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 sakamai.com
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 senrestaurant.com