New York City-Lower East Manhattan
May 11, 2018
Setting up home on the Lower East Side in the space that was formerly called Sushi Uo, is Japanese restaurant and sake bar, Yopparai. Owned by Tokyo-born sake sommelier Gaku Shibata and his wife Christy, who are often to be found working the floor and greeting their guests, it’s hardly surprising that the venue has a family-run, labour of love vibe to it that seeps into the whole dining and drinking experience. The menu offers fresh ingredients prepared on an open grill, with house specialities including homemade tsukune meatballs, yakitori and a decent selection of sashimi (the oden also comes particularly recommended). But the real pull here is their large selection of sake they stock over 50 varieties and they pride themselves on knowing which drinks to pair with your chosen dishes (there’s even a sake Q&A on the website if you want to swot up before you go). Yopparai is only open evenings, and reservations are advised as the place really is quite teeny: with just 30 seats, there’s not a lot of room, but the Richard Bloch designed space is an intimate, cosy venue that allows people to sit and savour their drinks perfect for a relaxed date. Sake sommeliers are on hand to help you make your selection, which is then served at the precise temperature in traditional Japanese glassware. There’s an elegance to the whole experience, with both the food and drink beautifully presented and the venue, with its counter-seating and attentive staff, has a pleasing Tokyo-style vibe.