Izakaya Ten: Sake-to-me
Izakaya Ten is pretty badass. Located in the gallery district on the Western edges of Chelsea, its way hip, and a whole lot of fun. Marked by a gigantic Japanese character on its narrow multi-colored facade, Izakaya Ten strikes the perfect balance between kitschy and clever.
The restaurant itself if very narrow and very long. The bar at the front is definitely made for those of a slighter build, and the restaurant stretches along the back walls, with dark wooden tables pressed together. Between the private area in the back and the front dining is a room devoted entirely to the presentation and care of sake. The entire space is decorated with traditional Japanese art, small wooden slabs depicting the menu options, and a modified multi-colored disco wheel. Dim lighting adds mystery, while pumping house music gets the party started.
Enjoying the current gastropub revival, this Japanese-style gastropub or izakaya offers up sushi and small plates meant for sharing. My recommendation? Avoid the sushi/sashimi and head straight for the yakitori and hot dishes. Clearly not the focus of the pub, the sushi is dry and nothing special. The chicken thigh yakitori on the other hand is soft, supple, and well cooked; the miso-glazed sea bass, while a bit fishy for my taste, was thoroughly enjoyable; and the sesame spinach was a cool refreshing side to the meal.
In general though, don’t come here for the food. If you want great Japanese cuisine, there are hundreds of options in the five boroughs. Izakaya Ten has what most Japanese spots don’t have – a totally rockin’ vibe, a killer house sake, and an impressive (read: overwhelming) hot & cold sake menu. The emphasis is more on pub than gastro, and the staff want to encourage the party. Open until 3am, I can see that this place gets busier as the night goes on – and its a great pre-game dinner spot.
The crowd is an unsurprising mix of chic art scenesters and trendy Japanese throwing back bottles of high-priced sake. Give it a whirl with some buddies who want a different twist on the concept of ‘pre-game’ or with sake-lovers. Check it out after a long evening of gallery-hopping or as a convenient stop before hitting the nearby club row.
Foodie haven, it is not; but for sake and some fun, Izakaya is a super fun spot.