Travelzoo Local Deal: Sake and tapas at NYC’s Kirakuya bar

Think you know all about Japanese food? You may be surprised by the dishes on offer at New York City’s Kirakuya Sake Bar.

Despite frequenting Japanese restaurants in New York and vacationing for a week in Japan, it turns out I’d only scratched the surface of Japanese cuisine. I’m used to California rolls, house salads with ginger dressing, and sake with a harsh aftertaste.

nyc sake bar leslie jake

Leslie and I enjoyed our "Princess Sake" at Kirakuya Sake Bar.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity last week to sample innovative Japanese dishes that expanded my horizons.

As guests at the Travel Zoo “I Heart NY” Tweetup,we received vouchers for a meal and drinks at Kirakuya Sake Bar, located in Manhattan’s Koreatown neighborhood.

Read on for the highlights of this Travelzoo Local Deal– and don’t forget to click on Downtown Traveler‘s latest video!

Hidden Gem

Since we each received a voucher for two, we invited our friends Alyson & Artie to join us.  The one catch: they had to participate in the video that appears here!

When we arrived at the restaurant, we realized we would never  have discovered this place on our own. Kirakuya Sake Bar is located on the 2nd floor of a generic office building, with very little signage outside.

After passing through a narrow hallway and making our way up a set of stairs, we found ourselves in an authentic Japanese restaurant.  Businessmen lined the bar and labels from sake bottles covered the walls.

nyc sake bar outside

The restaurant was on the 2nd floor of a generic office building.

Different Cuisine

The Travelzoo Local Deal included 2 appetizers, 3 tapas, 2 desserts and a bottle of sake per couple.

Many of the menu items were unfamiliar (e.g., Japanese bruschetta made with cream cheese) or were fresh takes on Japanese standards (e.g., grilled instead of steamed edamame). It helped that the menu had large color photos of the dishes; we randomly selected a variety of small plates.

There were limited vegetarian options; only a few appetizers and no tapas were meat-free. Leslie’s meal consisted of edamame, french fries and dessert.

nyc sake bar waitress

Artie & Alyson ordered the stronger, more traditional flavored sake.

We were equally mystified by the sake choices. Alyson & Artie ended up with Tomoju Sake, which was described as “sweet like nectar” but ended up tasting quite strong.  Our choice, the Kogoyahime Sake, was described as a “princess sake” and was sweet and tasty.

nyc sake bar dinner table

We had a massive selection of artfully presented appetizers and tapas.

Most of the dishes were delicious, with a few exceptions. The best dish we ordered was a tuna sashimi with soy sauce, served in a martini glass.  The tuna was incredibly fresh and unlike most of the sushi I’ve had, the taste didn’t have even a hint of fishiness.  Also delicious were pork sashimi wrapped in okra, asparagus wrapped in fried pork, and beef with scallions.

nyc sake bar tuna cocktail

The tuna sashimi, served in a martini glass, was my favorite dish.

Several of the dishes were unusual for a Japanese restaurant, including rosemary seasoned french fries and cream cheese brushetta.  Both tasted good, but seemed out of place.

nyc sake bar fried roll

The asparagus wrapped in fried pork was a delicious and unique tapas dish.

For dessert we each received three pieces of a dense chocolate fudge and a serving of yogurt with jelly topping.  The fudge was good, though bitter. We liked the yogurt but found the jelly was more fun to play with than to eat.

Local Deals

This was our second experience with Travelzoo’s Local Deals; previously, we had purchased a discounted dinner to an expensive seafood restaurant in Chelsea.  The food was good, but that was almost besides the point.

The real value in these promotions is experiencing an exotic or expensive place we normally wouldn’t splurge on.  It’s a chance to sample the full range of the menu, including appetizers, cocktails and dessert.

For more information on these deals, visit the Travelzoo website.


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About Jake Semmel

I'm a blogger and round the world traveler. I'm always on the lookout for new places to scuba dive, hike and ski.