There's an episode of No Reservations, back in season two when Bourdain was still fresh and full of cigarettes, that will forever stick with us. It's 45-minute video glorification of the city of Osaka, a place that is apparently loaded with incredible food, smoky baseball bars, and people that eat and drink just like we do - awesomely. Unfortunately, The Infatuation doesn't have enough cash in the bank for me to fly to Osaka for Sapporos and okonomiyaki whenever I feel like it - at least not until I find that winning lottery ticket I hid at McDonalds. So, for now, Sake Bar Hagi will have to do. And it does pretty damn well.
We are told that stepping into Sake Bar Hagi is about as close to stepping into an izakaya in Japan as you can get in this city. It's a simple room at the bottom of some stairs near Times Square, and it's full of people enjoying traditional Japanese bar food and drinking a whole lot. Sounds pretty perfect to us. The menu is huge, and includes yakitori, ramen, sushi, and all kinds of fried things. With that much to choose from, it's inevitably going to be hit and miss, but the good stuff at Sake Bar Hagi is really, really good. Everything else will do you just fine with a bottle of sake and a beer (always together). Appropriately, Sake Bar Hagi stays open until 3am, and is best visited during the late night hours. It's usually loud, always crowded, and is one of the best things in this food wasteland that is Times Square. We particularly like it for shaking off some Broadway after someone's made you sit through something terrible. There's nothing better to erase musical theater from your mind than a 750ml of rice wine.
Food RundownGrilled Yellowtail Collar
This is our favorite thing to order at Sake Bar Hagi, hands down. If you've never had a yellowtail collar, it's an insanely tasty, slightly fatty part of the fish, and we assume that it's from somewhere near the neck? Do fish have necks? Who cares.Softshell Crab Tempura with Ponzu
This one is another banger, assuming it's on the menu. The crab is perfectly fried, and ponzu sauce makes everything taste good.Chicken Wings
These are pretty comparable to any chicken wing that's been grilled yakitori style, which means they are pretty damn good.Grilled Pork Belly
A fan favorite - we're always gonna like this. Hot fire and a pig's underside just go well together.Sushi
To be honest, we don't mess around much with sushi at Sake Bar Hagi. Maybe it's just because this place gets us in the mood to eat salty things that go well with beer. You shouldn't mess around with the sushi either.Seafood Okonomiaki
This was one particular dish from the Osaka No Reservations that almost had us fashioning a DIY raft to paddle there. But the version that Hagi puts together seems way less irresponsible and therefore less delicious. Maybe it's the lack of bacon in their version. Yep, that's definitely it.Kimchi Fried Rice
Another one of our favorite orders here - they aren't reinventing the wheel with this one, but it's really effing good.