh salad of some lightly warmed veggies and radicchio topped with shaved truffle. The dressing plus lots of truffles would make anything taste amazing.
The Kanpachi was next – a clean slice of fresh fish dressed with shiso ribbons, myoga, yuzu, a little wasabi and a shoyu glaze.
The best dish ensued – the signature dish of “egg on egg on egg”. A bed of creamy scrambled eggs topped with sea urchin and sturgeon caviar served in an elegant porcelain dish resembling a sea urchin. We ordered two and I claimed an entire one for myself. Not only is this a beautiful dish but the delicate flavors of the three types of eggs play beautifully off each other.
The pork buns at SakaMai will rival any in the city. The fluffy bun is packed with a chunk of tender, juicy pork. This one is particularly good because it is so meaty and there is enough to last you until the last bite of bun. It is also a good ratio of meat to fat.
The filet and bone marrow steak tartare is another excellent dish. The deep red filet is seasoned nicely seasoned and very finely chopped. The bone marrow is added on top of the toast to provide a little richness.
Lastly, we were served the croquettes which were little balls of lobster with Iberico lardo and some miso in a pool of lobster foam.
To top off the meal – one of Banksy’s latest and largest works is directly next to the restaurant. Any art lover would be excited to visit!
I highly recommend SakaMai for delicious and quiet meal with friends or for a date with a more adventurous eater.
Some Shots From the Tabélog Event: