Stephen Lyman has written the Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks, which was published in October by Tuttle. Find out more abou the book, where to buy it, and most importantly, where to meet Stephen to get your own signed copy as he travels Japan and North America.
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.
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.
SakaMai may not be the kind of place that you can afford to eat every night, but you're going to want to. The food, drinks, atmosphere, and staff make this an absolutely perfect night out. I'd like to come up with a quibble so it doesn't seem like I'm completely biased ... okay, here's one.
Kitaya Shuzo is a nihonshu (sake) and shochu producer in Fukuoka Prefecture and the first stop on our shochu distillery tour. Seikai Ishizuka and I traveled nearly an hour south of Hakata (main station in Fukouka City) on a commuter train to reach Yame, a city of less than 40,000 people in southern Fukuoka Prefecture. There we were met by a Kitaya representative who drove us to the distillery.
Sakaya, which means "sake shop" in Japanese, is a small, elegantly designed shop in New York City's East Village. It's just a few minutes walk from many of the popular izakayas and ramen shops in the neighborhood. The extensive selection of sake (nihon-shu) is curated by a husband and wife team - Hiroko Furukowa & Rick Smith. Their tastes are impeccable and their weekend sake tastings are a "must try" event when in the neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon.