Sakagura and a few thoughts on restaurants

We returned to Olstead when the weather was brutally cold.  One of the wonderful things about Olmstead is their beautiful backyard.  It is the perfect place to have a pre-dinner drink or an after-dinner drink or just a drink.  Not when it is below 15 degrees.  I didn’t take any photos as we had been before but the food was incredible.  Some of the most creative, delicious, interesting dishes I have had in quite awhile.  I am really looking forward to going back when the backyard is screaming spring is here.

We went to a new spot, Sakagura, that is not new to NYC but new to us.  They have been around since 1996 and consider themselves a pioneer in introducing sake to NYC.  Located in midtown, underneath an office building, in a large funky space.  There is something very edgy to the place as it isn’t fancy at all but has this great funky vibe.  A great sake menu and a really good Japanese small plate menu.  We shared everything and we enjoyed each bite.  The highlights were the raw, seared Kobe beef covered with daikon radish and ponzu sauce.

Sweet soy marinated salmon was the special of the day.  Each of us had one of these pieces that just fell off the bone.  Really good.

Unisoba is buckwheat noodles topped with sea urchin in a sea urchin broth.  Yum.

There were other dishes but those were the tops.  Even dessert was delicious and simple.  Sesame ice cream over a sesame creme brulee and a crispy sesame chip.

We also went to Union Square Cafe for a meal.  I applaud that they reopened the spot nearby after 20+ years but have yet to wrap my arms around the look of the new place.  It looks like the old place so it feels very 80’s to me and I don’t why they didn’t keep some references vs trying to just stick with the complete look.  This is not our first time there.  It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy some of the dishes but it was the service.  Super slow out of the kitchen and also slow in regards to paying attention to the table and that was the same as the last time.  Even the pasta with the white truffles of the season wasn’t shaved at the table but brought out already on the pasta from the kitchen.  I know that all of USHG restaurants have eliminated tipping but I am not sure it works here like it does in Europe.  People who work there are making a lot less income and the service shows.  Some other restaurants have tried the no-tip policy and have returned to it.  I’d be surprised if the data pointed to this concept actually working for the hospitality piece of the business.

Back to Sakagura and Olmstead for sure.

Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    how do you square your Porter Road Butchers post philosophy of sourced meats with eating out at so many restaurants? do you eat only at restaurants that declare the source of their meats? this is why i avoid restaurants and eating places generally. they generally don’t declare, and ‘i don’t trust them’ is my default position. they have to earn my trust with a commitment to higher standards. a very rare thing.

    1. Gotham Gal

      some do and I like that. More and more are and I like that too. I am quite confident that Olmstead sources the right products. Down and dirty is just what it is.

      1. awaldstein

        I agree and especially in New York.I remember when Charlie Bird opened and they were all about telling you about the farm, about the fishing boat.Even though not really scalable, I like this and trust this knowledge more than certs which are invariably a racket.

        1. jason wright

          most certs probably are a racket to some degree or other, but if you take the time to read and research it is not too difficult to spot the authentic mark with real philosophy, history, and pedigree. Demeter tops them all imo. my rule of thumb is that the certs that pop up most often on shelves are probably the least authentic. Demeter is a hunter gatherer thing.

          1. awaldstein

            it’s a complex topic.I know the Demeter cert as I’m a big believer in BioD farming especially for grapes but almost none of the BioD winemakers pay for the use of the cert as it is not really known by the consumer so no reason to pay.

          2. jason wright

            it is complex. ultimately all cert schemes act as a proxy, for the consumer without the time or wherewithal to go and make personal inspections of places where their food and drink is produced and processed (farms and fields and slaughterhouses et.c.). the city has separated us from our natural world. My nan grew much of her food in her back garden and allotments, food I ate as a child. I think that’s where I get my interest in how food is grown and produced. Through her I feel I have in contrast that appreciation of some of the issues in modern industrial farming, which is all out of scale, out of sight, and largely out of our collective consciousness.An indication of when things begin to go wrong is when land is considered to be too valuable to grow food on.”Where there’s land, there’s war”, and war takes many forms, and ‘war’ about he way agricultural land is used (and abused) is a war worth fighting. For consumers of food their choices are how they can contribute to that war. That’s how they can fight this war.Felix Dennis bought land to plant a new forest in England. He spent many many millions of GBP doing it. It was an admirable effort. I would like to see more ultra wealthy people buy large swathes of agricultural land to convert it back to organic (original) production. That would be a worthy legacy for anyone thinking about their legacy and how the future might think of them.

      2. jason wright

        do such restaurants in NYC display a sign, a certification logo, that declares their wholesome sourcing of meats? how would a visitor to the city know what’s what? is it just a word of mouth and ‘in the know’ culture?

        1. Gotham Gal

          sometimes it is on the menu or on a blackboard…but that’s it.

          1. jason wright

            sounds a bit random, untested, open to the exploitation of goodwill. I think in NYC I would go vegetarian for the duration.

  2. pointsnfigures

    brutally cold……my bones shivered. I am wondering if it’s me getting older but I am getting super sick of winter. Plus it makes me disorganized.

  3. Steven Hill

    Ditto on hospitality included….Union Sq Hospitality Group never had to place ads for service people until no-tip policy.

  4. kirklove

    Sakagura is such a fun place. I went their early when I first moved to NYC. I remember walking through the office building, down a weird alley and coming out into this amazingly cool little space. I felt transported to Japan. Every time I go back I still love it. Sometimes NYC does it right. Sakagura is one of those places.