I have loved Nomikai since it was still Koji Sake Lounge. Due to this unwavering loyalty, I was shocked to see through Twitter of all places, that beloved Koji's was now Nomikai. Why did it need a rebranding? Don't change, I still love you just the way you are; $5 spam musubi and White Rabbits and Bloody Geishas and all. Those last two are names of popular drinks from the Koji days. Partying generations all across
America San Jose will forever be separated by whether they were in the scene when Koji finally changed its name to Nomikai.
Nomikai is a drinking party, mostly for after work or school. So basically, happy hour on steroids! Koji was my go-to happy hour place because I could always depend on cheap, decent eats and light tasty drinks to start the night. It has been a while and I wanted to give their revamped place a try.
I never wrote about Koji before because the photos never ever worked out well here. The lighting was too dim and the seating arrangements were more like Korean bars where each party wanted their own privacy. The chairs at Koji were losing its cushioning and the backs were too high resulting in uncomfortable times at low tables under dark lights. See above that the lighting has improved much and the seating area is more open. They changed the back lighting of the bar to a lighter color.
($5 for happy hour and $7 regular) Mugi Mule - Yokaichi Mugi soju, vodka, housemade ginger syrup, ginger beer, fresh lime juice.
My friend had this soju version of a Moscow Mule. It's not too bad. I usually hate ginger beer but it was light enough in this drink. Quite refreshing.
($5 for happy hour and $7 regular) Coco Berry - Nigori sake, coconut juice, berries, organic agave nectar
From the description, you can tell this drink is very light and fruity. Sake is the only alcohol, just how I like it. Very tasty, I would order it again in a heartbeat. Definitely a great replacement for my old favorite, the White Rabbit.
When I don't know what to order, I ask the wait staff for the "prettiest drink." This was the waitresses recommendation. My friend who ordered the Mugi Mule had asked for the "manliest drink."
($5 for happy hour and $7 regular) Raspberry Bellini - Raspberry sake with sparkling wine and a cherry for color
This was a very straight forward drink, sake and wine with bubbles. Also light and refreshing.
($5 for happy hour and $8 regular) Crispy pork belly with jalapeno - This tasted good but the texture was too dry.
($5 for happy hour and $6 regular) Nori fries with seven spices - This isn't much of a deal from regular price to happy hour. You're only saving a buck and you don't really taste the nori or spices. As a regular plate of fries though, they do the job.
($5 for happy hour and $7 regular) Kimcheese fries - This isn't much of a deal from the nori fries to the kimcheese fries. It's just fries with nacho cheese and kimchi on top. Not a hit, not a miss. If you had to choose based on price, get this one because you get something a bit more special for $5 than you would with the nori fries.
($5 for happy hour and $10 regular) Sweet chili chicken wings with dynamite sauce - The portion size is $5 for 4 wings. In the photo is a plate of 2 portions. I don't know what dynamite sauce is but it's dy-no-mite! These aren't Smoke Eaters good but they were pretty good wings. I would get these again.
($5 for happy hour and $7 regular) Garlic bread + Japanese eggplant spread - Get this dish. It's the best deal out of all I ordered. The spread is rich and creamy, hardly tastes like eggplant but tastes alot like goodness. The garlic bread is not too garlicky or buttery and just toasty.
After Nomikai, we hopped over to my other favorite watering hole, 55 South. I have also never posted about this place because my photos don't turn out well. I asked the bartender for a drink that didn't have gin, whiskey, or tequila. He made me the State of Grace, which I've already had and already like. Is there no other drink on the menu without gin, whiskey, or tequila?
Nomikai Happy Hour:
5:30-8:30PM Weds through Sat
$5 Sake/Soju Cocktails
These hours and days of the week are really convenient for me. Sometimes I wonder what kind of jobs people have that allow them to attend Monday happy hours starting at 3PM. Those people must work in the line of unemployment. Just kidding. I'm jealous I can't leave the office that early. Nomikai works great for me. I can get down with those prices and drinks too. The drinks were tasty and light. This is a problem for some who want a better deal. I get it, more drunk for your buck. But not for me and not on a work night. I'm all about girly drinks that taste like juice and photograph well. The food is a notch better than standard bar food. The portions are small and meant for snacking. The service is good. Your order is taken and served in a timely and friendly manner so that you may make multiple orders to still meet happy hour deadline and then they leave you alone to hang out. All in all, Nomikai is everything I used to love about Koji except slightly different but good. Cleaner and brighter and visually more appealing. I like that it hasn't lost its identity in the rebranding.
Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a $10 gift card for free lunch if you live or work in the Campbell/Los Gatos area.