Last March, Tokyo native Gaku Shibata, along with his wife, Christy, quietly opened this paean to the sake taverns (izakaya) of his hometown.
The scene: The husband-and-wife team brought on star architect Richard Bloch (Masa, 15 East) to design the stylish 30-seat hideaway—a second-floor space reached by buzzer, in between grungy LES dives—as a showcase for their beautiful collection of sake ware. The narrow, intimate space features immaculate detailing, like smart Japanese indigo aprons on the servers, and attracts an equally fashionable crowd, who perch on cushioned two-seat mahogany benches at the counter.
The booze: The 50-bottle sake list (6oz carafes $13–$20) highlights poetically named breweries—such as “Mirror of Truth” Masumi Okuden —all organized from the premium-grade daiginjo down to the more workaday honjozo. There are a few unusual selections, such as Ginsumiyoshi taruzake, a cedar-barrel-stored variety that takes on the wood’s flavors, and Kenbishi koshu—a sake style that is unique for being aged.
The grub: Pristine plates—yakitori, simmered dishes and sashimi—arrive in handmade wooden boxes, shiny porcelain bowls and rustic clay pots, some delivered with a little tableside flourish. For the barbecue duck ($14), a courtly server melts duck fat on a cast-iron skillet before cooking slips of organic breast meat and scallion nubs in front of diners. DIYers can barbecue the hoba miso ($15) themselves over a grill-covered clay vessel decorated in kanji—turning the mix of Wagyu beef strips with tiny brown mushrooms, delicate green stems and an umami-rich miso sauce, until the meat is browned and the hoba leaf underneath has perfumed the dish. • 212-777-7253