Eat and Drink Sake bars in NYC: Sakagura, SakaMai, Samurai Mama and more By Steven Castile Special to amNY.com July 16, 2017 3:53 PM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email There are beer gardens and there are wine bars — and of course, there are regular corner dives, too. But if you happen to be on the lookout for a nightlife change, head to one of these sake bars. Sake need not only be consumed alongside rolls at your local sushi joint. Made from rice in a process more similar to beer than wine, sake runs the gamut from cloudy and sweet to clear and bone-dry. In Japan sake culture revolves around izakayas (pubs, usually serving small bites). Luckily for New Yorkers, the city has some establishments that emulate this tradition. Head to easygoing spots like Sake Bar Hagi or Sakagura in midtown for casual sipping or perhaps hop on the L train to Williamsburg for more of a sit-down affair at Samurai Mama. And remember, you can drink your poison chilled or warmed up. Sake Bar Decibel Photo Credit: Adeja Crearer Sake Bar Decibel is New York's very first sake bar, opened in 1993. Over the years and to this day, the East Village spot has offered hundreds of sakes to choose from. Tucked down on the ground level, the dimly lit space screams Japanese kitsch and charm. As you sip, be sure to nosh from the small plates menu. (240 E. Ninth St., 212-979-2733, sakebardecibel.com) Sake Bar Hagi Photo Credit: Adeja Crearer In Japan an izakaya is a low-key gastropub of sorts, and New Yorkers have their own izakaya in Times Square. The flat screen TV-lined walls and menu of munchies (black edamame, chicken meatballs) make for an unpretentious setting, with copious sake samplings, of course. (152 W. 49 St., 212-764-8549, sakebarhagi.com) Satsko Photo Credit: Satsko Yet another tiny and red-lit East Village watering hole? Not exactly. Sake Bar Satsko is decorated with a plethora of Polaroids and rotating artwork. But pay attention to the expertly curated list of sakes, which even includes domestically produced bottles, as well. (Sake bar Satsko, 202 E. Seventh St., 212-614-0933,satsko.com) Sakagura Photo Credit: Adeja Crearer A veteran sake bar in east midtown, Sakagura is underground. (It's literally in a basement.) The establishment has a large following of sake lovers from far and wide due to its selection of over 200 sakes, running the gamut in style. Nearly all libations (from fancy daiginjo to everyday junmai) are available by the glass. Pair with traditional bites like agedashi tofu or order one of the chef's creative menu specialties. (211 E. 43rd St., 212-953-7253, Sakagura) SakaMai Photo Credit: 3 Day Monk Though it calls itself a lounge among the many bars in the LES, SakaMai plays home to a serious culinary staff (many hailing from Japan) and a beverage program that takes sake to a new level. The menu fuses a Japanese ethos with a New York approach (try the ikura roll, which has salmon roe and Brie, or the cha soba salad, complete with walnuts and nori). The sake menu is divided into categories like "earthy" or "cloudy" for easier navigation, but some of the real stars stand out in the cocktail creations. (SakaMai, 157 Ludlow St., 646-590-0684, sakamai.com) Yopparai Photo Credit: Evan Sung Yopparai is nestled into a narrow former Lower East Side apartment, but has much to offer. The menu offers a taste of Japan's many regional styles and the spot defines itself a sort of down-home pub in the Japanese tradition. Sample options from the oden menu -- one-pot meals simmered in umami-driven dashi broth. The food is made to pair with sake, so select anything from a fragrant plum sake to a floral glass of ginjo. (151 Rivington St., 212-777-7253, yopparainyc.com) Bar Akariba Photo Credit: Adeja Crearer Sake and oysters -- because, why not? The salinity of the sea's most prized bivalve is pairs seamlessly with the creaminess of a cool sake (pictured, ichinokura sake). Head to Bar Akariba in Williamsburg for this unique experience. The dark wooden interior creates the perfect atmosphere to sample the smallish, raw menu of fresh oyster options. And should you decide to diverge from sake, there's a lovely a selection of shochu available, as well. (77 N. Sixth St., Brooklyn, 718-388-8985, akariba.com) Samurai Mama Photo Credit: Adeja Crearer The sake menu at Samurai Mama is laid out by body and sweetness level, so you'll feel like a pro. Those looking for a something light and crisp should opt for the Tokubetsu Junmai, but the woody, cedar-aged Choryo Taru isn't to be missed, either. Samurai Mama is also offers creative riffs on udon noodle entrees prepared in three different styles, or the equally intriguing taco-style sushi options. (205 Grand St., 718-599-6161, Samurai Mama">samuraimama.com) By Steven Castile Special to amNY.com Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.