3 cool new izakayas to check out in New York City

Izakaya Juraku. | Photo: Jackieson L./Yelp

If you're interested in checking out some recent arrivals to the ranks of New York City's izakayas, consider dropping into one of these new spots. Here are three options to keep in mind next time you're in search of Japanese beer, sake and small bites near you.

Ramen Mafia

208 Franklin St., Greenpoint
Photo: Lisa U./Yelp

Ramen Mafia is a ramen-focused izakaya located at 208 Franklin St. (between India and Huron streets) in Greenpoint.

On the menu, diners will find steamed bao buns folded around meats like soft shell crab, tsukune (chicken sausage balls) and braised beef, as well as bowls of chicken, pork, fish or spicy mushroom curry over rice.

The ramen choices lean creative rather than traditional, with two based on an oxtail and bone marrow stock, plus a seafood dish of spicy cod caviar and seafood ceviche (incorporating scallops, shrimp, clams, calamari, and cod caviar butter sauce) over ramen noodles. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are all available.

Ramen Mafia currently holds five stars out of four reviews on Yelp, indicating a strong start for the fledgling business.

Evan B., who was the first to review the new izakaya on August 11, noted, "The food is absolutely delicious and the service is so kind and cheerful. ... One of the best ramen spots in north Brooklyn hands down."

And Yelper Leslie K. agreed, "Delicious food. They have an amazing vegetarian ramen (that can be made vegan if you ask for it without egg). The staff was super friendly and the atmosphere is very warm."

Ramen Mafia is open from noon-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, noon-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-11 p.m. on Friday, noon-11 p.m. on Saturday, and noon-10 p.m. on Sunday. (It's closed on Monday.)

Katana Kitten

531 Hudson St., West Village
Photo: Mike C./Yelp

Katana Kitten is a retro pop culture-themed izakaya that is the project of head bartender Masahiro Urushido and restaurateurs James Tune and Greg Boehm, as we previously reported. It's located at 531 Hudson St. in the West Village and specializes in boilermakers and highballs with Japanese flavors.

The bar's food options include a mortadella-based version of a popular Japanese convenience store treat: the humble pork katsu sandwich. Diners will also find bites like braised pork belly skewers and crinkle-cut fries sprinkled with nori and sea salt.

House signature cocktails incorporate Japanese flavors into traditional drinks, like the Toki whiskey highball with lemon oil and plum hard candy; or are entirely new, like the bright blue Calpico Swizzle, with gin, sake, the Japanese soft drink Calpico, lime, sansho pepper and blanc de blanc.

Katana Kitten's current Yelp rating of 4.5 stars out of six reviews indicates positive attention from users.

Yelper Mike C., who reviewed Katana Kitten on July 26, wrote, "This is another one of those bars that is worth going to just for the great food alone. I don't drink, but it's a really fun vibe with cool Japanese movie posters and all kinds of different music playing, which all works and adds to the experience."

"The small but scrumptious bites are only outshined by the innovative (and delicious!) cocktails," Yelper Kathy M. added, recommending: "When you go, make sure you check out the downstairs lounge."

Katana Kitten is open from 4 p.m.-2 a.m. daily.

Izakaya Juraku

121 Ludlow St., Lower East Side
Photo: Kendra C./Yelp

Izakaya Juraku, located at 121 Ludlow St. (between Rivington and Delancey streets) in the Lower East Side, is a pub specializing in Japanese craft beer and craft sake (jizake), as we recently reported.

Izakaya standbys like chicken karaage, salt-grilled mackerel, and deep-fried Japanese eggplant served in tempura sauce are all on offer here; big meals include katsudon (tonkatsu with egg and onion served over a bowl of rice) and tonkotsu, shoyu or shio ramen.

At the bar, you'll find bottled craft beers imported from Japan, as well as an extensive selection of jizake, or non-mass-produced sake from small, often rural breweries. Juraku also serves fusion cocktails and draft beer. (You can check out the full food menu here and the drinks menu here.)

Izakaya Juraku currently holds 4.5 stars out of 23 reviews on Yelp, indicating a warm welcome from patrons.

"Karaage was crispy but juicy and incredibly hot inside while my gyudon came out as sweet and ginger-y as I remembered," wrote Yelper Shungheon C., who was one of the first users to visit Izakaya Juraku on July 3. "Their drink price is remarkably affordable."

"The staff is very knowledgeable on their products, specifically their sake," Yelper Betty Y. added in praise of the service. "The sauces are fantastic. We saved the sauces from the tofu and eggplant to dip our edamame in. Yum! The katsu was fried to perfection."

Izakaya Juraku is open from 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-11 p.m. on Saturday, and noon-10 p.m. on Sunday. (It's closed on Monday.)
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