Fukurou is the first US outpost of a Japanese izakaya chain, but you'd never guess this was a corporate location from the experience. It's a tiny space with a few counter seats and tables that are almost always reserved by Japanese patrons or foodies.
I've been advocating for an izakaya brunch in NYC since at least the summer of 2012 when Uminoie had a series of summer afternoon patio parties. I guess I've worn down the owners at SakaMai (157 Ludlow, LES), because they are now serving brunch 11:30-2:30 Saturday & Sunday.
Walking to the izakaya past Notre Dame and other sites, things seemed sketchy. I walked along narrow old cobblestone streets full of flashy restaurants with hawkers outside trying to draw in thirsty & hungry tourists. I stayed my course, and nearly grimaced as I turned the corner onto Rue de la Parcheminerie, expecting more of the same. I exhaled deeply as I saw an empty alley with a single shop, which at first glance (thanks to the wine bottles in the window), I walked past thinking it was a cave-a-manger (French wine bar). Turning back, I found myself in front of the izakaya. With a single sign in hiragana, it was easy to miss.
How do you describe Hoppy? The straightforward, technical way, is an ultra-low proof (<1% ABV) malt liquor from Japan. But that doesn't come close to what Hoppy really is.
As of this writing, Izakaya Ten, has closed its doors. The place where I discovered shochu and where I spent more nights than anywhere else over a 4 year span is no more. According to their website, "We would like to inform you that we are closing down our restaurant on Saturday, October 11th 2014. We want to thank you for sharing good times and tell you how much we have enjoyed serving you. Good Bye."
Shigure deserves far more love than its getting. It's rarely busy and always delicious. The staff is cordial, even friendly, which isn't always the case in NYC restaurants. It's out of the way for most people, because izakaya lovers are almost conditioned to spend their time in Midtown or the Village. Shigure is a bit out of the way, but it's worth the trip - over and over again.