It feels illicit, to be hovering here on the crumbly stoop of a Lower East Side tenement. Press the buzzer, and a voice, garbled, exacts your name. The doorknob clicks, and you blink a moment in the bright foyer, until a pocket door skids open and a figure in black, behind a curtain of ropes, beckons.
Behind a sliding door and hanging straw curtain, this slip of hallway in a Lower East Side tenement has been transformed into the city’s most serious sake spot.
Co-owner Christy Shibata and her husband, Gaku Shibata (who was trained as a sommelier and chef in Tokyo), opened the intimate spot at the end of March. “My husband wanted to open a place that reminded him of Tokyo,” Ms. Shibata says. “We modernized it and made it more upscale for New York.”
Yopparai means “drunkard,” but this is no underage den. The Shibatas will bring out canisters of rice illustrating stages of purifying. All 50 sakes were chosen to pair well with the menu of rich, Tokyo-style foods.
Once you’re through the sliding door, request one of the two-seat mahogany benches that line the bar. A carved wooden key unlocks a cabinet space built into the bench so you can store your personals. Nifty.
In English, “yopparai” means ‘drunkard’, or ‘I’m drunk’. This hidden away sake sanctuary has a large selection of premium sakes by the carafe and an even larger selection of wonderful sakes by the bottle.
The izakaya approach to drinking and dining is alive in New York at spots like Yopparai on the Lower East Side.
Top Chef alum Leah Cohen, chef and owner of the newly-two starred Pig and Khao, regularly heads to the year-old, semi-hidden, second-floor sake bar Yopparai, right next door to her own Lower East Side restaurant…
昨年3月にニューヨークのローワー・イースト・サイドにオープンした「夜波来（よっぱらい）」（151 Rivington St.）が、レストラン予約サイトOpenTableで「グルメな人が選ぶレストラン」として2012年に1位に選ばれ、2013年はミシュランガイドでおすすめの店に選ばれるなど、ニューヨーカーの間で絶大な支持を受けている。
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.
As open as I am to tasting adventures, even occasional culinary heroics, I have been mystified at times by izakayas, the sake bars that my Japan-smitten friends love.
Japanese quenelles? Japanese gefulte fish? Yopparai calls these airy little dumplings “fish cakes.” By any name these light, fluffy little orbs (they’re made of minced rock shrimp and black cod) are a delight.
Last week, at the little izakaya Yopparai I discovered homemade natto on the menu. When I ordered it the server eyed me skeptically.
The intimate Yopparai offers over 50 different types of sake, and can seat only 30 select guests at a time. Although the name “Yopparai” translates to “drunkard” in Japanese, that’s not the main mission of this elegant space.
You’ll be delighted to know that shiokara are squid guts, served at Yopparai on the “rare taste” section of the menu. Significantly more substantial than you’d think, chef/co-owner Gaku Shibata says these bar snacks are best consumed with sake…