Entering this quaint izakaya called Sakagura in BGC feels like you’ve just been transported into one of the little holes in the wall peppered all over Tokyo’s Omoide Yokocho—an iconic alleyway lined with various food stalls and small bars. Izakayas are the bar of choice in Tokyo; small, often quiet spaces with a concise menu and bottles upon bottles of sake.
Sakagura is the newest concept by the Nikkei Group. It brings the izakaya experience to BGC sans the need to squeeze through alleys and shuffle against tired businessmen. In a sense, you could call it a sanitized version of the Tokyo icon, but nevertheless, it serves up a compelling selection of Japanese rice wine and rich dishes to pair them with.
There are no strict rules to pairing sake with food, and whether you enjoy it hot or cold calls solely to your preference (so says Nikkei Group’s Carlo Lorenzana). But Sakagura does offer a few unique ways to enjoy Japan’s national drink.
With over 50 sakes sourced from all over Japan on their list, the easiest way to sample them would be through a sake flight. Here, you’ll be given a variety of sakes to try, served in sake cups that are as distinct as the liquor they contain. Sakagura’s selection of rice wine has profiles that range from refreshing and fruity, mellow and rich, to crisp and light, and dry.
We were able to sample three: Hakkaisan Shiboritate Genshu “Echigo de Soro” Namasake, Mutsu Hassen Ginjo Pink Label, and Masamune “Malola” Junmai Ginjo. These three sakes, recommended to us by Sakagura’s sake sommeliers, encapsulate the general range from sweet to balanced to dry, and really prove that no single sake tastes the same. It’s not my first time drinking sake, but what really stood out for me at the time, after sampling the three premium sakes, is that they all go down smoothly without leaving any sharp trace down my throat.
If a sake flight is too much, one can also order sake by the glass. Appealing to a growing Western influence in the drink, an order comes served in a wine goblet. There are also a few cocktails to choose from if the pure drink still proves too strong, or if you’re just up for something a little more playful.
Decadent fare to pair
While izakayas in theory have a stronger emphasis on drinks, Sakagura places equal care in its menu. It has staples like sashimi, maki, hand rolls, aburi or torched nigiri, and donburi, as well as a selection of robatayaki dishes cooked over charcoal.[READ: Know your sushi: The difference between nigiri, maki, and rolls]
The salmon nigiri, a more classic Japanese menu item, features thick, generous cuts of salmon draped over bite-sized rolls of rice. The hand rolls, which come filled with your choice of toro (bluefin fatty tuna), salmon, hamachi, blue crab, or uni ikura, also make for a good starter, especially if you’re looking for variety.
But for more filling or delectable mains, go for the wagyu tare tamago donburi. One bowl is small enough for a single serving and has a bed of fluffy white rice topped with seared Saga wagyu A5 and tare tamago. Break the yolk and let it ooze all over the melt-in-your-mouth high-grade wagyu and sprinkle with a bit of nori for that perfect bite.
For something more unique but equally decadent, Sakagura’s miso bone marrow robatayaki is a must-try. Served over a small grill, the miso-glazed bone marrow comes with an onigiri coated in uni butter. The recommendation is to take a teaspoonful of bone marrow and eat it with each bite of the onigiri. It can be a bit messy of a meal to share and may take a bit of a wait, but it’s worth it.
Sakagura is located at the 2nd Floor, One Bonifacio High Street Mall, BGC, Taguig. Open from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.