Manhattan, New York – Sake Bar Decibel

Restaurant: Sake Bar Decibel
Cuisine: Japanese/Izakaya/Sake/Tapas
Last visited: September 9, 2011
Location: Manhattan, NY (East Village)
Address: 240 E 9th Street
Subway: Astor Pl
Price Range: $10 or less

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: n/a
Service: 2.5
Ambiance: 4
Overall: n/a
Additional comments:

  • Since 1993
  • Funky Japanese atmosphere
  • Traditional tapas menu
  • Specializes in sake
  • NY’s original sake bar
  • 200+ sake list
  • Very hidden location
  • Underground/legal bar
  • Great for sharing
  • Loud atmosphere
  • Very casual
  • Limited seating
  • Mon-Sat 6pm-2:50am
  • Sunday 6pm-12:50am

**Recommendations: Sake

Yeah I’m not even going to pretend that I discovered this on my own. I was introduced to this very hidden gem by my friend and I didn’t even know if it was legal at first. It was so discrete and literally underground and I was looking for an escape route before going in.

Sake Bar Decibel is located in the “J-Town” or “Japanese Town” part of Manhattan in New York, and if you’re a sake connoisseur or sake-lover then this is likely your idea of heaven… although it feels like entering hell.

Gah! Humbadah… hmmm. To be honest I was taken back to memories of Silence of the Lambs. The dungeon like atmosphere almost made me run back upstairs. It was shady. The red lights and androgynous characteristics were excessively hipster or exotically funky Japanese, and I had much more to absorb than the sake alone.

Forget the 100 bottles of beer on the wall! This was over 200 bottles of affordable to premium sake on the wall. It was the most beautiful wallpaper for a sake lover. It was the first thing you saw walking in and just by that I knew it was for serious sake drinkers and that food would become secondary. You come here to drink, eat, and play… and in that order too. I mean just looking at the opening hours: open until 2:50am Mondays-Saturdays, it says it all.

Although the place looks all secret and known to only “insiders”, it was packed. It was packed full of Japanese and then the people who are really into that “Harajuku” Japanese culture. It was expectedly very loud and they don’t take reservations so you have to come pretty early or be pretty patient. I’m not the target market, yet I was infatuated by Sake Bar Decibel nonetheless, but then again I’m infatuated by many things I don’t know much about.

This was only a very small portion of the sake menu. Thank goodness there were English descriptions and names, although the names meant nothing to me. I can’t even guide you through this menu because I’m no sake expert, but I just had to share this place with those who have a passion for sake. I don’t know anything of its kind in Vancouver, BC, although I imagine it would do incredibly well here. It truly embraces authentic sake culture in Japan.

So of course with that much booze there has to be food. I don’t even think there was an “official” chef in house, and the food was being prepared by wait staff, bartenders and anyone with a free hand. Things were being unwrapped from plastic wrap and the microwave was in full use, and none of this was hidden but happening right at the bar. It was no secret, and honestly nobody cared or was just too drunk to care… I didn’t really care either because I already had these expectations. I was there to experience the sake culture and ambiance, not the food.

It was as if Follow Me Foodie to New York became Follow Me Foodie to Japan for that short hour. The food was very traditional of authentic Japanese sake houses and drinking holes. This is what izakaya really is. It’s not a fancy, posh place with innovative offerings, but just a bunch of affordable shared tapas that go great with sake. I actually love the “posh style izakayas”, but if you want a true taste of izakaya and sake bars in Japan, then Sake Bar Decibel will deliver that raw experience.

On the table:

Ura Gasanryu Fuka Sake

  • $10 or $50 for 720mL
  • Clean and well balanced.
  • Steamed soy beans $3


  • Steamed scallop with garlic soy sauce $6
  • I’m pretty sure this was microwaved prepared, and again it’s not about the food here.
  • The scallops were fine for being what they were and prepared the way they were, although including the mussel meat was unexpected.

Decibel Tofu

  • Warmed tofu with dashi soup, tenkasu, bonito flakes and scallion $6

Sake from Robataya Japanese Restaurant across the street from Sake Bar Decibel

If you’re looking for a fancier sake house and a gourmet style of izakaya or robata, then there is Robataya across the street. I had actually just come from Robataya for dinner (see here), so that’s also why I didn’t order or try much food at Sake Bar Decibel.


Decibel on Urbanspoon


  • Jayda Home says:

    oh I so want to do a trip to New York. I can’t believe I’ve never been there. I keep thinking I want to go in the fall……then I want to wait for Christmas…..then I want to go in the spring……. I just have to decide on a season and go! For some reason NY has always seemed kind of romantic to me and I would love to take a trip there for Bruno and my anniversary or something like that. How long were you there for last time? You sure hit a lot of spots….. a culinary quest is so exciting in a city that has so many good restaurants of all types of cuisines and price points. Have you considered doing a culinary journey to Paris? Let me know if you ever do……. We hopefully will be there most of Aug. and Sept. with a quick trip to Morocco and the south of France.

  • Nathan Chan says:

    I’m not usually a huge fan of sake, but I love nigori sake.

  • Linda says:

    Jayda – flights to NYC are super cheap right now!! i think it’s only $349 RT with taxes included via DELTA and maybe even WestJet.. i’m thinking of going to LA after my NYC trip in may because the flights are only $335 RT taxes in! 🙂

    although i’m not a sake fan, the tofu you had at the bar looks so yummy! i guess i’m a little biased lol

  • Jayda Home says:

    Awesome! We are heading down to Dallas next week to pick up a car we purchased and drive it back since it’s such an interesting drive and I’ve not been much in that part of the southwest…… but I think I’ll try to get to NY in April or May before the heat hits….. definitely taking your posts as a dining guide…… better than any Fodor’s or Lonely Planet! haha……

  • Linda says:

    @Jayda – there’s also another special westjet promo code you can use on top of the seat sale:

    Save an extra 15% off* all travel within Canada and to New York via Newark, Chicago, Orange County – Anaheim, San Francisco, New York via La Guardia, Palm Springs.

    To redeem this offer, bookings must be made on Both the Promo code WJC03 and Coupon code 8C8Z3GA are required at time of booking on the first page of the booking process. Seasonal service to New York via Newark and San Francisco starts April 29, 2012. Service to New York via La Guardia starts June 4, 2012. Bookings must be made by March 16, 2012 (9:59 p.m. MT) and travel must occur between March 28, 2012 and June 15, 2012.

  • Mijune says:

    @Jayda – I have posts in Texas too!! i’m so excited if you go to NY! Thank you for reading all the time! Big hug!

  • Jayda Home says:

    Thank you Linda and Mijune! I didn’t realize that you had spent so much time in Austin Texas….. I would love to go there and get BBQ …. supposed to be some of the best in the west! …. alas, this time we are only going to be in Dallas and making our lonnnnngggggg way back to BC. I am actually looking forward to it though…. I’ve never been to Texas, New Mexico, Colorado…etc…. so it will give us a chance to do some exploring. I really appreciate the info. on flights that you both gave me….. here I am at 2:45 in the morning searching for flights to NY….. argh, I’m going to pay for this at 7 when I’m supposed to wake up!

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