sake bar decibel

It is an extremely rare occasion that we are out and about at midnight, but we found ourselves in the East Village in need of food last night. My handy-dandy NYC Things to Do Map led us to Sake Bar Decibel, and it was nothing short of magical – like stepping into an izakaya in Tokyo. We were definitely some of the oldest people in the room. It was mostly a young Asian crowd, which made me feel very cool and in the know.

We ordered a carafe of sake, along with an Okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza), Ebi Shumai (shrimp dumplings), and a Mentaiko Chazuke (green tea over spicy cod roe rice with savory toppings).  All of the snacks were superb, but we have never tasted anything quite like the mentaiko dish – the bold and spicy flavors and varying textures of each ingredient coming together in each mouthwatering spoonful. We can’t wait to go back and try one of everything.

staycation 2018: day 3

One of the keys to a fantastic staycation or vacation is the ability to pivot when needed. Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night to Derek reading, which meant he could not sleep. We didn’t really have to leave for the Cloisters at 10:00, so I decided we would sleep in a bit.

I was craving Ethiopian, but there seems to be a dearth of this cuisine in NYC, especially for lunch. There may be lots of great places, but no one is writing about them. We tried Meskerem several months back, and it was fine, but we wanted to find something better. Injera has gotten some press, as well as several spots in Harlem, but all dinner-only. Derek volunteered to research the genre while I showered. He found Awash, which took us over to the East side, somewhat on the way to The Met. We walked a bit over a mile, only to find the restaurant closed. Time to reboot. Fish Cheeks had caught our attention on the way over, so we decided to go back and revisit it. Some of the dishes we have had here before are so amazing, it was hard to not reorder them, but we ventured into all new plates this time. Happy hour starts at noon, so we began with six $1 oysters, served with fried shallots and a spicy sauce that was uniquely Thai, and discounted glasses of wine and beer. Next came a raw shrimp with spicy fish sauce, basil, and garlic appetizer, a side of morning glory (described as a Thai watercress ) sautéed with Thai Chiles and fish sauce, and a whole fried snapper, covered with chili peppers, red onions, and fried kefir lime leaves and shallots. All excellent choices for an authentic and delicious Thai meal.

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Next was The Met. I wanted to see the Heavenly Bodies exhibit (catholic costumes), and Derek was excited about the Souls Grown Deep outsider art sector. The outfits were exquisite with their gold accents and precise embroidery. So beautiful, but hard to imagine necessary when the church’s mission should be to help the poor, feed the hungry, etc. We paused for a refreshment on the rooftop while taking in the Huma Bhadha sculpture. Cast in bronze, the colors and textures were mesmerizing while at the same time creepy. On to the outsider art in the modern department. Many of the artists are from my home state of Alabama, and their assemblages are pretty amazing. They used such elementary objects and made them into beautiful pieces.

existing conditions cocktail menu

1st round – Professor Plum + Banana Justino

existing conditions cocktail menu

2nd round of Saratoga Paloma + The Remedy

After the museum, we decided to skip The Pool and go for Existing Conditions, which was more in our neighborhood. I had been excited to share this place with Derek, but it just wasn’t his thing.  He appreciated the fact that the fizz lasted the entire Saratoga Paloma, but the rest didn’t impress him. Oh well, hopefully, the rest of the staycation will appeal to both of us. This cocktail lounge probably won’t be your food destination, but the inventiveness of the beverages are worth a trip. I thought every drink we ordered was amazing.

le sia

After seeing a review on Eater, we decided to check out Le Sia (which means shrimp) on an early Friday evening. You definitely need to get there by 5:30 or 6 pm if you don’t want to stand in line, and I would not advocate standing in line. The crawfish and crab leg combo was good with a Chinese twist to the Creole standby but wasn’t really memorable. Same with the squid leg and pork belly/enoki mushroom skewers that needed salt and a bit more char. The kimchi was a highlight – interesting because it added five-spice powder to give it a Chinese flavor.

We did not use the gloves provided, but probably should have – the apron was definitely helpful to contain the mess. By the time we left at 6:30, the place was packed with Asian students. We were definitely the oldest people in the room by far. I would recommend going once if you love Cajun crawfish and want to try them with a Chinese slant, but it probably won’t be a place to which you will often return.

tomoe sushi

There are some mixed reviews of Tomoe online, so I want to add my two cents. First, let’s talk logistics. You have to be there between 5:00 pm and 5:30 pm if you don’t want to wait in line. This fact should tell you something.

Tomoe is not fancy. There are hand-drawn pictures of the menu specials on the wall that have obviously been around for a long time. I think they are charming, but some might be looking for a different atmosphere. The decor is not posh, but the people are friendly.

Now for the food. The fish is high quality and quantity. The huge pieces are a bit strange, but they are so fresh and buttery that you can easily bite or even chopstick-cut it into edible sizes. We always order the Sushi-Sashimi Combo, which includes enormous hunks of sashimi – salmon (2), yellowtail (2), tuna, fatty tuna, octopus, surf clam, squid (2 servings), and tamago; equally substantial pieces of sushi – salmon, sea bass (maybe?), scallop, sweet shrimp, and ikura; three strangely cut, but absolutely delicious sections of spicy tuna roll; and the curious “meatwad” of tuna – finely chopped tuna rolled into a ball. All of this for $40! Also, you can order 16 ounces of Otokoyama, a solid dry sake, for $36. Add a seaweed salad, and you’ve got a dinner for two for around $100. Our first visit, we tried to order two of the Combos and felt sacrilegious because we couldn’t finish it.

If you are looking for properly-sized bites of sushi and an elegantly-designed space, go somewhere else. If you want a delectable value, Tomoe is for you.