The tiny Sake Bar Satsko, arguably the de facto sake-bombing scene of the East Village, serves up a pan-Asian menu with bar bites ranging from the typical spicy tuna rolls to gyoza to edamame. Dig a little deeper and you'll find some unusually great gems, dishes that serve the antidote to one-too-many sake bombs.
Pork Belly Watermelon Salad ($10) is a must, with its generous helping of crispy slices of fried pork belly mixed with chunks of barely ripened watermelon. Aside from the elegant combo of salty-sweet-crispy-crunchy, slivers of ginger and a spoonful of pickled ginger juice (the same stuff they keep for the sushi) add a spicy sour kick to the already brilliant dish.
The large portion of Octopus Kale Salad ($12) makes for a healthy solo dish or as a side to share among friends. Chewy bits of sautéed octopus sit atop massaged kale (the greens are given a rubdown with a bit of oil and salt to tenderize the otherwise tough leaves) and dressed with a bit of lemon and garlic.
Although there are plenty of great eats on the menu, some dishes don't stand out quite as well as the others. The Asian Chicken ($10), deep-fried soy ginger chicken nuggets, came highly recommended by the bartender, but fell flat. The dish simply needed more flavor and salt.
Still, it's easy to see why this bar is so popular with the locals. Food and drink prices are more than fair for the portions received, and it's hard to leave this lively little dive without feeling full, tipsy, happy, or all of the above.
Sake Bar Satsko
About the author: Nancy Huang, who comes to New York by way of Los Angeles, writes The Wanderist, a food and travel blog of adventures here and abroad. She loves noodles, subway maps, and word games.