In Sant'Agostino area since 2016 you will find the first "sake house" in Italy called Sakeya, a project by Luigi Ferraboschi and Maiko Takashima (former founders of Sake Company).
The place, simply wonderful, is reminiscent in all respects of the typical style of Japanese cocktail bars, those that can be visited in Ginza and Roppongi in Tokyo or Kyoto.
Japanese cocktail bars are a reinterpretation of US cocktail bars from Prohibition and the just preceding period.
The end of the 19th century represented the golden age of cocktails in the USA thanks to Jerry Thomas and the classic pre-Prohibition drinks. This period overlapped with the Meiji era (known for Japan opening up to the West after 200 years of total closure). Many American ambassadors went to Japan at the time and, among the various exchanges, there was also the introduction of cocktails in the Land of the Rising Sun - the emperor used to entertain his guests with these alcoholic novelties.
Over time, the culture of bartending in Japan has crystallized and fetishized: Japanese cocktail bars have a 1920s and 30s style both in the furnishings (large use of wood, vintage glassware and elegant staff in white shirts, suspenders and jacket), which in the style of drinks, whose craftsmanship has reached the highest levels - so much so that the world of Japanese cocktails is very closed, does not communicate with the outside and has indeed become fixed.
This is precisely the environment of Sakeya, like a Japanese speakeasy dedicated to the world of Japanese spirits: whiskey, gin, shochu, awamori, cocktails (perfect to be consumed at the small bar counter) and of course sake (over 150 labels from 47 prefectures of Japan).
Here everything is designed to best enjoy the experience of drinking and food pairing, so let yourself be guided by the advice of the well-trained sake sommelier, as well as the perfect host, Yasumasa Yamasaki.
The menu, in rice paper and with Hokusai-style engravings, has a cooking style that strongly recalls that of Kyoto, based on the territory and seasonality of the ingredients (the term "obanzai", present at the beginning of the menu, indicates precisely this traditional style).
It is possible to opt for two tasting menus (for five or six to bring) to be combined with a sake path, or for individual à la carte dishes.
To start, I recommend you order wagyu tataki (seared A5 quality Wagyu sashimi, daikon and carrot salad, low temperature cooked egg and spicy sauce), you will be impressed by the goodness of the meat.
Then it absolutely cannot be missed kushiyaki, the skewers cooked on hot coal. I opted for the mix which includes six different skewers: momo (chicken leg), tsukune (chicken meatballs in teriyaki sauce), bacon tomato (cherry tomato wrapped in a slice of bacon), salmon (salmon in teriyaki sauce) ), kinoko (mushrooms in buttered soy sauce) and kabocha (pumpkin in buttered soy sauce). The smell of embers is evident but never invasive, a real delight!
Followed by the specialties of chef Masaki Inoguchi, all extremely inviting. The choice falls on Yaki tako (octopus confit cooked in three phases, pumpkin puree flavored with masala, purple sweet potato chips): I think I have never eaten an octopus cooked so well in my life, simply sublime.
Do not miss shime domburi (rice with low temperature cooked egg, leek and teriyaki sauce) with unagi (grilled eel with teriyaki sauce), one of the best unagi don ever eaten in Milan!
The rest of the menu is a triumph of delights: gindara, Iberian miso nikomi, goma hirasama and chirashi sushi - all very good reasons to go back and enjoy them as soon as possible.
The dessert menu is a triumph (for each choice you can combine a glass of sake or umeshu): uji matcha anko (matcha tea ice cream, anko cream, yuzu jam, meringue, kinako), younashi harumaki (stuffed fried roll pear, gorgonzola ice cream, pistachio crumble, truffle honey), kuri hiroi (tofu and coconut milk ice cream, chestnut cream, candied brown, chestnut crumble and toasted hojicha tea, dried plums, pasta chips with chocolate) and wagashi no miriawase (selection of traditional sweets: dorayaki, kasutera and mochi). I recommend you try them all, they are truly sublime. Rarely do you find such refined, delicate and even imaginative desserts in a traditional Japanese restaurant.
My experience at Sakeya was unforgettable: the place allows you to take a journey into space, immersing the customer in the typical Japanese atmosphere of top-level cocktail bars, the staff is impeccable and the cuisine offers a continuous crescendo of delights.
Surely the final bill is very important, but justified by all the attentions answered in every single detail and by the quality of the atmosphere. When you go to the cashier at the end of the evening take a look at the brigade at work in the kitchen (very small and visible), you will be mesmerized by the gestures of the chef and the cooks.
Sakeya is a wonderful place, I don't understand why we never talk about it. Or maybe it's better this way, it should remain a hidden gem, a peaceful place to dine or enjoy a drink at the end of the evening away from the nightlife of the city. After this dinner he became one of the best Japanese restaurants in Milan (according to me).