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Naoko Takagi

Where to Drink Sake (and Pair It With Delicious Food) in NYC

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Even true New York foodies can feel a little flummoxed by a sake list at their go-to sushi restaurant — but we’re here to tell you to not sleep on sake’s potential for flavor. What makes sake different from beer and wine? Its base grain, brewer’s rice (sakamai) is steamed, some of which then undergoes a special fermenting process to create rice malt (koji). That plus the complex fermentation process equals a higher amount of amino acids in the final product, much more than what’s found in beer or wine. And it’s the drink’s amino acids that are responsible for that near-indescribable taste of umami — the Japanese term that translates roughly to “deliciousness.”

So mix up your next dinner reservation and head to these 14 restaurants to try out a new sake with your meal. Here’s where to go and drink sake in New York City (and of course, try it with new and exciting dishes).

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Method Japanese Kitchen & Sake Bar

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Contemporary-minded Method in Hell’s Kitchen is always a sure bet no matter the weather outside, with decadent bowls of sake-steamed chicken over soba to warm up during the winter or a cooling kale and yuba salad in sudachi (small Japanese citrus) vinaigrette alongside well-loved beef tartare with soy sauce in the summer. There’s no shortage of meaty goodness in the form of fried sea bass, marinated first in soy and yuzu, or grilled veal harami (skirt steak) with fresh wasabi. Linger a while longer for soba-cha (roasted buckwheat) crème brulee while choosing from their impeccable sake list — “sake bar” is in their restaurant name, after all.

Courtesy of Method

Yakitori Totto

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Midtown regular Yakitori Totto never fails when it comes to delivering consistently superb, charcoal-kissed skewers of kawa (chicken skin), gyutan (beef tongue), chicken oysters (the most tender part of the thigh), ton toro (pork neck), and of course, their original asparagus wrapped in bacon. Leave room for supporting dishes as well, like a soothing bowl of ochazuke (steamed rice with toppings, served in fragrant green tea) or agedashi tofu (deep fried silken tofu in dashi). Sake comes by cups (adorned with very kawaii pandas or deer), glasses, and bottles, and there’s a wide range of lean, crisp options, like Dewazakura, to cut through the richness of the grilled meats.

Hakubai

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Hakubai challenges stereotypes about hotel dining with its attentive, modern progression through a multi-course kaiseki. Chef Yukihiro Sato offers several types of kaiseki options, like a sushi-forward kaiseki and a handmade soba kaiseki, as well as a delightful shabu shabu (Japanese hot pot) course with a Miyazaki A5 wagyu option, so there’s always reason to come back. The dishes reflect the seasons, with the winter menu boasting courses like abalone in dashi or miso and sake kasu (sake lees) soup. Immerse yourself with a sake tasting set before moving through their curated list, from Denshin junmais to elegant junmai daiginjos like Dassai.

Osamil manages to combine ko-chi (Korean grilled skewers) with tiki drinks and pub throwbacks like a shortrib burger with French fries with premium sake without feeling kitschy or off-kilter. Bring some company to feast on gochujang-glazed squid, grilled and served whole, housemade blood sausage with kimchi, freshly shucked oyster pancake, and uni bibimbap. For frequent visitors, there’s even the option to acquire a dedicated locker to hold pricey bottles of whiskey until your next visit — though you may not need to look that far in advance when merrily sipping a Denemon junmai daiginjo alongside sticky, craveable Korean fried chicken.

Young Kim/@ycomspace

Izakaya NoMad

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Izakayas are the gastropubs of Japan, and Izakaya NoMad marries the best of both worlds with a sleek, inviting space and classic Japanese dishes done with a New York touch. There’s a wide selection of yakitori to start the meal — including notables like smelt and gingko nut — before the table digs into shareable dishes of beef tataki (seared beef dressed in yuzu), grilled hamachi, pumpkin tempura, and colorfully named sushi rolls like “Godzilla” (softshell crab, avocado, salmon). Izakaya NoMad doesn’t shy away from sake bombs, but also offers enough top-tier bottles that serious sake drinkers take its list seriously — try their unpasteurized Hananomai or the supple Born Gold, and make sure to stay into the evening (after 10 p.m.) for late-night ramen.

Young Kim

Husband-and-wife-owned Covina is a breath of fresh air inside the Park South Hotel, with colorful décor and friendly service to round out its comforting selection of Mediterranean-inspired, American-forward dishes. The relaxed upscale fare earns extra edge from wood-grilled fish and meat, like the perilla-marinated half chicken, homemade pastas — try the glossy mandilli (Italian for “silk handkerchiefs”) — and creative pizzas like spicy honey with homemade fior di latte and soppressata. Sake selection is easy with two Hakkaisan’s available, enjoyable at any temperature and well suited for the woody notes from the grill.

15 East

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It’s rare to find sushi restaurants with the acclaim of 15 East offering a la carte, so hurry over and indulge in their uni flight, 10-piece tuna flight, or tako yawarakani (poached octopus) while watching the chefs work deftly behind the sushi bar. The kitchen offerings are delightful as well, whether it’s revising black cod in a koji marinade instead of miso or doubling down on decadence in a foie gras chawanmushi (Japanese savory egg custard). Opt for the omakase and you’ll be treated to novel pieces of sayori (needle fish), buri (king yellowtail), mirugai (giant clam), and botanebi (spotted sweet shrimp). The sake list is extensive, with rare bottles like the Dassai 23 nigori and Kikuhime as well as seasonal unpasteurized varieties for an ultra-fresh beverage pairing.

DokoDemo

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Dokodemo, or Japanese for “anywhere,” lives up to its name: You could be anywhere in the world, but eating these Japanese street food staples will transport you to the motherland of takoyaki (grilled wheat balls filled with octopus), where fragrant stalls of specialty okonomiyaki (savory pancake with cabbage, egg, and other toppings), yakisoba, and even ramen rice lure passerbys to stop and snack as a detour. Chef-owner Shin Takagi has moved these street specialties into a fast-casual setting, offering a short-but-sweet selection of Japanese beer and sake to wash everything — don’t sleep on the bottles of Hakkaisan Hyoto, perfect paired with a tray of crispy-creamy takoyaki.

Courtesy of Dokodemo
Read Review |

Chef-owner Soogil Lim mingles his fine dining, Daniel-honed skillset with a brightly curious mentality to create fun dishes like sweet potato beignets with chilled white kimchi soup, poached monkfish in lobster sauce, and wagyu bone marrow with porcini and marrow soup. Even the naming convention is enjoyable, with courses like “Jenga Tower” (a stacked dessert topped with honey-chestnut gelato) and “Korean Cinnamon Punch” (honey granita with persimmon and walnut). Chef Lim’s style reaches to the bar as well, with riffs on French classics like the “French 108e” made with sake.

Courtesy of Soogil

Hirohisa

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Leave the choices up to chef Hirohisa Hayashi at his eponymous, Michelin-starred restaurant, a discreet, brick-walled gem in Greenwich Village. His kaiseki- (traditional Japanese multi-course) style menu may read somewhat plainly, but the subtleness of his food does not. The seven- or nine-course chef’s tasting updates every month, and whether you’re enjoying a truffled sea bass soup, lightly seared venison, or grilled tofu with deeply orange California uni, the flavors call for thoughtful pairings with their curated sake list. Don’t be afraid to wander into plum sake territory either — theirs are sweet and deeply nuanced, perfect to sip on ice with dessert or to close out a great meal.

Naoko Takagi

Both an izakaya and a sushi house, Juku defies the odds for standing ground in both arenas. Sushi chef Kazuo Yoshida runs the reservations-only, 12-seat sushi omakase upstairs, with a careful blend of Japanese fish overnighted in on the regular and revolving selections of best-in-class delicacies from other waterways like Maine or Alaska. The ground-floor izakaya combines classic and fanciful with options like grilled lobster tail with uni cream, shishito peppers with parmesan, and fried oysters in mentaiko (pollack roe) tartare. Sake and cocktails can be found on all floors, including underground cocktail bar Straylight, with wide representation across all polishing styles. Try the junmai daiginjos from Asahi Brewery for an excellent showing of different sake tastes and textures within the same category.

Jordan Doner

Cozy, wood-lined Hibino specializes in obanzai, a style of food native to Kyoto that emphasizes local ingredients, thoughtful use of seasoning and processing, and minimal waste. It’s no surprise Hibino has become a special part of the neighborhood — step inside and it feels like a Japanese home, welcoming and relaxed with the smell of home-cooked food. Chefs Hirohisa Hayashi and Masaru Fukuda serve new obanzai offerings every day, which include everything from lotus root gently simmered in soy and ginger and dashi-marinated vegetables to grilled perch. Make sure to order some fragrant sake to pair with the house-made tofu and hako sushi, or “box-pressed sushi,” a style of sushi where the rice and main topping — typically a cured or pickled fish — is pressed together neatly with a mold instead of by hand.

Courtesy of Hibino

Wasan Brooklyn

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Casual and sweet, Wasan is the perfect place to unwind with an extensive menu of Japanese favorites, like delicate pickled parsnip and cabbage (both scented with yuzu) and a refreshing bowl of hiyashi chuka (chilled ramen), or indulge in unaju (rice topped with unagi prepared in the kabayaki way, glazed in sweet soy and barbequed) and decadent sirloin steak cooked on a hot stone. Chef Kakusaburo Sakurai and sake sommelier Toshiyuki Koizumi have worked together for almost a decade now, creating dishes specifically meant to be eaten with a healthy serving of sake. The list is usefully sorted by flavor profile, with seasonal specialties like aged sake and homemade offerings like chocolate nigori (unfiltered sake) making an appearance.

Courtesy of Wasan

Come early to Gen for a Japanese breakfast of salmon, tempura, egg omelet, pickles, and natto (sticky fermented soybeans), or stop in for a relaxing lunch with plates of chicken katsu (panko fried chicken), seared fatty tuna, and simple rolls like mackerel with ginger or kampyo (calabash). Check the daily board for specials like tuna yamakake (tuna with grated mountain yam), grilled lamb shoulder, and ira kimoshoyu zuke (raw squid and red snapper liver). The drink selection is playful, with local selections intermingled with Asahi and yuzu sake — there’s a match for every customer.

This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

Method Japanese Kitchen & Sake Bar

Courtesy of Method

Contemporary-minded Method in Hell’s Kitchen is always a sure bet no matter the weather outside, with decadent bowls of sake-steamed chicken over soba to warm up during the winter or a cooling kale and yuba salad in sudachi (small Japanese citrus) vinaigrette alongside well-loved beef tartare with soy sauce in the summer. There’s no shortage of meaty goodness in the form of fried sea bass, marinated first in soy and yuzu, or grilled veal harami (skirt steak) with fresh wasabi. Linger a while longer for soba-cha (roasted buckwheat) crème brulee while choosing from their impeccable sake list — “sake bar” is in their restaurant name, after all.

Courtesy of Method

Yakitori Totto

Midtown regular Yakitori Totto never fails when it comes to delivering consistently superb, charcoal-kissed skewers of kawa (chicken skin), gyutan (beef tongue), chicken oysters (the most tender part of the thigh), ton toro (pork neck), and of course, their original asparagus wrapped in bacon. Leave room for supporting dishes as well, like a soothing bowl of ochazuke (steamed rice with toppings, served in fragrant green tea) or agedashi tofu (deep fried silken tofu in dashi). Sake comes by cups (adorned with very kawaii pandas or deer), glasses, and bottles, and there’s a wide range of lean, crisp options, like Dewazakura, to cut through the richness of the grilled meats.

Hakubai

Hakubai challenges stereotypes about hotel dining with its attentive, modern progression through a multi-course kaiseki. Chef Yukihiro Sato offers several types of kaiseki options, like a sushi-forward kaiseki and a handmade soba kaiseki, as well as a delightful shabu shabu (Japanese hot pot) course with a Miyazaki A5 wagyu option, so there’s always reason to come back. The dishes reflect the seasons, with the winter menu boasting courses like abalone in dashi or miso and sake kasu (sake lees) soup. Immerse yourself with a sake tasting set before moving through their curated list, from Denshin junmais to elegant junmai daiginjos like Dassai.

Osamil

Young Kim/@ycomspace

Osamil manages to combine ko-chi (Korean grilled skewers) with tiki drinks and pub throwbacks like a shortrib burger with French fries with premium sake without feeling kitschy or off-kilter. Bring some company to feast on gochujang-glazed squid, grilled and served whole, housemade blood sausage with kimchi, freshly shucked oyster pancake, and uni bibimbap. For frequent visitors, there’s even the option to acquire a dedicated locker to hold pricey bottles of whiskey until your next visit — though you may not need to look that far in advance when merrily sipping a Denemon junmai daiginjo alongside sticky, craveable Korean fried chicken.

Young Kim/@ycomspace

Izakaya NoMad

Young Kim

Izakayas are the gastropubs of Japan, and Izakaya NoMad marries the best of both worlds with a sleek, inviting space and classic Japanese dishes done with a New York touch. There’s a wide selection of yakitori to start the meal — including notables like smelt and gingko nut — before the table digs into shareable dishes of beef tataki (seared beef dressed in yuzu), grilled hamachi, pumpkin tempura, and colorfully named sushi rolls like “Godzilla” (softshell crab, avocado, salmon). Izakaya NoMad doesn’t shy away from sake bombs, but also offers enough top-tier bottles that serious sake drinkers take its list seriously — try their unpasteurized Hananomai or the supple Born Gold, and make sure to stay into the evening (after 10 p.m.) for late-night ramen.

Young Kim

Covina

Husband-and-wife-owned Covina is a breath of fresh air inside the Park South Hotel, with colorful décor and friendly service to round out its comforting selection of Mediterranean-inspired, American-forward dishes. The relaxed upscale fare earns extra edge from wood-grilled fish and meat, like the perilla-marinated half chicken, homemade pastas — try the glossy mandilli (Italian for “silk handkerchiefs”) — and creative pizzas like spicy honey with homemade fior di latte and soppressata. Sake selection is easy with two Hakkaisan’s available, enjoyable at any temperature and well suited for the woody notes from the grill.

15 East

It’s rare to find sushi restaurants with the acclaim of 15 East offering a la carte, so hurry over and indulge in their uni flight, 10-piece tuna flight, or tako yawarakani (poached octopus) while watching the chefs work deftly behind the sushi bar. The kitchen offerings are delightful as well, whether it’s revising black cod in a koji marinade instead of miso or doubling down on decadence in a foie gras chawanmushi (Japanese savory egg custard). Opt for the omakase and you’ll be treated to novel pieces of sayori (needle fish), buri (king yellowtail), mirugai (giant clam), and botanebi (spotted sweet shrimp). The sake list is extensive, with rare bottles like the Dassai 23 nigori and Kikuhime as well as seasonal unpasteurized varieties for an ultra-fresh beverage pairing.

DokoDemo

Courtesy of Dokodemo

Dokodemo, or Japanese for “anywhere,” lives up to its name: You could be anywhere in the world, but eating these Japanese street food staples will transport you to the motherland of takoyaki (grilled wheat balls filled with octopus), where fragrant stalls of specialty okonomiyaki (savory pancake with cabbage, egg, and other toppings), yakisoba, and even ramen rice lure passerbys to stop and snack as a detour. Chef-owner Shin Takagi has moved these street specialties into a fast-casual setting, offering a short-but-sweet selection of Japanese beer and sake to wash everything — don’t sleep on the bottles of Hakkaisan Hyoto, perfect paired with a tray of crispy-creamy takoyaki.

Courtesy of Dokodemo

Soogil

Read Review |
Courtesy of Soogil

Chef-owner Soogil Lim mingles his fine dining, Daniel-honed skillset with a brightly curious mentality to create fun dishes like sweet potato beignets with chilled white kimchi soup, poached monkfish in lobster sauce, and wagyu bone marrow with porcini and marrow soup. Even the naming convention is enjoyable, with courses like “Jenga Tower” (a stacked dessert topped with honey-chestnut gelato) and “Korean Cinnamon Punch” (honey granita with persimmon and walnut). Chef Lim’s style reaches to the bar as well, with riffs on French classics like the “French 108e” made with sake.

Courtesy of Soogil

Hirohisa

Naoko Takagi

Leave the choices up to chef Hirohisa Hayashi at his eponymous, Michelin-starred restaurant, a discreet, brick-walled gem in Greenwich Village. His kaiseki- (traditional Japanese multi-course) style menu may read somewhat plainly, but the subtleness of his food does not. The seven- or nine-course chef’s tasting updates every month, and whether you’re enjoying a truffled sea bass soup, lightly seared venison, or grilled tofu with deeply orange California uni, the flavors call for thoughtful pairings with their curated sake list. Don’t be afraid to wander into plum sake territory either — theirs are sweet and deeply nuanced, perfect to sip on ice with dessert or to close out a great meal.

Naoko Takagi

Juku

Jordan Doner

Both an izakaya and a sushi house, Juku defies the odds for standing ground in both arenas. Sushi chef Kazuo Yoshida runs the reservations-only, 12-seat sushi omakase upstairs, with a careful blend of Japanese fish overnighted in on the regular and revolving selections of best-in-class delicacies from other waterways like Maine or Alaska. The ground-floor izakaya combines classic and fanciful with options like grilled lobster tail with uni cream, shishito peppers with parmesan, and fried oysters in mentaiko (pollack roe) tartare. Sake and cocktails can be found on all floors, including underground cocktail bar Straylight, with wide representation across all polishing styles. Try the junmai daiginjos from Asahi Brewery for an excellent showing of different sake tastes and textures within the same category.

Jordan Doner

Hibino

Courtesy of Hibino

Cozy, wood-lined Hibino specializes in obanzai, a style of food native to Kyoto that emphasizes local ingredients, thoughtful use of seasoning and processing, and minimal waste. It’s no surprise Hibino has become a special part of the neighborhood — step inside and it feels like a Japanese home, welcoming and relaxed with the smell of home-cooked food. Chefs Hirohisa Hayashi and Masaru Fukuda serve new obanzai offerings every day, which include everything from lotus root gently simmered in soy and ginger and dashi-marinated vegetables to grilled perch. Make sure to order some fragrant sake to pair with the house-made tofu and hako sushi, or “box-pressed sushi,” a style of sushi where the rice and main topping — typically a cured or pickled fish — is pressed together neatly with a mold instead of by hand.

Courtesy of Hibino

Wasan Brooklyn

Courtesy of Wasan

Casual and sweet, Wasan is the perfect place to unwind with an extensive menu of Japanese favorites, like delicate pickled parsnip and cabbage (both scented with yuzu) and a refreshing bowl of hiyashi chuka (chilled ramen), or indulge in unaju (rice topped with unagi prepared in the kabayaki way, glazed in sweet soy and barbequed) and decadent sirloin steak cooked on a hot stone. Chef Kakusaburo Sakurai and sake sommelier Toshiyuki Koizumi have worked together for almost a decade now, creating dishes specifically meant to be eaten with a healthy serving of sake. The list is usefully sorted by flavor profile, with seasonal specialties like aged sake and homemade offerings like chocolate nigori (unfiltered sake) making an appearance.

Courtesy of Wasan

Gen

Come early to Gen for a Japanese breakfast of salmon, tempura, egg omelet, pickles, and natto (sticky fermented soybeans), or stop in for a relaxing lunch with plates of chicken katsu (panko fried chicken), seared fatty tuna, and simple rolls like mackerel with ginger or kampyo (calabash). Check the daily board for specials like tuna yamakake (tuna with grated mountain yam), grilled lamb shoulder, and ira kimoshoyu zuke (raw squid and red snapper liver). The drink selection is playful, with local selections intermingled with Asahi and yuzu sake — there’s a match for every customer.