Decibel

Japanese Restaurant / Sake Bar
Decibel "The name of this sake bar is louder than its appearance as a flashing ""ON AIR"" sign beckons visitors to venture down the narrow marble staircase at Decibel, a tightly packed and very dark space highlighted by a single bar..." New York United States 40.7292569 -73.987793
3.6 9
Decibel - Japanese Restaurant | Sake Bar in New York.
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Ratings:
Lucas
Adriana
Jonah
Emma

Party Earth Review The name of this sake bar is louder than its appearance as a flashing “ON AIR” sign beckons visitors to venture down the narrow marble staircase at Decibel, a tightly packed and very dark space highlighted by a single... ... read full review

  • Subway:

    4, 5, 6: Astor Place-4th Avenue

  • Phone:

    212–979–2733

  • Links:

  • Hours:

    M–Sa 6pm–2:50am, Su 6pm–12:50am

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth Decibel Review

The Scene

"The name of this sake bar is louder than its appearance as a flashing ""ON AIR"" sign beckons visitors to venture down the narrow marble staircase at Decibel, a tightly packed and very dark space highlighted by a single bar..."

The name of this sake bar is louder than its appearance as a flashing “ON AIR” sign beckons visitors to venture down the narrow marble staircase at Decibel, a tightly packed and very dark space highlighted by a single bar eerily lit with rope lights and decked out in a mix of old Japan and downtown Manhattan.

With its graffiti-scrawled surfaces, waving good luck cat, miniature Gundam, and endless sake bottles, the décor seems straight out of Blade Runner, forming an obscure backdrop for the hip Asian post-grads and American students reliving their Japanese semester abroad as they lounge in branch-adorned booths or squint at the extensive sake list at candlelit cocktail tables.

Japanophiles will find plenty of company among the local design-firm up-and-comers and in-the-know artists and musicians looking to out-cool each other with their grasp of both the language and the pumping Japanese rock music, while neophytes can humbly ask for recommendations from the robed staff.

Although Decibel is definitely more about sake snobs than sake bombs, the blend of delicious bar food, Akira-infused atmosphere, and dark, insular urbanity, creates a Japanese sake bar experience that will delight anyone searching for an authentic night out, no matter how uninitiated they may be.

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Tip from Jonah:

Decibel hosts occasional sake tastings, so be sure to check out the site for upcoming events.

  • Crowd

    Young creative professionals, late-night sake snobs, and college students, 20s to early 30s.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Ambient Japanese electronica and rock.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Traditional sake bar menu including sashimi, small plates, and desserts. Extensive sake menu.

  • Prices

    Snacks $3+, appetizers $4–$7, sashimi $6+, small plates $6, large plates $5–$10, desserts $4. Beer $4+, plum wine $8, cocktails $6+, mixed drinks $7+, soft drinks $4+. Shochu $6+, sake $8–$11/glass or $18–$80+ bottle.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    After-work chic: t-shirts, nice jeans, sneakers, slacks.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for the biggest crowds.

  • Close By

    Sing-Sing Karaoke (9 St. Mark’s Place) is usually packed with crowds of students looking to party.

Decibel User Reviews

Average rating:
Decibel
Gor G. Jun 10, 2013
Decibel is perhaps the only NYC izakaya that doesn't really operate as an izakaya. There are others, for sure, that feel more like Japanese restaurants without the strong drinking culture that "izakaya" implies. However, it's not hard to visit any of those izakayas and have an izakaya experience, but the other customers may not be quite so engaged. Decibel swings in the opposite direction. Walking into the subterranean space it is immediately obvious that alcohol is the star here. A wall of sake bottles lines the wall behind the bar. There are no tables in the first room. The focus is entirely on drinking. This sets the tone for the entire place. If you're fortunate enough to walk in when there's not a line, you're lead under a rustic rope into the back room, a space easily 3-4 times larger than the front room. Another bar dominates the center with plenty of small tables and a few booths rounding out the area. The dim lighting turns everything red. This lends itself to privacy (look around - there may be someone you recognize at another table), but also changes the vibe from what you'd get at a typical izakaya, which is well lit so you can see your food. The sake list is extensive. the shochu list is one of the best in the city. Plenty of beer and other drinks too. The food menu is interesting - a combination of snack chips and small plates. Where the wheels come off just a little bit is that the food is an afterthought. Many izakayas, even down and dirty ones like you'll find in other parts of the East Village, clearly put a lot of thought into their food. At Decibel it feels like they have a food menu, because they're expected to. Not because they want to. In fact, the waitstaff rarely asks if we want anything to eat. As a result, Decibel is usually the 2nd or 3rd stop on an izakaya crawl. That's not a bad thing, it just doesn't make it into the rotation of places to have dinner and hang out with friends for hours on end. Instead it's a nightcap spot when I'm not in the mood for a cocktail.
Don't Overlook the Food at Decibel
Anna G. Feb 20, 2013
Yes, Decibel is a great tiny little hole-in-the-wall sake bar, but no joke, the veggie/tofu udon is the best udon in the city, hands-down. Another cool secret? The lychee martinis. I would never typically drink these in any public (or even private) scenario, but their vodka lychee martinis have just the right level of strength and thankfully skimp on the sugar so you don't feel so much like a Sex and the City-style relic. Also -- on the food, don't be afraid to try their lotus root appetizer -- it's way better than you'd imagine. My only complaint about Decibel is that they try and pack a little too many people for such a tiny space. I'd skip this place if you're planning on a first date -- might be a bit awkward to be literally an inch away from the back of someone's head If you get there right at eight, though you'll be sure to snag a spot and not have to wait in line for too long if at all.
Hidden Gem
Mark S. Dec 12, 2012
If you like sake and good japanese food check out this place. Great food, great service, friendly bartenders and a good selection of sake. This is really good food at really reasonable prices, and its open pretty late to boot. In an area saturated by bars and restaurants, I find myself coming back here again and again. Whether I come in barely able to stand due to inebriation, or sober as a bird (I never got that saying, just saying) I always leave with a smile on my face. Try not to miss the easiy to miss entrance, and you won't be sorry.
Is this part of the test?
Chris K. Nov 15, 2012
If you love weird Japanese food, cold sake, and Blade Runner, then by all means swing by Decibel. This gritty basement joint has all of the graffiti, giant robot toys, and Neko cats of a Neo Tokyo bar right before Tetsuo comes flying through with his weird penis-meat arm. The food can be touch and go--your basic Japanese food like gyoza and edamame goes over well, but some of the weirder dishes and the "fillings," as they're called, can be kind of fishy and overwhelming. My advice is to do a little research--the staff definitely don't speak English as a first language--and come in ready to order. Definitely roll through, though, for the atmosphere alone.
Solution to all my East Village Problems
Risa C. Aug 28, 2012
5 Reasons I always end up at Decibel 1) They solve the problem of not drinking on an empty stomach/not continuing to drink without weighing down the alcohol with a bit of delicious food 2) The staff is awesome. Every time I've stumbled in there late night I've somehow walked out bowing to my new waiter/bartender friend and wake up with hand drawn maps and phone numbers of bars I need to check out next time I'm in Osaka 3) My out of town friends love the ambiance of being in a semi-hidden bar 4) The sake selection is extensive, the beers are cold, and the cocktails are tasty and everything's reasonably priced 5) Seriously, what more do you need other than good drinks, food, service and ambiance....just go already!
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