The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Pork, Fish, and Other Good Things at Sake Bar Hagi

Lil' thing worth noting, maybe: This is the second post I've made today. Here's the first. WOULDN'T WANT YOU TO MISS THAT. I GUESS.

This blog is a constant reminder of my inability to write or edit photographs in a timely manner. I thought about the content of this post for hours before starting on it around 3 a.m. yesterday, and I rewrote this introductory paragraph three times before settling on these two middling sentences. [shoves head under a virtual lawnmower]

What I wanted to start off with was some blah blah-ing about how I ate a gabillion good meals in 2010 that never made it to this blog. That's why I didn't feel like doing a "Best of 2010"-type of post to kick off the new year: If I were only using content from my blog, it would be missing a lot of good stuff, and if I were to put in new content I'd be too daunted by the work it would take to dig out past meals from my brain's crusty fly-ridden pits that it would never get finished.'s one of those bagillion good meals of 2010.

Sake Bar Hagi

Sake Bar Hagi, a basement-level izakaya in Times Square, is one of those places I'd heard good things about but never felt compelled to eat at. ...Actually, that description applies to most of the places I eventually eat at. But Sake Bar Hagi more so because it contains the word "sake" paired with "bar," which to someone like me—a person whose reaction to the taste of alcohol usually goes something like, "Eeuuuhhhuuuuh, oh god, eeeuhhhbleeuhpoison"—doesn't scream, "EAT HERE."

But that's kind of dumb. Good alcohol is often paired with good food. And after Joyce invited me to at Sake Bar Hagi last November, I realized I've been missing out on a steady stream of awesome izakaya food for years. I'll make sure to rectify that in 2011. And then I'll be known as that annoying customer who never orders drinks.

Tontoro: sweet fatty pork

We started with tontoro ($7) sweet, fatty chunks of pork, a bit crisp on the outside and...fatty on the inside. Yeah. Well. That description was crap. You should order this. Look at those chunks. You want those chunks.

Hamachi no kama: Grilled Yellowtail Collar
Fish #1

Next, hamachi no kama ($8), grilled yellowtail collar. A difference species of fatty and tender that you too should order.

salmon toro
Fish #2

More from the family of fishy and fatty, salmon toro ($6.50), aka strip of belly meat, aka meltingly tender, sweet, and delicious.

gobo chips
Gobo chips

Getting tired of pork and fish? Nope. Well. Mix it up a little with something deep fried, in particular gobo chips ($6), thinly sliced strips of deep fried burdock root, with spicy cod roe mayo on the side. What does deep fried burdock root taste like? I would tell you, but I ate this about two months ago and I don't remember. Just being honest with you. What I do remember is thinking, "I LIKE THIS A LOT. I'D EAT A HUGE BAG OF THIS STUFF. NOT THAT I SHOULD. I MEAN, I COOOUUULD." Loud thoughts, those were.

pork, cabbage, bean sprouts, miso

THE PORK IS NOT OVER YET. We ordered Bara Cabbage since it was stamped with a big ol' starburst declaring "Recommendation." And the stamp did not lie. This simple plate of sautéed pork belly, cabbage, and mung bean sprouts with miso sauce is a powerful thing. Of warmth and comfort. And pork fat seeping into crunchy cabbage chunks and crisp bean sprouts. The pairing of pork and cruciferous vegetables is one of my favorites—refer to bacon and brussels sprouts, one of my favorite recipes ever. I need to add miso-flavored pork belly and cabbage to my very limited cooking repertoire, featuring other greats like "defrosting frozen dumplings" and "dumping pasta in boiling water."

kitchen over thar
Bar area + peek into the kitchen.

Joyce and I sat at the bar because they were the only seats left, but it's probably more fun to sit at the bar than a table. If there are only two of you, at least. I liked the place as soon as I sat down—warm, casual, friendly, inclusive, crowded, but not hectic, fast, but not rushed. Few places leave me with all of the above.

Considering that the menu has over 60 items, methinks I need to go back and try more. Join meeeee [waggles fingers].


Sake Bar Hagi
152 West 49th Street, Manhattan 10019 (b/n Sixth and Seventh avenues; map)


Jason / January 17, 2011 3:33 PM

THAT LOOKS SO AWESOME! I definitely want to try that place sometime. I saw that they have nasu dengaku on it. Hmm roasted eggplant miso goodness!

Mikey / January 17, 2011 4:39 PM

I'd so join you! We'd eat every item on the menu and then slip into glorious food coma...

Christine / January 17, 2011 6:43 PM

My go-to Midtown spot (on Mondays through Thursday though. Any other day, you have a wait on your hands)!

You missed out on the daikon salad and the broiled eggplant. Give it a go next time. I have turned my meat loving friends over to the vegetable side with this eggplant.

roboppy / January 17, 2011 9:54 PM

Jason: TOTES, let's go next time you're here!

Mikey: Every item would do more than a food coma...there might be some pukin' involve. Hmmm.

Christine: Thanks for the recs! I love eggplant. Next time...more veg.

janet / January 17, 2011 10:52 PM

2 posts in a row! it's like christmas.

I liked this place mucho too! I believe in my next life, I will either come back as a sleepy cat, or as "sweet, fatty chunks of pork, a bit crisp on the outside and...fatty on the inside." Both are true to the essence of my soul.

Yuko / January 18, 2011 12:53 PM

I miss this type of casual, relaxed Izakaya...on top of that, it's in midtown! I can't wait to try Gobo chips and lots of Sake! Yuko

adelyn / January 19, 2011 7:12 AM

There are a surprisingly number of really good sake bars in Midtown, as I have recently discovered! One of my favorites is Sakagura, which is also located in the basement of an nondescript office building. It makes me wonder if that is some sort of strategic marketing ploy?

Sherm / January 19, 2011 10:28 PM

Your blog is hilarious. Food looks good, too. Next time I'm in NYC I'll have to check a few of your favorites out. This place in particular...

roboppy / January 19, 2011 11:41 PM

Janet: Like Christmas!...really late Christmas! ;_;

I am already a fatty chunk of pork. Not very crispy though.

Yuko: I'm rarely in Midtown, but I forget that there are good Japanese places there...i gotta eat at more of em.

Miss Tiffie: I like takoyaki, but I don't...loove it. Although if their version is particularly good I should try it next time!

Adelyn: Oo, I've been to Sakagura! Almost forgot about that. That place was cool too (and yeah, the most nondescript of nondescript office buildings), but not really the best place for me since I don't drink I guesss. And pricey. But it's a nice place.

Sherm: Thanks for reading!

Jenneke / January 21, 2011 10:48 AM

I am SO eating there when I visit NY in two weeks! Awesome blogpost, I has a hungry now and I need pork.

roboppy / January 22, 2011 12:36 AM

Nicholas: AHH CHICKENSKINS AAH DELICIOUS yeah I want those.

Bonnie: Hope you like it!

Danny: Yeah we got lucky with the wait! Not a good place to go with a group if you want to sit quickly, buuut going with at least one other person is good so you can eat more stuff. Mmm more stuff.

Jenneke: There will be many opportunities to fulfill pork hunger in NYC! That sounds like a good blog post, actually. "BEST PLACE FOR PORK." I need to do some research.

louanne / February 1, 2011 9:49 AM

no yakitori?! definitely try the chicken skins and bacon wrapped goodness the next time. also do rec the daikon salad previously mentioned. it's quite appetizing.

there is a lot of good food in the area. the ramen upstairs, Sapporo (I think) was pretty good.. and chirashi at sushi den kinda across the street is absolutely lovely. of course, give me lamb and rice from the halal cart on 53rd and 6th any day. totally worth the queuing! share this then go to sake bar hagi to finish the night! man, I miss new york now. shall eat vicariously through you. ;)

Michael / February 1, 2011 5:51 PM

I visited NY not too long ago and stumbled upon this place. The bara cabbage sounds AMAZING, but the pork belly with kimchi is BOMB too (my favorite). Give it a try next time, and let me know what you think!

roboppy / February 5, 2011 1:01 AM

louanne: Chicken skin, ahh!..I gotta get that next time. And perhaps try other places in the area.

Michael: I like pork belly muchly. Waaant.

Nathalie / February 6, 2011 1:09 AM

Heya Robin! Long time no talkie, eh? I'm in Japan at the moment so I'm surrounded by Japanese fewds @_@

Buuut, next time you're in Philly, go to Yakitori Boy if you want good izakaya eats! Also, Tuesdays are $1 skewers, and Wednesdays are half-price sushi =D After that you can uh, go have gelato. Lulz.

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