New York has experienced a ramen boom in the last couple of years, but 2014 seemed like the Year of the Izakaya. The latest Japanese tapas pub to hit the scene is Saikai Dining Bar in the West Village.
The beautifully appointed izakaya on Greenwich Avenue is the collaborative effort of Chef Xiao, formerly of Brushstroke, and Chef Wing of Zuma’s Hong Kong location. Both chefs spent time at Masa, the Michelin 3-starred Japanese restaurant that is considered to have the most expensive tasting menu in the United States.
It is apparent from the time you walk in that you will enjoy a pleasant dining experience. From the décor to the kindness and attentiveness of the staff, to the thoughtfully plated dishes, Saikai Dining Bar gets it right.
Of course, the most important part is the quality of the food, and that certainly does not disappoint.
We started off our meal with a Hakkaisan sake tasting flight, which included a sparkling nigori, a Junmai Ginjo, and an unpasteurized gem that has a smooth finish.
Uni Yuba: Sea urchin atop grilled tofu skin and an edamame puree
This dish offers a wide range of tastes. The crispness of the yuba, the thickness of the edamame puree, and the smoothness of the uni combine to feel great in your mouth, too.
Tsukune: Chicken meatball that comes pre-sliced
I could look in my thesaurus for a fancy word to describe this, but “yummy” is the first thing that pops into mind.
Miso Black Cod: Tender chunks of fish
The freshness and tenderness of the cod will reel you in, as will the flavor of the miso.
Fish Karaage: Surprisingly came with the skeleton of the fish
The skeleton is surrounded by morsels of fish so moist and succulent that you’ll forget you’re eating something fried.
Chefs Xiao and Wing may have brought their Masa training to Saikai Dining Bar, but they didn’t bring the prices. The izakaya is accessible for any budget, but the food and the atmosphere of this quiet, dimly lit space will make you feel as if you’re in the lap of luxury.
Saikai Dining Bar is located at 24 Greenwich Avenue at 10th Street in the West Village. Hours are Monday through Sunday from 5:30 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. with brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. To make a reservation, please call 646.838.5599.