Yopparai is a kind of sake speakeasy, an upscale Japanese pub hidden away in a tiny converted apartment on the Lower East Side. Once you’re in—press the buzzer and wait to be ushered through the sliding door and past the straw curtain—you’ll find a sake list that offers some 50 choices and an ambitious menu that “takes a big wide swing at homey izakaya standards,” Silverjay says.
Fukuoka mentaiko (seasoned cod roe), part of a lineup of chinmi, the mostly fermented or funky delicacies that go down well with drinks, was warmed perfectly on the grill and came in a generous portion. Oden simmers at one end of the long counter, anchored by a boldly seasoned broth. At the other end of the counter a grill turns out perfect, if pricey, shiojake (salted salmon), among other things. Other good bets include house-made tofu, grilled rice balls (crunchy outside, chewy inside), and sashimi (a $39 set comprising hirame, ma-dai, akami tuna, and Chilean uni). Many ingredients are made in-house. Others are regional specialties imported from all over Japan: hoba miso from Gifu, eel from Yanagawa in Fukuoka, tamari soy sauce from Sekigahara, fish cakes from a vendor at Tokyo’s giant Tsukiji seafood market.
Yopparai means “drunkard” in Japanese, and if written conventionally the name could sound crass. But the owners chose characters that instead mean something like “night wave coming.” “For mostly homey standards and a chance to drink some good chilled sake,” Silverjay says, “Yopparai is a nice wave of Tokyo lapping up on the LES.”
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