REVIEW

Yopparai

Every once in a while, we unexpectedly come across a restaurant so irresistible in its charms that we wonder how it could have escaped notice until then.  Yopparai is such a restaurant:  from the moment the hostess slides the heavy metallic door aside (a Japanese touch, as refracted through the Lower East Side), the restaurant makes no misstep.  It is a hushed, somewhat mysterious atmosphere: accessible only by buzzer, the long, narrow room designed by Richard Bloch (Masa, 15 East, Dovetail, Benu) features two-seat Mahogany benches that gaze on the collection of sake ware mounted on the wall.  Personal effects are stored in cabinet space built-into the benches, which are unlocked with carved wooden keys.  This is no ordinary izakaya. 

Tokyo-born Gaku Shibata and his wife Christy have clearly taken great care in assembling the sake-driven restaurant (yopparai means "drunkard" in Japanese).  If you are typically indisposed to drink sake, you should make an exception, because the cuisine is designed to pair well and Shibata can expertly guide you through the 50-bottle list.  Yopparai serves a menu of sashimi, salads and homemade tofu, simmered dishes, yakitori, oden, and chinmi.  There is transporting negitoro (tuna tartare with Tokyo negi) served in handmade wooden boxes, hearty ramen-style kakuni with Berkshire pork belly and addictive yaki onigiri (crunchy rice balls).  However the best dishes come from the open grill:  Washu Gyu Teppanyaki grilled on a hot plate, organic free-range chicken meatballs and a heavenly black cod filet marinated in Dassai Daiginjo sake lees.  The gracious and personalized service make this authentic and welcoming restaurant one of the best places to dine in the Lower East Side. 

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INFORMATION

Lower East Side
151 Rivington Street
    Junya Miura, Chef
    Richard Bloch Architects, Designer

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