Last Summer, as I strutted down West 72nd Street (or was it an uncoordinated blind rush?) I noticed construction between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. A sign out front read, “Coming Soon, Dark Bullet Sake & Oyster Bar.”
Oysters? Sign me up.
What followed over the next few months was borderline embarrassing.
I began to ‘Google’ the renovation progress monthly and walked past frequently. My perception was that this dreamland was taking forever to open. Finally, early March, as I did one of my “walk-bys” I saw a new sign and it read: ‘Open’.
Often the anticipation would be far more gratifying than the actual experience, but that was not the outcome at all.
My experience at Dark Bullet was marvelous.
Having just opened shy of two weeks, I was impressed by the seamless service and exceptional food. The owner, Leo, was in the kitchen acting as chef and crafting magical tasting dishes.
If you appreciate Sake, Whiskey, and mouth watering food, in a serene setting and you are craving a full sensory experience, then, Dark Bullet Sake & Oyster Bar should be next on your list of “Restaurants to Try in New York City.”
At entry one is greeted with waterfalls in the window and a dimly lit, spacious great room. A long white marble bar is situated against one wall with mounted TV monitors.
The undeniable feel of East meets West in the modern day is ubiquitous. The wood flooring, reminiscent of bamboo, the artwork illustrating trees, the placement of light to represent fire, all fuse to represent the Five Elements.
Modern touches like the televisions and high-top tables give an American Pub Vibe and a welcoming atmosphere, inviting patrons to stop in and catch a favorite game.
A pool table placed at the back of the Great Room is adjacent to a decorative wall, which explains the process of making sake.
It is decorative AND educational.
I love it.
Thoughtfully placed bottles of Spirits including more sake than I have ever seen in one place, make for an environment that is, in short, fun.
Jennifer, one of the employees, invited me to the lower level where I discovered another pool table, more televisions, dart boards and a foosball table. All these game-room comforts are adorned with Japanese art and furnishings.
I would advise that a big part of this experience is to drink sake. They have wine, beer and other spirits, but the sake selection is impressive, and I wanted to attempt to find “my sake”. My “go-to” wine is Pinot Grigio: dry, cold and light and I am very particular. My goal was to replicate that knowledge of wine, with sake; a process that does not happen overnight but is an entertaining journey to embark upon.
We asked to test three different types of sake: one dry, one “middle-of-the-road” and one sweet.
The dry sake recommended was Sesshu Otokoyama from the Kansai region. This sake was the driest I tried, and my personal favorite from the taste test. While it errs on the dry side, it is not very rich. I could sense the aroma of almond initially while my husband smelled “lime” or “citrus,” as he described it. The texture is smooth, and I found the aftertaste to be long and pleasant. A product of traditional sake brewing techniques, its English translation is “Man-Mountain in Sesshu”, it is produced by the Konishi Brewery, brewing since 1550.
Next, we tried an ‘in-between’ dry and sweet. The Hakkaisan Snow Aged 3 Years Junmai Ginjo Yukimuro. A sake from the Hakkaisan Brewery, located in Minami Uonuma City that is famous for heavy snow fall. I know that many sakes are best when stored for a few months, so I was intrigued with the idea of testing a sake that was aged for 3 years in what is an abundant natural resource to that area; the sake is chilled in a tank using only the cold from the snow.
The aroma is sweet, and the first sip was very light in flavor. As we continued sipping the taste became stronger. I found the aftertaste lingered and I would say if you are a fan of melon this is an excellent option to consider.
Our third taste was of the Garyubai Junmai Ginjo from the Sanwa Brewery Company in Shizuoka, Japan. This had a strong aroma, a lingering aftertaste, and was a bit sweet for my palette, although I did like the clean flavor.
This sampling was minimal compare to more than 50 sake options available at Dark Bullet. Whether novice or an aficionado, I predict that you will find a sake that suits your unique palette.
The Japanese Whiskey selections are vast and steeped in history.
We were offered Hibiki, a brand introduced in 1989 by Suntory, originally with expressions having age statements of 17 and 21 years. Hibiki 21 was named “Supreme Champion Spirit” Top Award in the International Spirits Competition held in the UK in 2017.
In 1997, a 30-year expression was produced, and a 12-year expression was introduced in 2009. As of 2017, the 12 years became unavailable; I was told, as a result of lack of material to produce.
As a matter of fact, the 12 Years Old Hibiki at Dark Bullet was intended to remain unopened, and in error, was opened by someone on staff.
This error brought the owner to tears.
We enjoyed a glass of 17 year-old Hibiki, and while I am not a connoisseur, I can say that it was the smoothest whiskey I have tried, to date.
Also presented to us, not tasted, was The Suntory Whisky Toki, a product of the House of Suntory Whiskey established in 1923, that holds the highest award honors, including the much coveted “Distiller of the Year” in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017.
We also discussed The Hakashu Single Malt Whiskey Aged 12 Years, a product of The Hakushu Distillery from the forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake in the Japanese Southern Alps.
Over fifteen types of Japanese whiskey are in-house to appeal to your senses and tastes.
The menu is versatile. Options range from edamame to shrimp and beef, enticing those most astute. We decided to order the Kumamoto Oysters, the Garlic Rock Shrimp and the Green Tea Angus Beef.
The oysters were fresh and served with two gluten free sauces: ‘Simple Hot Sauce’ and ‘Horseradish Sauce’. Both were snappy, but I favored the tang of the horseradish.
The Garlic Rock Shrimp was prepared lightly fried in a savory homemade oil. It is served with a toast accompaniment where you are encouraged to create an open-faced sandwich with the shrimp on the bread. The plate is designed for two to share, and was well seasoned and tasty, although I do not know that I will order it again next time, given I am curious about many other options.
The home run for culinary craftmanship is the Green Tea Angus Beef. I am not a meat-eating person, but I made an exception for this occasion, probably the most pointed move I have made in a while. The dish is a Sirloin Angus Beef marinated in green tea butter and truffle salt, Japanese Hot Stone Cooked and presented before being cut and then served to share. The presentation and the taste were exquisite. This is a dish so savory that you must experience when you visit this hideaway.
On my next visit, I have set my sights on the edamame, roasted shishito peppers and the Umi Shiso Ika, raw squid prepared with plum paste, shiso leaf, tobiko, ikura and quail egg.
While the Upper West Side is not always the most convenient neighborhood to visit and is certainly not known for the culinary craft, the way the rest of Manhattan is, this is worth the trip uptown. Dark Bullet is not just a welcome addition to the neighborhood, but a welcome addition to the City.
Dark Bullet Sake & Oyster Bar
154 West 72nd Street,
New York, NY 10023
Between Columbus Ave & West 72nd St, Upper West Side.
Phone number (212) 235-6788
Angela Ranieri joins us as Contributing Editor with an extensive background in Fashion, Beauty and Digital Media. She has worked with PRADA USA Corp., Jurlique, Amore Pacific and the New York Daily News in management capacities including Marketing, Client Relations, Employee Relations and Training Management. She has authored and published the column, “Ask Angela,” featured on the Amore Pacific USA website. Her beauty advice has been featured in Shape and Fitness Magazines and CBS News.
She is a graduate of Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Writing. Angela also has an MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from Northeastern University. While at Northeastern, her Market Research on the Electric Car was published for University use.
Angela is currently creator of Circuit Cosmetics, a Brand Ambassador for luxury beauty line, Patchology, an On Air Guest for QVC and blogger for www.thelaughinmommy.blogspot.com.
In her spare time you can find Angela running, spinning, practicing yoga or getting beautified. She resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her Husband, Son, and Chihuahuas.