For tasty Japanese cuisine this summer, try Sake Bar Hagi

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If you happen to be in the city and want to try out a new restaurant, Sake Bar Hagi is exceptionally good.

Located in Rockefeller Center, Sake Bar Hagi is a restaurant located underground  that serves Japanese cuisine including sashimi, tempura, noodles, salads, and more.

Given that this restaurant is also a bar, each of the dishes are generally small as they are meant to be snacks to go with the sake or other alcoholic beverages, so I was able to taste a wide variety of their food.

The first two dishes I tried were sashimi, which is slices of raw fish. I tried the salmon and hamachi (yellowtail). Both fishes were very fresh and handled with care. The salmon was moist, suave, and it seemed to melt in my mouth. The yellowtail in contrast was slightly chewier, but still delicious.

Secondly, I had the “Kushi Mori A set” which is a dish of five different skewers of duck, tori, bara, tsukune, and shishito. The skewers were not seasoned, but they didn’t need to be. Barbecuing the duck gave it a wonderful smoky flavor. The dish was served with a lemon wedge so that you can add more flavor.

The next dish I ordered was “agedashi,” deep fried tofu that is drenched in “dashi” soy sauce. The tofu was served in a tiny bowl and it sat in a special soup that had a light soy sauce and miso flavoring to it. Each tofu was garnished with a different topping of seaweed, scallions, or white radish, and tasted like the condiments that atop them. The tofu itself had a sticky, spongy, golden skin that absorbed the welcoming flavor of the soup it bathed in. Inside, it was firm but still soft and delightful.

“Karaage Ponzu” was my next dish. This is deep fried chicken that is flavored with ponzu citrus sauce and minced daikon radish. The chicken was prepared to golden perfection with a crispy exterior. It was well seasoned with salt and the citrus flavor did not overpower the taste of the chicken. The radish it was served with complimented it well. Inside, the chicken was aromatic, had a nice tangy edge to it. It was tender and succulent.

The “Yakisoba” that I tried was not so pleasing. These pan fried noodles are served with chicken and can be prepared in the sauce choices of kimchi, soy sauce, or traditional yakisoba sauce. I opted for yakisoba sauce, which tastes like a black pepper sauce. It was very interesting as it was not only spicy, but also sour and sweet. The noodles were cooked well with a golden glow, they were bouncy, and they were not too dry or too oily. They were also served with onions and bean sprouts which gave this dish a crunchy texture and helped balance out the abundant yakisoba sauce. The chicken was terrible. It was not fresh- it seemed as if the chicken was cooked before being fried with the yakisoba so it tasted overcooked and soggy.

Finally, for dessert I had ice cream. I was able to select from the choices of vanilla, green tea, and sesame, but I decided to get red bean. The red bean ice cream was refreshing with a hint of coconut milk and chunks of actual red beans. It was not really creamy, rather, it had more of a icy, pasty feel to it. This ice cream is certainly different from those that you can buy at the local supermarket.

Besides the dishes I mentioned above, the restaurant also serves other mentionable foods like “Soft-shell Tempura” which is Japanese style fried soft shell crab. They also have a daily’s special menu where I tried their mouthwatering “Braised Pork Shoulder” which was marinated in sweet soy sauce. As for beverages, if you want to get something other than the green tea or water that they serve when you enter, they have a few non-alcoholic Japanese drinks like “Calpico” and oolong tea.

The environment of the restaurant is decorated in a semi-traditional Japanese style with bamboo decorating the windows and booths. This place is usually crowded so it is recommended that you check in early. Also due to the popularity of this restaurant, the service can be slow at times, but it’s worth the wait. It is also important to know that the food is somewhat pricey, especially because the dishes are so small

Since it’s summer you should definitely take your time off if you’re enrolled in a prep class or have a job and go out with your friends and family to Sake Bar Hagi.