Real talent doesn’t shout. Real talent is understated, elegant and – in the case of Bar Goto – delicious. And that’s all down to Kenta Goto, owner and bartender extraordinaire. Having honed his cocktail-making skills for years at Pegu Club, he’s now unleashed a quiet cocktail revolution in Lower Manhattan, making a strong case for more owner-bartender joints in the city. This is where those in the industry (not to mention all the newly-initiated Bar Goto devotees) go for a drink and a bite to eat. So, since it’s first-come-first-served, it’s best to get there early, if you can.
The main cocktail menu is 10-strong, including the rightly-popular Sakura Martini, which swirls together sake, gin and maraschino cherry liqueur and lightly floats a cherry blossom onto the finished drink as a garnish. The Improved Shochu Cocktail (Barley Shochu, Bison Grass vodka, and Douglas Fir), meanwhile, is pure and fine, served in a wooden box, and a delight down to the last drop. Added to that is a small additional menu of seasonal specials, like the Shinsu Highball, which goes to show that even something as simple as Japanese blended whiskey and soda can be elevated to great heights in Goto’s hands.
For those who’ve worked up an appetite, Bar Goto serves up a curated collection of Japanese comfort food alongside the masterful drinks, of which there’s also sake, wine, and Japanese beer. Sat in the warm, amber glow of Bar Goto, with its wooden furniture and clean lines, diners can order dishes like chicken wings, which are served with black sesame, spring onions and a house-made spicy miso sauce (it’s truly finger-licking chicken). And Gobo French Fries (actually fried Japanese burdock roots sprinkled and kicked up a few flavour notches with a double whammy of red chili salt and wasabi salt). Not to mention pick from a whole range of okonomi-yaki (savoury pancakes). Here, the plates may be small in size, but they’re hugely popular. And for good reason.