Yopparai's Full Izakaya Experience | Lower East Side, New York

Yopparai hits home with the full izakaya experience

Yopparai isn't so much hidden as it is hushed.

It peeks out over a raucous Lower East Side street, its alluring mystique beckoning you to ascend the stairs and press the buzzer to enter.

Once you're through the sliding door, request one of the two-seat mahogany benches that line the bar. A carved wooden key unlocks a cabinet space built into the bench so you can store your personals. Nifty.

Tokyo-born Gaku Shibata and his wife, Christy, are behind the 750-square-foot upscale izakaya and the smart food it contains.

Start with the Yopparai cocktail ($12) while you ponder the sake-by-the-glass list. In the drink, softly shaved ice binds together sparkling sake, yuzu juice and a Japanese yogurt drink to form a slushie of adult proportions.

The food is plain but carefully constructed. Munch on the yaki onigiri ($4), a perfectly crunchy grilled-rice ball ($4), and the spicy mentaiko ($9), grilled pollock roe. Create your own bespoke creation with a box of homemade Masu tofu ($8) served with soy sauce, dashi broth, bonito flakes and scallion shards. Natto (fermented soy beans), generally so slimy, won us over here with its delicate texture ($4).

A sweet ending comes from sake soft serve ($7) and more of that shaved iceā€“this time with plum wine ($6).

Yopparai, 151 Rivington St., #1F (between Suffolk and Clinton sts.); 212-777-7253 or yopparainyc.com