Best of August 2015
September 21, 2015
I am not really good about visiting restaurants in my immediate neighborhood. I suppose it is because I think I can go anytime I want so I always give other places in other parts of the city priority. Yopparai had been on my to-go list since we moved here and it is only a few blocks from my apartment, but in two years I never got around to stopping by. In this case, my excuse is that I cook Japanese food all the time and usually want to eat something else when I go out. However one weeknight last month during my husband's stay-cation, we decided to go visit there for the first time.
(top left) Hanagaki Junmai sake from Fukui prefecture
(top right) Chef cutting sashimi
(bottom left) Sashimi plate
(bottom right) Daikon salad
Their bar seating was very comfortable with a two-seat love-seat style stool and big bar counter. It is a plus that you can peek at the chef's action. Needless to say, their open kitchen was so spotlessly clean that you forget that you are in the Lower East Side.
We started with nice, cold junmai sake (not the premium sake but it was still great) and some sashimi and a daikon salad while we were thinking out our next move.
Negi toro taku (tuna tartar with scallion and daikon pickle)
Next, we ordered negi toro taku. It came with a box of nori (sea weed) for you to put some of the toro and pickle mixture on the piece of nori and eat. The nori box had a lower compartment with a hot charcoal inside to keep the nori warm and crisp. It was so brilliant. I would love to steal this technique for my sushi roll party.
(top left) Japanese pickles
(top right) Pork belly skewer
(middle left) Tsukune (chicken meatball)
(middle right) Grilled vegetables
(bottom left) Grilled rice cake
(bottom right) Annin Tofu (Chinese almond jelly)
Then we moved to a grilling course. The pork was very good but the tsukune was average. I liked the way they served tsukune in a hot iron pan but the sweet soy sauce was completely burnt. I am pretty sure it was intentionally this way but it was not a great thing to eat.
The grilled vegetable was still very crispy and fresh. The grilled rice cake was chewy but the crispy miso coating was very tasty.
Annin tofu is one of my favorite desserts and I make it very often (here's my annin tofu recipe). I don't think it was made from the Chinese apricot kernel powder as I do and I am pretty sure it was made with an almond essence, milk and gelatin but it was very refreshing with fresh strawberry and cream on the side. I loved the way they served it. I will steal their idea for this one as well.
The small details and presentation made you feel you were dining at a special place but I like the fact that it is actually a neighborhood izakaya (casual dining).
I am looking forward to going back there for their famous oden (Japanese hot pot food) in Winter time.
The best dish of the month was fried oysters with pickled garlic remoulade from The Modern Bar Room. We have been to The Modern Bar Room more than any other restaurant in NYC. It is always reliable and my go-to place to bring guests. Their fried oysters were just so perfect. I have had really good fried oysters many times in Japan but never had a good one outside of Japan so I was very excited. It had a crispy and flavorful crust and was served with garlic remoulade. Most importantly the oyster inside was very creamy and fresh. They serve a generous portion for the appetizer and it was perfect to share with my husband, though I wouldn't mind eating all of them myself. I found another reason to keep going back to The Modern Bar Room.