Dennison took me to Saka Gura last night. I really want to share this special evening, but I hope you'll bear with me. This will be an amatuerish write-up due to my profound ignorance of this level of Japanese cuisine.
It's in the basement level at 211 E. 43rd. We opted to sit at the bar, where we faced a wall of beautiful glassware, used to serve from the multitude of sake bottles lined up before you. Sake is emphasized here. They have A LOT.
We started with each a "box" of sake, Kira and Kaori. The Kaori was the slightest bit fruity, mild and wonderful. The Kira tasted to me very much like a good vermouth, more potent tasting than the Kaoiri. We swapped them back and forth to good effect.
Next came sardine sheets. They look like homemade paper, very, very thin. You can taste they're fish, but very remotely. Look closely and you'll see little fishy eyes. A dipping sauce of mayo with a dark soy sauce? came with. Thick slices of eggplant came next. They'd been cooked very soft, then spread with a layer of miso and broiled. (yellow, green and red miso). The red was my fave, very deeply flavored. The eggplant just melted away on my tongue. Obscenely delicious. We ordered a sashimi platter deluxe. The uni was the freshest I've tasted since I broke open my own sea urchin on the coast of Maine years ago. The King Mackerel (sp.?) was amazing, and probably four other fish offerings, one was gorgeous tuna. All impeccably fresh and light tasting. And REAL grated wasabi.
The young man at the bar pointed out a new offering on the menu, deep fried shrimp and onion balls. They were the size of good sized hushpuppies, and had been rolled in thinly sliced almonds. So one bit through a crunchy nutty layer into a shrimp and onion mousse texture. Don't miss these if you should go.
With dessert, we a carafe of Diten Shiragiku sake, which Dennison said tasted sort of like Juicey Fruit, which it did. We shared a bowl of the kanten dessert: A fruity syrup with tiny cubed agar agar, sliced fruit, and three balls of mochi(?) the glutinous rice flour ball. I'm not quite sure this is what it consists of, but I really like the texture of this. All was garnished with threads of candied yuzu.
One more thing: This place is not in the least intimidating. It's friendly, warm, and the service was completely gracious on all levels. Oh, and the restrooms are contained in enormous barrels of the type used in the process of making sake.
I'm exhausted! Thanks ever so much, Dennison.