2008_01_BENIMOSU.jpgThe “Beer Kir” at Marco Moreira’s 15 East is a Japanese beer-based mixed drink: Sapporo is floated on a shot of honeyed sweet potato vinegar, adding a sweet-sour edge to the dry lager. For the purposes of home experimentation, we found Benímosu ($11.35 for 4 oz.), the same artisanal vinegar used in Beer Kir at Katagiri, a Japanese food store on 59th Street. Made in Kyoto from purple potatoes and koji rice, Benímosu has clean, rounded flavor that’s meant to be added to beer in a 1:5 ratio, which means a 4 ounce bottle of the stuff won’t even last a 6 pack. For more budget beer-vinegar drinks, Katagiri has a whole shelf of (mostly) fruit-based vinegar for cocktail mixing. There’s even one made from sake lees, the unfermentable dregs collected from the bottom of sake brewing tanks.

While the small store may not be decorated with antique fixtures or feature anything remotely resembling vintage, Katagiri’s grocery side (there’s an incense and kimono shop next door) has been in the same spot for 101 years, a piece of old New York food culture founded just 3 years before the cornerstone of the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden was set in Astoria, and 7 whole years before Russ & Daughters started kicking the herring out of Houston Street. It’s worth a visit, even if the place doesn’t steep itself in self-conscious historicity, for hard-to-find fresh shiso, or to sample something from its tiny sushi counter. If you feel like hurting your mouth, pick up a small jar of Yuzu Kosho ($5.39), a super intense all-purpose condiment made from yuzu zest preserved in salt and chili pepper.

Katagiri & Co.
224 East 59th Street
(212) 755-3566