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A Hidden Escape: Hagi Sake Bar

August 12, 2011

“Twenty minutes?”  The guy said in an apologetic tone with a slight Japanese accent.

I was so pleasantly surprised at such a short wait time that I gladly put my name down on the waitlist for Hagi Sake Bar.  It was Thursday post work after all, usually a prime hour for Hagi, hidden underground between two Japanese restaurants on a nondescript strip of 49th Street on the west side.  Perhaps it is a bit sad but I, among many other fellow New Yorkers, have come to accept rather ridiculous wait times at restaurants.  Half an hour wait, please, that’s to be expected for any restaurant worthy of a meal.

A little more than twenty minutes later, we were seated at a wooden table in this well lit subterraneal drinking hole.  With two Sapporos in hand, our yakitori dishes start coming.  First it was the Takoyaki, followed by pork gyozas.  

Takoyaki (left) and Pork Gyoza (right)

We split two skewers, chicken meatballs and chicken skin.  For me, the chicken skin is literally like having the only best part of fried chicken on a stick.  I actually refrained from some of the other weirder skewers.  And yes, chicken skin barely even scratches the surface of weird by my standards.

Chicken Meatballs and Skin Skewers

A plate of beef tongues and pork belly sauteed with garlic sprouts came out just as we finished with the last bite of skewers.  I pick up each piece of garlic sprouts, really enjoying the snap it has, missing the dish that my mom makes with this lesser popular vegetable.

Beef Tongues (left) and Pork and Garlic Sprouts (right)

Truth be told, I still prefer Yakitori Totto but something about the buzz of the after work crowd at Hagi mingled with background noise of whatever sports game on TV that make it more comfortable, like being in someone’s living room.  Plus, it’s a shorter wait and I always enjoy the surprise on faces whenever I show someone this truly a hidden place as I am sure so many of you have missed the entrance on your way to Toasties.

Hagi Sake Bar | 152 West 49th Street, New York, NY 10019

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