Where To Drink Now in NYC: Bar Goto

Calpico Fizz, photo Amanda Schuster
Calpico Fizz, photo Amanda Schuster

“That’s a terrible idea,” -No one (when Kenta Goto first started telling people he was opening his own bar.)

In late July, Bar Goto, from former Pegu Club head bartender, Kenta Goto, finally opened its doors on the Lower East Side. The small, modern space is exactly what one would come to expect from him - clean lines, subtle lighting, Japanese-inspired cocktails with exquisite presentation, yummy Japanese style tapas and a tight, but excellent whisky collection on the back bar. Of course with a name like "Goto," translated into English, it seems he was destined to open the next happening spot in New York City. 

Gobo French Fries, photo Amanda Schuster
Gobo French Fries, photo Amanda Schuster

Plenty of new cocktail bars have opened in the past couple of years, especially in that hip downtown neighborhood. However, as expected, this is a different animal entirely. Anyone can make a Sazerac riff, but only Goto would think to make one with Slivovitz for a Plum Sazerac. Calpico is a funky, milky soft drink that only Goto would manage to pull off in a delicious, refreshing and even crave-worthy cocktail with gin, yuzu preserve, lemon and soda, and have the balls to garnish it with a marshmallow (the Calpico Fizz.) Sick of Bloody Marys or think they’re only a brunch cocktail? Then you clearly haven’t tried the Umami Mary with vodka, miso, shiitake, lemon, tomato and Clamato.

Other cocktails are just plain fun to drink. The Far East Side balances sake, tequila, elderflower, lemon and yuzu bitters, set off by a shiso leaf that wafts delicate herbal aromas into the nose as it punctuates the drink and makes it look so pretty. The Watermelon Cucumber Cooler is the perfect summer quaffer, with gin, watermelon, cucumber, lime, lemon and wasabi salt.

For those not drinking cocktails, a small selection of beer (including Yuzu and Sansho Pepper Ales), wine and sake are available to sip. In addition, there is a $10 beer and shot option with Sapporo and a choice of house tequila, bourbon, rye or Scotch.

Far East Side, photo Amanda Schuster
Far East Side, photo Amanda Schuster

For food, the bar menu from chef Kiyo Shinoki, specializes in Okonomi-yaki, savory cabbage pancakes smothered in salty-sweet sauce Goto grew up eating in his mother’s restaurant outside of Tokyo. There’s a choice of meat, seafood, and vegetable combinations, though the clear winner was the grilled cheese version, and there are gluten-free options too. For lighter snacks, opt for pickles, miso chicken wings, octopus sashimi and super additive, well-seasoned Gobo French Fries, made from burdock root and served with dipping spices instead of sauce.

Large front windows look onto Eldridge St., and as the summer winds down and fall dims the lights, I look forward to cozying up to that bar to help with some of that whisky collection and snack on burdock fries.

Vitals

Address:

245 Eldridge Street off of East Houston

New York, NY 10002

212-475-4411

photo by Gabi Porter
photo by Gabi Porter

Website: http://bargoto.com

Hours:

Tues - Thurs and Sunday 5pm - midnight

Fri and Sat 5pm - 2 am

Reservations? No.

Go for: cocktails with elegant touches, sake selection and bar snacks.

Stay for: Whisky and Gobo French Fries and a seat to watch the world go by.