Bon Yagi isn’t Osaka’s latest Bon Jovi cover band. He’s the “mayor of Japantown” who quietly owns, oh, pretty much every Japanese joint in the East Village: Robataya, Decibel, the list goes on.
After a quiet test run last week, he’ll open Hi-Collar tomorrow in the old Rai Rai Ken space (another Yagi venture, now relocated two doors down). The bar-cafe is a slim portal to Japan’s jazz, or “Taisho,” era, when western fashion and food first made inroads – up to a point.
True to its name (a “haikara” was a Japanese person who liked western things, like collared shirts), Hi-Collar’s decor pairs art nouveau light fixtures with traditional shoji sliding panels behind the bar. Plus there’s a bathroom to rival PDT’s (anyone who has experienced the fully automatic, heated toilets at Robataya knows that Mr. Yagi spares no expense when it comes to his commodes.)
The menu is also a mash-up of east and west: by day, specialty coffees, made with beans from the East Village’s Porto Rico Importing Co., are prepared hot and cold in three trendy brewing styles – pour-over, aero-press and siphon – but served in traditional Japanese tea ceremony ware. The lunch menu (below) features a daily pasta with “Japanese touches,” as well as Japanese hot cakes that can be topped with Ciao Bella gelato. By night, there are beers in decorative Japanese cans and a deep sake list.
Operations Manager Sakura Yagi (who doubles as Yagi’s daughter) says Hi-Collar is a family affair. The sweet churro-like snacks called karinto that are served with cold-pressed coffee are made by Yagi’s wife, Tomoko.
If you see any of the Yagis, chat them up. The menu lists the name of items sans description — “to encourage conversations.”
Hi-Collar, 214 East 10th Street, between First and Second Avenues.