Ippudo is continually thinking of new ways to bring Japanese tradition and cuisine overseas. So this time around, they’re introducing a variety Japanese bar food to their menu. We were able to have a little sneak preview of the Ippudo Sake Bar menu, which was paired impeccably well with a glass of crisp Hakkaisan sake.
Let’s start with some background on the Japanese bar cuisine and Hakkaisan sake. First off, Japanese bar food is served at an establishment called Izakaya, a casual sit down style bar. Imagine a loud restaurant where Japanese food is served with alcoholic beverages, and where you can smoke indoors and let loose. In Japan, rather than individual servings, Izakaya dishes are shared with a group, such as colleagues after a long day of work, very similar to the concept of tapas. These dishes are typically savory in nature and encourage you to drink. Now, the Hakkaisan is a beautifully crisp light sake that goes perfectly with the Japanese bar food, a variety of simple fresh savory bites. As sake sommelier Chizuko Niikawa-Helton stated, this sake is “magic water.” The clean taste makes it so easy to drink that one will hardly be able to keep track of glasses consumed! (Prime example, Naomi had four glasses.)
On this particular night, the menu consisted of a wide range of dishes, from sardines to braised pork belly, crispy sesame cucumber to spicy calamari salad. We especially enjoyed the fried lily bulbs, since it was something unique that we hardly ever get to try. These little bulbs were coated in a light tempura batter, crunchy on the outside with a delightful inner chewy texture on the inside. Also included in the course where delectable fish cakes called satsuma-age topped with fresh grated ginger and then our favorite, an extremely tender braised pork belly. All these dishes were a wide variety of light and deep flavors, that together with the Hakkaisan, took our taste buds right back to Tokyo.
Pictured above from top clockwise: Satsuma Age (Fried fish cake with ginger), Fried Lily Bulb, Dashimaki (Dashi infused omlette), Shime Saba (Marinated Makarel), Potato Salad, Yamitsuki Goma Kyuri (Japanese Cucumber in Sesame)
The clarity and lightness of the Hakkaisan sake comes from the water they use. Due to the heavy snowfall during the winter in Niigata prefecture, low and stable temperatures create “soft water” that is responsible for its clear tasting sake. For more information, head over to their website here.
65 4th Ave New York, NY 10003
Ippudo West Side
321 West 51st Street, New York, NY 10019