May 29, 2014

Down In The Darkest of Dungeouns

Sake On Manhattan

It was a hot and humid summer night, and I had finished a great meal on Lower East Street, Manhattan, so I wasn't hungry. It was not the food that draw me in...  I had heard about it through the grapevine, and I was curious to try it out. It seemed too good to be missed. It seemed too interesting to be overlooked. 

I had walked past it before, without immediately recognising it, but now that I returned to the area it was easier to spot - I knew what I was looking for. The stairs were narrow, but the gate that had been closed when I passed the previous time now stood open.  I carefully stepped down, wondering what I was getting myself into... Me, a woman travelling on my own, stepping down these little stairs, not knowing what to expect. It didn't really look like a bar would be hiding behind the door. 

The door squeaked slightly when I pushed it open. The room was empty except for a couple sitting in the opposite corner. I was early. And yet the room had a very special atmosphere, it was like stepping in to an old film...   

Because how can you resist a bar that focuses solemnly on one special drink, a drink that us amateurs think of mainly as a drink you have warm with your sushi. It wasn't until I moved to Düsseldorf, Germany, that I realised there was more to it than just that warm drink. Like tequila, like good wines there are different types of sake, 

I fell in love with this little place the moment I stepped inside, and the only thing I had wished was that I had brought friends, so we could have ordered different sakes and compared. But I was in New York on my own, after having visited friends in Philadelphia and Atlanta.

After my first visit I have been back again, and Decibel never let me down. This is where I first started to learn about Sake for real, learning how the different types are different from each other - it is mainly about what rice you use and how much of the rice is polished off before you start brewing the Sake. I also learnt how Ginjo sake is among the best, as only about 60 percent of the rice corn is left, with 40 being polished off, while on Junmai-shu, far less is polished off before the brewing process starts. It's fascinating, and since my first visit at Decibel, I have been wanting to learn more. I DO learn but it goes slowly, there aren't enough sake bars around. 

Knowing some Chinese I can also read and recognise some of characters on the labels on the bottles. Useful, especially as many of the Sake bottles aren't for the European or American market and hence only have Japanese on them - Japan uses the same characters as in Taiwan, as in traditional Chinese, plus a lot of their own. Getting used to reading labels in a non-European language is useful... 

How to get there?

Decibel Sake Bar is located in lower Manhattan, on 240 East 9:th Street, see map (remember you can zoom in and out), close to 2:nd Avenue. Keep your eyes open when you get here, it is easy to miss the entrance! 

View AK-The Next Chapter - travel and tours in a larger map

Why a post about New York City right now? It's been a while since I was over, hasn't it? Well, that is true, but recently a friend of mine was in New York, and he posted a picture from an amazing Sake bar that he had been to. It was Decibel Sake Bar. It made me think I should write something about it, and soon. And when Sarah Duff (see link) who also writes for Peregrine Magazine, see link, earlier this week posted a tweet on Twitter, asking for travel advice for New York City, I had to tip her about Decibel bar - and with that, I felt I had to also create a post, finally... 


To learn more about Sake, try for examble this site: Tofugu - a website about everything Japanese
Or go to eSake's website on Sake Knowledge. Just remember that this is a website promoting Sake, of course it's not purely fact based.  

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