An East Village VDay: Sapporo East & Milk Bar – NYC
I’m a month late or one year early with my Valentine’s Day post. I like to think the latter. Valentine’s Day is an annoying day to begin with. When you’re single, VDay is annoying because advertising, friends, and your mom will make you feel like a troll because you’re alone no matter how fabulous you are, and when you’re in a relationship, it’s annoying because it’s impossible to get a reservation anywhere, and even if you do, the restaurant will only offer mass-produced pre-made food from an overpriced prix-fixe menu. Saint Valentine, you suck. Anyway, since the last disappointing Valentine’s Day meal in 2005, David and I have been avoiding all restaurants requiring reservations, especially those offering “special” prix-fixe menus. This Valentine’s Day, we went to Sapporo East, my favorite cheap East Village Japanese restaurant since college.
The fish at Sapporo East won’t blow you away, so I usually skip nigiri sushi and sashimi and opt for a roll. This isn’t Sushi Yasuda. It’s best to go with what their good at, and that’s anything with spicy sauce. Their spicy sauce is the best I’ve ever had. I usually get the Spicy Scallop roll ($5.50).
But because I can’t resist sea urchin, I’ll usually get one piece of Uni sashimi ($4). The quality of the uni is hit or miss, but it’s a risk I don’t mind taking.
The real reason I go to Sapporo East, however, is the Kaiyaki — sliced giant clam (scallop if they’re out of giant clam), white mushrooms, avocado, and shredded imitation crab sticks all mixed up with lots of mayonnaise and smelt roe and then broiled. Salty, creamy, and fatty, it’s dreadfully bad for you, but who cares when being bad tastes so good. It’s one of my guilty pleasures I have to indulge in every so often. Once with another person, we ordered two. One for each of us. My arteries weren’t too happy with me, but my stomach was ever so grateful. With a roll or a bowl of rice, it makes for a very good meal.
On a side note, a few years ago, my mom surprised me when she made Kaiyaki at home. She’d never been to Sapporo East, and I’d never even mentioned Kaiyaki to her, but it just so happened she stumbled upon the recipe online and decided to make it. Her version has no avocado or crab, and uses cod instead of clam for the protein, but the flavor profile is dead-on. According to her, the secret to the deliciousness is Kewpie Mayonnaise. And we all know what the secret to Kewpie is. Mayonnaise + MSG = Win!
After Sapporo East, David and I went to Momofuku Milk Bar for a little dessert. We intended to order one slice of pie to share, but we ended up getting a slice of Crack Pie ($5.75) and slice of Chocolate Malt Cake ($5.75). The Crack Pie is one of my favorite desserts ever. If you’ve never had it, imagine the most buttery toffee possible in pie form with a thin toasty oat crust. There’s a reason it’s called crack pie, it’s so good, you’ll be jonesing for more when it’s all gone.
The Chocolate Malt Cake — made with malt fudge, malted milk crumbs, and marshmallows — didn’t hit that same realm of pharmaceutical greatness, but it was still very tasty. The cake was incredibly moist, and had just the right balance of richness with the gooey fudge and crunchy malted milk bits. The marshmallows were also nice (chocolate and marshmallows are a natural match), but weren’t charred as described on the menu. I still loved it all the same.
Overall, it was a good Valentine’s Day with no restaurant bullsh*t. Good food with good company. Simple and sweet.
164 1st Avenue (betw 10th & 11th St; map)
New York, NY 10009