157 Ludlow St. (across from Pianos)
New York, NY 10002
NEW BRUNCH PLACE TO ADD TO THE ROTATION!!!!! If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s waiting in line for generic eggs benny’s or pancakes at an overhyped “boozy brunch” place, which is for some reason all the craze in NYC. I have higher standards for my brunch (#snob #jk) and want something more special if I’m going out for brunch than something I can whip up in my kitchen. Some of my favorites are Soba-ya, Shabu-Tatsu, and Prune – if you need an eggs benny). Even just based on that list, you can tell I have a soft spot for Japanese brunch food…
Sakamai is a modern izakaya (aka. a Japanese bar that serves food) and sake bar. This month, they just launched a new brunch menu which showcases great Japanese dishes intertwined with some Hawaiian (ie. spam) ingredients and Western flair (aka. fusion but I hate that word). Natalie, one of the owners (who is Japanese-Hawaiian and studied architecture in college like me! :D), graciously invited me to sample their brunch menu this past weekend. I took LAW as my guest (duh) and tried a number of amazing things.
If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I sometimes get invited to these things and I ALWAYS disclose it. I also always keep my reviews unbiased (even though my meal is comped) because my blog would be worth nothing if I pandered to anyone who gave me free food. Most of these comped meals end up being pretty mediocre (hence they need bloggers like me to help them advertise – I won’t name names, but if you go through the blog you’ll know which ones I’m talking about) but in this case, I lucked out cause… the food was truly awesome.
We started with a couple drinks. I got the Flying Squirrel, which is a cocktail made with coldbrew coffee, walnut liqueur, and coconut cream. It was a delicious alcoholic iced coffee. Coffee itself was high quality and the walnut liqueur added some sweetness and nuttiness. Really great brunch cocktail, especially if you’re tired of the usual bloody mary and mimosa. We also got to try two of their housemade “Shrub” beverages: watermelon and celery-apple. Both drinks were carbonated and, oddly, clear (wonder how they make it). The drinks were very light and refreshing. A good alternative to juice.
We started with the Cha Soba Salad ($15) with green tea soba and sesame soy dressing. It. Was. Awesome. All these different kinds of greens (sprouts, cabbage?, seaweed, corn, tomato, avocado, sesame seeds, some kind of root, AND SO MUCH MORE) sit on top of a bed of green tea soba. The dressing is very light so allows all the natural flavors of the fresh ingredients shine through. The sesame oil just adds an extra bit of umami to make the salad really addicting. So effing good. Definitely a must order when you come (when, not if).
As our first “main,” we shared the Loco Moco ($16), which is a kimchi fried rice served with a hamburger bun and sunny side up egg. The rice and patty are doused in a dashi soy gravy. If you’re looking for a hearty (post-hangover cure perhaps?) brunch dish, this should be your pick.
The perfect bite would consist of some of the runny egg mixed together with the tender, juicy patty and a spoonful of the kimchi fried rice (which, by the way, certainly has bacon bits hidden in it). If that doesn’t sound good to you you don’t know what good food is. If I had to nitpick, I would say the rice doesn’t have enough kimchi (could use more tartness and spicyness). LAW doesn’t like kimchi so this was perfect for him.
As our second “main,” we shared the Black Sea Bass set ($22) which came with miso soup, poached egg, pickles, and rice. Miso soup was delish. Pickles were pretty good, nothing extraordinary. Poached egg over rice was fantastic.
This and the green tea soba were probably my favorites from the meal (kimchi fried rice is a close second – yes I realize I just named everything we ordered). The sea bass is soooooo incredibly delicate. It reminded me of the very best Chinese steamed fish where the fish is so fresh that you can afford to make it this way (if the fish wasn’t fresh, steaming it brings out the gross fishiness taste). The sea bass sat in a light oyster sauce dashi and was topped with pickled mustard greens (similar to the kind you put on Taiwanese beef noodle soup) and cilantro. The pickles (LOVE MUSTARD GREENS!) added just enough acidity and saltiness that the fish needed. I love cilantro so there’s that. Light oyster sauce dashi enhanced the natural sweetness from the fish. UGH SO GOOD.
Cool artwork on the walls is a plus. I can’t wait to come back for brunch again. Prices are pretty reasonable for NYC (most dishes were between $15-16 bucks, with a select few that were closer to the $20ish range). Based on what I sampled today, each dish is carefully thought out . There wasn’t anything I had that didn’t feel perfected. There is a nice range of light dishes to heavier dishes – again, all done incredibly well. The drinks I had were great. Next time I’ll want to try the spam eggs benny and the mazemen (broth-less ramen with sea urchin and roasted bone marrow O.O).
LAW and I enjoyed our brunch and then biked to HK Supermarket to buy groceries for the week (check out my post on how I buy groceries!). Lovely Sunday :)