Sakagura, a hidden Japanese restaurant and sake bar in Midtown Manhattan is one of our favorite hidden gems. We’ve highlighted it before for its quirky bathrooms that are in the shape of oversized sake barrels, but the entire restaurant is deserving of its own feature. First, it’s one of those places that you have to be in the know because the entrance isn’t right on the street. Open since 1996, Sakagura is located in the basement of a nondescript Midtown office building, past the security desk and through a pristine white marble lobby. Go down the stairs and into the entrance, and suddenly you feel as if you’ve entered a Japanese village.
The decor is such that diners have the impression that they’re sitting outside, with interior facades that look like houses, replete with windows, shutters and dormer roofs. Wood and bamboo is the main material of construction, and though the architecture isn’t by any means an exercise of purist Japanese form, the raised level of the sushi bar area, a mini Shinto shrine and rice paper dividers give it a homey feel in spite of its basement location.
Cuisine wise, it’s one of the finest for Japanese in New York City at affordable prices. It’s also one of those Japanese joints where you can actually order inventive non-sushi dishes and revel in delicious hot foods you might ordinarily only get in Japan. For appetizers, we ordered the washyu beef self-cooked on hot stones, a sea urchin soup with soft boiled egg and salmon roe, the buta no kakuni (a special stewed diced pork dish), chawanmushi egg custard topped with thickened ponzu soup, and seared slices of washyu with daikon radish and ponzu sauce. For main course, try the miso stewed beef tongue with shitake mushrooms, spinach, taro potato and daikon radish. There are over 200 types of sake served including their own exclusive kinds.
Sake barrel bathrooms
Although there’s a small sign outside, another Japanese restaurant that opens to the street could easily confuse explorers so be sure to head into the office building first.
For almost 90 other hidden bars and restaurants, purchase the book by Untapped Cities founder Michelle Young and editor Laura Itzkowitz: