I’ve been living in the same Midtown East neighborhood ever since I moved to New York almost five years ago. I’ve always had the temptation to move to cooler neighborhoods in downtown Manhattan, but just found the comfort of living nearby my work around Grand Central station area too convenient to make that move. Midtown East is one of the more barren areas when it comes to restaurants, but there are some solid Japanese places in the neighborhood. Sakagura has long been one of the spots that I would love to go every once in a while; at this subterranean izakaya-style establishment, sake is not the only strength. In fact, after recent visit with my mom and a friend, I think Sakagura is one of the more underrated places when it comes to Japanese cuisine in the city.
There is no magic or trick used at Sakagura; it’s just straightforward Japanese food. The strength of this restaurant lies in execution faithful to Japanese traditional flavor and texture that provides so much satisfaction without being fussy. The sushi assortment (this time, we had uni, medium fatty tuna, amberjack, striped jack mackerel and red snapper) is certainly an above-average plate with very fresh texture of each piece that would make for an excellent starter everywhere. One of the specials on the menu, grilled salmon collar, was cooked more or less perfectly and had modest flavor to maximize the texture of the fish.
I’ve always been a fan of black cod with miso sauce in Japanese restaurants, and the grilled fillets of black cod in sweet soy sauce served by Sakagura was quite excellent as well, again with more or less perfectly grilled fish that was melting in my mouth. The braised pork belly, which the menu says is the restaurant’s signature dish, didn’t look too appetizing when it came out, but had juicy, tender meat that brought smiles to everyone. The steamed rice dish cooked with snow crab meat and crab butter, according to the menu, is supposed to take 40-50 minutes to prepare, but no one was complaining as the rice that came out turned out to be a nice exclamation point to a very satisfying meal. I really enjoyed the moderately firm texture of the rice that worked harmoniously with snow crab meat for a subtle yet elegant dish.
Getting a reservation at Sakagura can be a challenge, so book early if possible or show up during lunch hours where you have better odds of getting seated at the bar. As always, even though the space is usually packed with corporate crowds, the modern and cozy décor is another attraction to this restaurant; an impressive list of sakes is another plus. Japanese food is one of my favorite cuisines so I typically have a fairly high standard when checking out Japanese restaurants. I can now declare with confidence that Sakagura is definitely one of the better places in the city if you want to explore the taste of Japan in an intimate setting.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 211 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017
Telephone: (212) 953-7253