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SakaMai's small plate of sea urchin and white sturgeon caviar

Sushi aficionados and sake connoisseurs, this one’s for you. Manhattan’s latest crop of modern Japanese joints is not to be missed. Chopsticks up.

SakaMai Rethinking the traditional (read: stuffy) sake-tasting experience, this fantastic new Lower East Side gastropub takes the pretense out of high-end sipping, instead offering up a cozy, approachable environment for exploring sake, shochu, Japanese whiskey and experimental cocktails (like a smoky, clove-tinged take on an old-fashioned). The meant-to-share menu includes a mix of family-style entrées and small plates--like a pickled octopus sashimi ($12) we’ll be dreaming of for weeks. 157 Ludlow St. (at Stanton St.); 646-590-0684 or

Sen NYC If you’re a Hamptons regular, you may be familiar with the original Sag Harbor outpost. But after 18 years, the popular sushi spot has expanded to Manhattan with a decidedly sleek update. Grab a seat at the glowing central bar (or surrounding table) for both sushi and Asian-inspired dishes, like Chinese har gow (traditional shrimp dumplings folded around oversize prawn tempura, $14) and, our personal favorite, Japanese mero (a fillet of sea bass panfried in a delicate crust of puffed rice, $22). 12 W. 21st St. (between Fifth and Sixth aves.); 212-388-5736 or

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