Yopparai – One Of My Favorite Izakayas In New York
Yopparai is a relatively new izakaya in the Lower East Side. My friend Silverjay on chowhound recommended it to me so I almost immediately tried it as I was missing good Japanese food after coming back from my Tokyo trip.
Izakaya are a style of Japanese restaurant where you drink beer / sake / sochu and eat various dishes to accompany those drinks. The dishes are generally somewhat smaller dishes and there is usually a large variety such as yakitori, oden, fried dishes, sashimi etc. They are extremely popular in Japan and have also become reasonably popular in NY as well.
The restaurant is located 1st floor up from the ground level inside an apartment building. Strangely you need to ring a doorbell to get into the restaurant. It’s laid out as is a long narrow space that is mainly a long counter with seats accompanied by small tables along the wall. You can watch them prepare the food if you are sitting at the counter, which I always like to do. While it’s small, it is comfortable and homey. The décor and vibe really make it feel like you’re in Tokyo. The owner and his wife are both extremely nice and helpful. The service is generally good although some of the younger servers can be somewhat forgetful.
Here’s what we got:
Homemade Masu Tofu:
This is a block of homemade tofu in a thick clear savory broth. The tofu has good consistency and is clean tasting. The broth is a bit savory and salty although not overly flavorful. It comes with grated ginger, shiso and bonito shavings which are always a great compliment to tofu. While this dish was not amazing, it was solidly good. 7.5/10
This is lightly roasted spicy marinated cod roe. I don’t usually order this because I find it somewhat off-putting if it’s not good quality. However, I had a feeling it would be good here and I was right. It had a nice toasty flavor from being very slightly charred and the eggs have this great briny flavor that tastes wonderful with beer. I also like the crunchy texture you get from the eggs. This was great and probably among the best I’ve had in NY. 8/10
These are grilled prawns served simply with salt and lemon. The prawns were fresh and the meat was sweet and cooked perfectly. I really enjoy prawns served simply with just salt and lemon which are the perfect compliment. These were great. 8/10
These are chicken meatballs and are probably my all-time favorite yakitori dish. They are tender and the charred flavor from being grilled coupled with the sweet soy sauce marinade is really great. They do a very nice job on these here and are the best version I’ve had in NY. 8.5/10
We got hamachi (yellowtail), shima aji (striped jack) and aji sashimi (spanish mackerel). I thought the sashimi was surprisingly good as I wasn’t expecting much; everything was all fresh and delicious. In particular the hamachi was quite good. 7.75/10
Natto are fermented beans. They are slimy and have a strong and somewhat bitter flavor. When I was a kid I couldn’t stand them. I only started to like them in maybe the last 5-7 years and now I am the only person in my family besides my grandma who likes them. The version here was good; it was served with bonita shavings, shiso and mustard. I like it best over hot rice, but the version here was still quite nice. I will warn you ahead of time if you’ve never had this prepare not to like it. 7.5/10
This was Washu beef tongue and was advertised as Sendai-style. Sendai is a port city in Japan that is probably now most famous for unfortunately being the epicenter of the tragic 2011 earthquake. On a happier note this beef tongue was wonderful. It was perfectly cooked; it was tender with a nice charred flavor from being grilled. It was served with lemon which was great contrast to the beef-y flavor of the tongue. It was also served with cabbage as well. 8.25/10
This was a special of Washu beef seasoned with just a little salt and pepper. You were given a skillet with a piece of fat which you melted and then cooked the beef in. This was wonderful and among the best dishes I’ve had here. The beef was very tender and had great flavor. This was a very simple, but excellent preparation. 8.5/10
This was tendon with tofu in brown gravy topped with diced green onions. While it looked and sounded delicious unfortunately it was one of the big duds here. The gravy and other ingredients were fine, but the beef was terrible; it was gristle-y and hard to bite through. I’m not sure what happened, but it was so gristle-y that it made it almost impossible to eat. 6/10
Ramen Style Pork Belly:
This was the other dud. It was pork belly served with menma (fermented bamboo shoots), kamaboko (type of processed fish cake) and green onions in a ramen like broth. Basically ramen without the ramen noodles. The broth was savory and fairly decent tasting and the other ingredients were good. However, I found the pork belly to be overcooked, so it was kind of dry. This was a good idea, but the execution was off. 6.75/10
This is a Japanese winter stew that consists of a light soy sauce dashi broth with various ingredients stewed in it. This has been one of my favorite home style Japanese dishes since I was a kid as my grandma used to make it. In these pictures I ordered black daikon (radish), satsuma age (fish cake), kuro tamago (boiled egg) and hanpen (fluffy fish and yam cake). The broth is nice; slightly sweet and salty although I prefer my broth a little lighter than the one here although this is still good. All of the oden was good and in particular the satsuma age and black daikon were particularly good. The one that I thought was a bit weaker was the kuro tamago as I found the egg a bit on the dry side. Overall though this is the best renditions I’ve had in NY. 8/10
This is anago (salt water eel aka conger eel) simmered in dashi broth with soft scrambled egg and mushrooms. I’ve always loved this dish. The eel and egg are nicely tender and are perfectly complimented by the sweet dashi broth. I will say the dashi broth is a tad too sweet, but I really like this dish with some rice. 7.75/10 (would be higher rating if the broth was slightly less sweet)
Jidori Tamago Toji:
This is the same dish except with chicken and onion instead of eel and mushroom. It’s also quite good. 7.75/10 (would be higher rating if the broth was slightly less sweet)
Yaki Onigiri (Soy Sauce):
Yaki onigiri are grilled rice balls with various filings that are very popular in Japan. This was brushed with Sekigahara soy sauce. I put up 2 pictures because in the 1st picture that is how they normally look, but 2nd time they were flatter and served with nori. I’m not sure if something got lost in translation in my order. Anyhow, these were pretty good, but as a personal preference I prefer regular onigiri. However, if you like yaki onigiri you will like these. 7.5/10
Yaki Onigiri (Red Miso):
Same as the other yaki onigiri except with red miso paste. 7.5/10
Beer and Sake:
The beer they serve here is really ice cold and is great with your dinner, so I’d definitely recommend getting a beer. They have a nice sake list as well and the owner is pretty knowledgeable (now this comes from someone who only knows a bit about sake, so take that with a grain of salt).
Overall, I really enjoy the food here and I definitely think it’s one of the best izakaya in NY and worth checking out.
151 Rivington St, 1st Fl (between Clinton St & Suffolk St)
New York, NY 10002