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Hello everyone, ChuToroZuke here! For Volume 1 of The Sake Chronicles, I would like to discuss sake from a high level, what it is about, and why we should drink more of it!

About Japanese sake

Japanese sake is the definitive national alcoholic beverage of Japan. It is deep rooted in history and integral to Japanese food culture, and also used in quite a number of recipes for cooking.
It deserves to be consumed, celebrated and enjoyed for any occassion. With the right sake, the experience of any meal can enhance greatly.
It is also one of the best beverages to have with all styles of food in Japan. Whatever that can go with wine or champagne, sake can do the same job just as well, and in some
cases, much better!

The consumption of sake has unfortunately gone down a lot over the last 10 years, as younger people lose interest and stick with beer or hi-balls (shochu or whiskey cut with ice, water, soda, fruit flavors)
and there is a growing push to have wine and champagne even with traditional Japanese cuisine, as people come into more spending power and have options.
Sake breweries as a result have to change the way they think, produce, and market sake, and thus have to compete with wine, champagne, and other alcoholic beverage to recapture the market, as well as grow market share overseas (e.g. Asia/SE Asia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, USA, Europe/UK/France).

However with that said, you can find both modern and traditional profiles/styles of sake in Japan and outside.

As visitors to Japan, I feel we should try to help the sake industry by exploring sake at any opportunity.
In addition to being delicious, especially with food, bottles of sake are excellent souvenirs and gifts!

What is sake made of?

Sake from a high level, is made with the following components.

1) sake brewing water - water quality differs within each prefecture in Japan, as well as mineral content and softness. Purity and source is important.

2) sake brewing rice - There are a number of sake brewing rice varietals, including regional unique rice for sake in various prefectures across Japan. Each can produce unique flavors, and within that, numerous combinations of layers and textures. Generally rice grains have an exterior covering the center (shinpaku) containing all the vital starch. The more of the exterior that is polished, generally the smoother the sake texture, and more fruitier flavors will result (and generally, the more costly the bottle) When you see something that says 精米步合 on a sake bottle, that refers to "semibuai" which is the rice polish ratio as a percentage. If 80%, it means 20% of the rice grain is polished away (and that is in relation to the total weight of the grain). In the case of for example, Dassai 23, and if it is 23% it means 77% of the grain was polished away.

3) koji mold (in Latin scientific term would be Aspergillus), which is also used to make miso, vinegar, soy sauce and shochu, in addition to sake.

4) yeast - an integral part of the conversion process. Yeast consumes sugar to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. While rice does not contain sugar consumable by yeast,
it is the koji mold mentioned above, that converts the starch in rice to sugar that is consumed by yeast.

Sake is not a wine, but closer to a brew as a result of fermentation of sake rice.

About sake nomenclature and their definitions


When you come across sake, you may see names like Junmai, Ginjo, Junmai Ginjo, Daiginjo, and Junmai Daiginjo.

Junmai grade sake - the kanji for this translates to "pure rice". Meaning this is brewed entirely with rice (as well as water, koji mold, yeast)

Ginjo grade sake - brewed with sake rice, koji, yeast, brewing water, and distilled alcohol is added to produce (and induce) particular aromas and profiles.

However the words and terminologies can mix a bit:

Other useful terminology

Sometimes you will see other specifications on a bottle label. These pieces of information will give you a better idea of a sake's profile based on dryness level, acidity, and alcohol percentage.

Nihonshudo (SMV) - A rating of 0 would typically mean the sake is neutral, it is neither sweet nor dry. However some people debate that nowadays a rating of 3 is considered neutral.
Generally, the higher the number from the neutral point, the dryer the sake. And 0 or below would indicate more sweetness. The sweetness refers to the residual sugar and alcohol in the sake itself.
You could have a sake that is fruity on the nose, aromatic, and a touch of sweetness on the tip of your tongue, but the sake finishes dry and has a higher SMV value.

Acidity - Most sake hover around the 1.3 to 1.5 range. Traditional more labor intensive methods of sake production tend to result in higher acidity levels, reaching values of 1.6 or higher.
Low temperature long term fermentation and storage could bring that number up a little more as well, and the sake will become more full bodied, more structured, and better suited for food pairing,
much like some red wine profiles.

Alcohol percentage - Sake can have alcohol percentages between 12 to 14% to upwards of 16% or higher. Genshu sake, which are produced by not adding additional water in the brewing process, resulting in more concentration, will generally have higher alcohol content. Summer seasonal releases, and more modern style sake, tend to have lighter alcohol percentage, are easier to drink and generally wider appeal.

Things to pay attention to when tasting a sake

OK so now you get a try a glass of something you are curious about! How do you drink it?

These are things to consider and explore when you taste by itself, and with food:

Aromas on the nose - when you are served the sake, the first thing you should do is smell it and savor the aromas. What do you smell?
It could be a little yeasty (fermentation), earthy (grassy, ricey), fruit scents (apple, pear, melon, lychee, banana), or anything that reminds you of other foods or other scents you are familiar with. I once smelled a sake that reminded me of sandwich meat! There is no right or wrong answer, whatever something reminds you of, you might remember something you had before!
Texture - how does the sake feel in your mouth? Is it smooth, rich, well rounded, velvety, plush, or perhaps has a "bite" or kick to it? Try swirling it around your tongue a little to warm it up a little before swallowing. How does it taste now?
Aromas on the tongue - how does the sake taste from the tip of your tongue, to about mid way back (what we can call the mid palate) all the way to the end? Do you sense any variance? Any difference over time and with food?
Finish - when the sake goes down your throat, how does that feel or taste like? Does it prolong, or is it very quick like drinking water? Do you feel any coating remaining on your tongue? Is there an alcoholic burn that you dislike or perhaps enjoy?
Temperature - now re-try the sake very chilled (5 degrees C), lightly chilled 10 to 15 degrees C, room temperature 15 to 25 degrees C and repeat. What's your favorite spot or moment?

I hope this was a helpful start!
Feel free to leave comments or questions :-)

Writer: ChuToroZuke

ChuToroZuke is an avid enthusiast of Japanese cuisine and culture and remembers his first ever sukiyaki experience at the tender age of 6, particularly the magical combination
of dipping sukiyaki beef into raw egg and then chowing it down with a bowl of Japanese rice. However years later in adulthood, a passion ignited with a great explosion one evening 4 years ago, as a result of experiencing a bottle of sake with perfect otsumami and sushi at a favorite restaurant, that was so impactful and memorable. This lead him down a geeky journey of discovering sake as well as rediscovering food with sake. Suddently traveling to Tokyo and dining at various establishments (high end and low end) last few years became a whole lot more exciting, allowing this geek to deep dive and meet other fellow lovers of the beverage (and food of course).
It is with great pleasure and honor that he was invited to contribute to TokyoTableTrip, as a means of giving back to the community and help spread the word and love of sake, and to help promote sake in Japan from overseas.

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Comments Icon comments 20b52f1dd59ace07b92433da2a385e6f7392eb2937032eebc2a0bd0b67c69516 11


I think with Uchida you need to go with seasoned locals. I was not aware Shinof customizations, although if you just stick with the more well known skewers you are already good with sampling. Even their shochu drinks look rather hardcore.

You can check out and their authorized retail shop (I believe outside the brewery) to see their crazy lineup. I think just start with a Shinkame Junmai and perhaps the Shinkame Hikomago Junmai and see how you like it...try both room temperature and heated to 50 C and if the shop is willing, past 50 C. Then explore the Hikomago Junmai Ginjo varietals, then the Hikomago Junmai Daiginjo

The maderia colored sake or true koshu you speak of, are aged differently under different conditions. If you go to Ginza Matsuya basement, they might have verticals of Daruma Masamune koshu spanning the last 30 years or so, and you'll see the gradation of the color shades for each vintage, as well as their higher prices. If you want to experience food pairing with koshu in a koshu specific bar/eatery, highly recommend a visit to Shu Sa Ron in Shinagawa, very close to the station. The cuisine is more western approach, although the servers will be more than glad to recommend. Koshu and braised Japanese beef cheeks with cabbage is quite fantastic with koshu. They will also give you the right glass to enjoy the various koshu with. It can get a bit overwhelming as koshu can sometimes have very high acidity.

I don't speak for OL's but my feeling is that they like to go to drinking establishments that cater more to females, and perhaps have food that is a bit lighter, less greasy, great service, yet fun but not salary man necktie around forehead boisterous. Basically ladies version of male bonding kind of joints but less subdued. But it is also a culture of going to multiple drink places. Maybe a few go in groups of both male and female...but the fun is later in the evening when you see them walking (and you can tell they are super tippsy as they can't walk in a straight line) and you'll know they are completely gone when coworkers have to help them into a taxi....

Kirakutei's owners are also good friends with the master brewer of Jikon (as well as a few of the other breweries) and they have a special relationship with the shop in Tokyo that provides it to them....the likelihood of general public going to the shop and find Jikon to purchase retail is next to zero.

over 2 years ago 1573363583

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Now that we've discussed Uchida more, and I've done a little reading, I definitely think asking to go with a Japanese friend, with leadership qualities, is a good idea. I thought Shimizu was a bit intimidating. But this is really quite a bit moreso.

Thank you for the Shinkame links. The bottle nearby me is indeed a Hikomago junmai daiginjo. Think I'll stop by their shop, and see if they cellar it correctly. Bottle label looks a bit different though. Has a turtle illustration on it. If I can find any of the other varieties, I will try to heat it up myself at home. I have a yukihira pot in my kitchen, and thermometer, so this could be fun.

I think this 'true koshu' aged sake is very interesting, doesn't taste like normally conceived sake at all. I will check out the Ginza Matsuya depachika for it. Don't normally hear that name nowadays, since Mitsukoshi and Isetan kind of take up all the spotlight. Although sampling koshu with the beef cheeks and other dishes you're thinking of sounds good, I am afraid to be the bearer of potentially bad news, as Shu Sa Ron is listed as permanently closed. Perhaps they have moved elsewhere, or it's a mistake.

It's nice to hear that such a party culture exists in Tokyo still. I haven't gone out as much in recent years, late at night. But I would love to end up in a place, where salary workers go wild. Pretty people are always welcome in my vicinity ofcourse, haha. I do draw an obvious visual distinction between the trendy Azabu or Marunouchi crowd vs. Shimbashi workers.
Something that really peaks my curiosity, is when I was staying in Ginza, and latenight I would go for a walk. There are so many private drivers parked outside, of what I assume to be company bosses sneaking out to hostess bars, of which the women in kimono seemed a bit more 'mature'.

I think I'd definitely like to try Kirakutei, though I'm still a bit perplexed by its identity, in cooking both high end dishes and snacks. I wonder if they'd let me step inside for just a few dishes, and a lot of sake. I would also guess that a big component of going to places like this, is the conversation with the owner, and I would be somewhat limited in my ability to converse. And I am all about the exclusive impossible to find bottles, so if I could try some rare Jikon or anything else, that would really make my day.

over 2 years ago 1573549495


Adding a bit of follow up to the above,

I located the umeshu you mentioned, from Niwa No Guisu. It's a green bottle called Otoro. Indeed it's quite pulpy. Fairly nice, very forward on the plums. There is however a slight, almost cough syrup taste to it. I can't compare the bottle condition, since I haven't tried it in Japan. But I would assume it's still in good condition, considering Japanese families soak their ume plums in shochu jars under their house floorboards, and the weather conditions range wildly from cold to hot, plus humidity.
I've found that Umenoyado makes quite decent pulpy aragoshi style umeshu, at that price point. So does Kumejima no Kumesen (pardon if I messed up the name). And this one was my favorite recently, Manzairaku 萬歳楽5年.

I've also just purchased a bottle of the Shinkame Hikomago junmai. Going by your advice, I'm starting from here, before going up to the ginjo and daiginjo levels. The bottle actually suggests warming to 55-60 degrees. I think they ship internationally, as this bottle has english written over it, and is rather poorly stickered to the glass bottle, haha. I'm quite a fan of design, so not having the original label bothers be slightly, but I'm sure the inside should be ok.
I will have to find a place that gives me some leeway on what I'm allowed to do. You might be horrified to know, lots of restaurants in the west actually microwave sake to make it hot. So I will try and locate an izakaya or something that can do it in a hot water pot for me.

This is a side question. But what would you say is the most recently released batch of Jikon junmai daiginjo? The wine store I sometimes visit just received a shipment in a (assumedly) sealed box. It's a 2017 bottle. But we don't know if it came directly from Japan, or was relocated from a store that couldn't sell it. The box has no Japanese lettering on it, which is suspicious, compared to every other box they received. 2017 seems a bit old to me, being it's supposed to be nama? And it costs quite a bit, roughly 20000 yen. I passed on it, being too risky. Though I am considering getting one of their junmai ginjo's, fairly priced at under 5000 yen. However, the 2017 and 2018 dates on these are also a bit old.

over 2 years ago 1573700153
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I believe Shinkame recently released a more limited edition of their Junmai Daiginjo, not the same as the one on the website, but I can't recall why or how it is different.

The Hikomago Junmai baseline was offered at Sushi Kimura before (only as hot sake) and Inomata had a few varieties of Shinkame also for hot sake.

As far as Jikon Junmai Daiginjo, for example the bottle called Nabari usually has a year associated with it. It reflects the brewing year, which typically starts October of a given year and goes into March give or take of the following year. New sake (shinshu). If you get a bottle that say brewing year 2019 and get it in 2020, it's recent. Or it gets abbreviated Japanese style, which you typically shave off the first two digits of the year then add 2 (e.g. if brewed in Oct 2019 start date, the brewing year in two digit format would be's just how it is). Most recent Jikon might be 2018, but new release 2019 could be made available. I'm not entirely sure how they operate with these, and whether they actually do any aging before release (maybe not for the nama sake). If the Jikon you came across says 2017 and it was not aged in sub zero temperatures in cold storage I would not even consider it, even if it were single pasteurized. Too risky...

Wow I had no idea Shusaron had closed! That's a shame.

over 2 years ago 1573845365


Yes, I can't quite tell the difference, being that Shinkame labels all their bottles so differently.
Well, since I have a bottle of the Hikomago junmai now, I don't have to regret not getting the hot sake at Kimura. Plus, it was like 100 degrees out in the summer, and that would be crazy to order hot sake.
The back of the label says, they're based in Magome Hasuda city in Saitama. If you are around there at some point, I would again like to recommend that Kurakawa restaurant, that my friend took me to, in Urawa, Saitama. That chef Kurosaki gave his thumbs up. I think he only served all the sake hot. Food was pretty good too. Interesting fermented items, aged fish, an oyster paste, cheese menchikatsu for the main. Apparently, there's very good unagi at certain times of the year. But clearly, this is a place to go for hot sake. Sorta coincidence that both Shinkame and this restaurant are in Saitama, the hot sake world.

That Jikon is definitely suspicious. I'm not sure exactly how this business operates. Whether they get the left overs, and ship them from Japan to America. As you know, most people aren't that educated in sake, and would fall for it. Lots of 'new money' over hear just like spending on expensive stuff, not knowing the difference in taste, and I think these wine importers know that.

Yes, that restaurant seems to be closed, as far as I can tell. But do keep the suggestions coming! I don't tend to find the places mentioned here easily. For izakayas I don't think are something easy to search for.
Of the recommendations I've jotted down, I'm pretty excited to try Akoya, the seafood izakaya in Ebisu. And that tip to do the L'Effervescence beverage pairing, is something I'm pretty curious about.

over 2 years ago 1573894397
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I actually like Hikomago and regular Shinkame at room temperature. 40 to 45 C if I'm craving it hot but not hotter than that. You can and should experiment to find your favorite sweet spot for it. Wider wine glass is fun in it too.

Thanks for the recommendation on the Saitama restaurant. I'll keep that one in mind for the future!

Give Takasago a try if you come across it, Jikon's other label from the same brewery. Only tasted it once, can't remember too much about it.

over 2 years ago 1573951040


I think I'll try various ways of heating up the Hikomago. A small portion in one cup, quickly in boiling hot water. And another in a water pot that's 45 degrees, and just let the cup get warmer slowly. Since I'm probably sharing with friends, will probably use standard size little sake cups.

Curiously, I checked to see the temperature of the water at onsens, and it seems many places hover around that same temperature. Because I remember seeing movies of people drinking hot sake in the bath. Apparently 45-50 is sort of the recommended temperature of bath water at some ryokans.

I have not seen Jikon's other label, nor a normal Shinkame around here. I tend to bounce around cities on North America's west coast, so it's always different, at the local Japanese markets and wine stores I frequent. But ofcourse, just stepping into a single sake store in Japan, reminds me of how limited the shipments to America are.

I am planning to check out the somewhat famous store Mitsuya Saketen, in Ogikubo. And hopefully, a few other more 'neighborhood' oriented bottle shops, not just the high end ones in Nihombashi, etc... I get quite a kick out of finding these kind of places. Have you been to Tanakaya Liquor store in Meijiro, for example? Places with that vibe, though they focus on spirits and beer.

I also want to try and find some nicer places, you can walk in and have wine/sake, with some snacks. I remember a rather packed one in Kamata, but I'll have to go back to find it. I went to the area for gyoza. That neighborhood seems extremely popular with salarymen, like a quieter Shimbashi.

over 2 years ago 1574050852
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My recommendation is to do this: set aside three to four portions. Take one and chill it, and serve it lightly chilled. Do room temperature for the second, third drink some warmed to 40 to 50 (experiment with 40, 45, 50). Then for the last portion heat it up to beyond 50 (whatever you're comfortable with) then taste it as it comes back down to room temperature and compare with the never heated at room temperature.

There's a place in Ningyocho where the obaasan takes a magnum Hikomago and uses it as a base for hotpot. For oysters I think she uses the nama nigori.

Yup been to Mitsuya. You'll find Shinkame there and other eclectic pursuits. If you're lucky you may find some Shinkame / Hikomago koshu, but make sure you have enough cash on you. Tanakaya I bookmarked but never made it.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, True Sake in SF and Umami Mart in Oakland carry Shinkame Junmai. I believe it's the regular 2 year aged Junmai, but it comes in a green bottle with a simpler labeling (exported version). If you want the 1.8 L you will have to special order it. It's a very costly Junmai but unfortunately that's how much sake costs in the US. If you drop by Soba Ichi in Oakland, you can order Shinkame by the glass (cold or warmed) and also nearby Den Sake Brewery (local sake). Hinodeya which is a ramen shop from Saitama that specializes in katsuo dashi ramen, in San Francisco Japantown, also carries Shinkame by the glass or bottle.

Hikomago and Shinkame Junmai has very high acidity, you'll want to pair with a wider range of versatile izakaya fare. Chinmi, nimono, yakitori, deep fried, and most beef dishes would work great. If with sushi it probably needs to be some really heavy duty flavors, which is why Inomata carries it (don't know of recent reports though) but mostly is served hot (you could ask for room temperature).

over 2 years ago 1574063195


Ok, I can try to do that. Hikomago at 4 different temperatures. Very fun stuff. Hope I don't mess up the heat.

The Ningyocho hot pot is entirely sake, rather than water? That's the first time I've really heard of that. It does sound good though, oysters simmered in nigori sake. To a westerner, this is really creative, out of the box thinking.

Just to throw this out there, because I just thought of it. My friend from a while ago, she bathes in a bathtub, partially filling it with sake, to benefit the skin. Apparently hot sake is also a beauty technique!

I'm quite excited to be trying these cult fan sake stores like Mitsuya. Looking forward to if they have any unusual offerings. I'll take note to have cash on hand. More importantly, I learned my lesson, that it's not easy to carry around a heavy bottle of sake, if the day is just starting. Also to have some way to keep it cold. One time, I stayed at a hotel, and they were kind enough to properly refrigerate the large bottle of sake I bought, for the duration of my stay.

If I go to SF soon, I'll check those out. I did note, that for some reason, Shinkame exports their bottles with really sloppily labeled stickers. Sounds like they have a rather strong presence in the US.
You're right about sake costing a premium here. At a high profile wine store in LA, the head buyer told me they could bring in Juyondai, before anyone really knew about it. The entry level tokubetsu honjozo was already priced at over $700.
Surprisingly, even the Japanese supermarkets occasionally have some worth looking at selections. Mitsuwa especially. But also Marukai (which is owned by Don Quijote).

If I'm getting something like Shinkame/Hikomago, it probably excites me more to try it hot. I rather like little chinmi snacks, particularly karasumi. Little bite sized dishes seems to just be easier with hot sake.
It seems though, I have an inclination towards ordering hot soup type dishes, usually the heartier/heavier kind, and those pretty much don't pair with any alcohol, to my tastes. At that point, I switch to cold oolong tea.
If I'm eating sushi or sashimi, I pretty much only ever get sake very cold. I would actually be interested in hearing more often, who has the most interesting nihonshu pairing program, at sushi restaurants in Tokyo. Aside from the places we've already mentioned.

over 2 years ago 1574224769
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For Marukai LA the Japantown location is going to shock a lot of sake industry folks, as when I visited in September it was over 32 C outside and inside the air conditioning was barely working. A lot of sake just sat on the shelves baking... The one on Melrose on the west side seemed just a touch better, but nothing super eclectic (they mostly only use one distributor or two).

I've heard about the sake in bath technique, but can't confirm how effective that really is. There are products made with sake kasu (lees) and Denshu I believe makes a facial mask with it. Some breweries make soap with it that is supposed to be good for the skin and help a little with anti-aging (or so they claim). The best use of sake kasu I've had was interesting in a French style chiffon cake that was super marvelous (paired with locally grown fruit). Cheesecake also makes sense to an extent.

Hotpot and nigori sake (nama nigori) seems to be an industry combo (especially if a bit spicy). I guess it's the pseudo acid vs yogurt effect. For oyster hotpot I suppose it's a substitute and enhancement in a weird way using a heavy duty nigori nama like Shinkame, vs soymilk.

Have fun at Mitsuya! They also sell some wine and other foreign liquors, canned foods/dried goods that would be good otsumami. Quite a few 1.8 L bottles too and you'll definitely find Shinkame and Hikomago there (humbler selection but enough to keep you curious). Enjoy!

over 2 years ago 1574273469


I did notice that, Marukai in downtown LA puts all its sake on a shelf in the middle of the room. The Torrance location is the main one. But after the recent corporate shuffling, it's lost its character. It used to be a really fun place, with condensed aisles, like the feeling of walking around a library. But now, they've opened it up, and it's no better than a standard grocery store. Worth mentioning is how Don Quijote now owns them, and has also rebranded their other locations as Tokyo Central. The Orange County locations are actually rather impressive. They even get new crop rice from obscure farms. Although again, only certain sake are refrigerated, while it's curious that the more rare bottles sit on shelves.

I'm pretty sure sake bath is either a secret only the experienced really know, or it's a placebo... Luckily, not to horrify you, she was using some lower grade sake for her bath, like Gekkeikan, not Juyondai, haha.
Denshu is pretty smart to be thinking outside the box, with beauty products. Finding a way to monetize the waste of the leftover sake lees is smart. And a good way to brand yourself outside the beverage market.
For me, I still like hearing when a sushi chef puts sake lees in his shari. Using it in a dessert sounds rather avant garde. I can't quite remember if I've seen it in any dessert but ice cream.

I'll try ordering a nigori next time I eat hot pot. It's been actually a very long time since I've touched nigori at all. That sake oyster hot pot is seriously intriguing, and I don't think I will ever see it in this lifetime, haha. I've taken note of the izakayas you recommended me, so maybe I'll come across something like that.

I will certainly have fun browsing Mitsuya. And after all this discussion with you, I am heavily in the awareness of trying to transport bottles at their optimum temperature. Will need to bring a carrying device.
Do you have more recommendations for special sake stores? Moreso on the 'indie 'scene', rather than large chains. I'm looking at a few right now... Aji no Machidaya in Nakano. Sasaki Saketen in Ningyocho. A tasting bar with bottles to go, Ginza Kengyo. Kurand Sake Market also sounds like a fun concept, I guess for a more affordable entry level? And something way out in Yokohama, called Kimijimaya.

over 2 years ago 1574330018
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You've named quite a few good ones I would have recommended already for the indie sake shops. Kimijimaya has locations in Ginza and the one in Ebisu in the Atre building (I think it's west wing) is a more comfortable wider/newer space, and both these locations have tasting bars but the menu is only in Japanese. One last one to visit: Suzuden which is literally right next door to Sushi Sho Honten in Yotsuya. Hit the basement and check the walkin freezers too, although there's probably more 1.8 L than 720 mL bottles.

over 2 years ago 1574361623


Ok. I will check out the Ebisu Kimijimaya location! I quite like how Atre runs their train stop department buildings.
Suzuden appears more to be an actual restaurant, more than a store? I'll take a look if I'm around.

A few places I like... There's a liquor shop in Akasaka, 赤坂四方 (Yomo). I walk around there at night on almost every trip, and I enjoy browsing this store. Not sure what you would say are the standards, but their fridge selection seemed pretty exciting to me.
There's also this particular shop in Shibuya, west of the crossing. I don't recall the name. But it's run by a funny old man, who's missing a few teeth, and hard of hearing. I quite like the place, as he amuses me, and is very friendly.

What is your usual approach? Do you have a few usual shops you stop by, or is it pretty random, when you buy sake to take back home?

Let's continue this sake conversation, as more ideas come up. I will be reviewing everything you've posted here.

Curious as to what your next article will be on.

over 2 years ago 1574508075
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Suzuden has an adjacent eatery that sells small plates food.... in fact this mention is part of the next article (but not sure when it will get published)... the eatery keeps different hours than the shop, I've never been but is worth checking out. Never been to two of the places you mentioned, there are way too many.

Don't really have a strategy each time, it's more dependent on what I want to buy each visit and that might change once I hit the ground. Sometimes dictated by what I've tasted in the past, what I didn't get to previous trips, maybe repeat buying one particular producer (or try their other eclectic / seasonal offerings), or okamisan from a restaurant recommends something that I really want to buy and bring back as a souvenir. Never enough luggage space and far too many choices. Sometimes you go to a shop and find something that either you didn't think about getting before, or you find something you didn't know existed. Or you're so fixated on one producer you want to try quite a few. Then once you know what you want to buy, to figure out which shop carries which producers that have what you need. I guess for yourself and for others, it's best to make a wider list, keep an open mind, and get what you are able to as well as make some trade offs on types/styles.

over 2 years ago 1574577719


Sounds good! Look forward to the read about that shop.
I agree, it is somewhat daunting to record all the different sake stores hidden around town, when you take into account all the lesser known neighborhood ones. Nevertheless, I will try to draw a map for myself, and cover as much ground I can.

I will try to take your more 'on the go' approach, with an open mind, as I familiarize myself with new sake. And I'm sure I will run into the same problem, of becoming too interested in too many, and no place to put them.
Certainly this time, I'm going into it more educated thanks to your help, and that my understanding of this field is much better than before. I think I grasp the pairing of sake and food far better now.

One probably can't help wanting to pick more bragworthy things, over lesser known ones. But I think, I am transitioning into relying less on the brand label, and drawn towards particular special taste.

over 2 years ago 1574665062
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When buying sake as souvenirs, assuming you've tasted them, think about whether it is for yourself only, or if you plan on sharing with others (and think about what they might like or not), then consider what food you want to eat with (or where you will pay corkage to enjoy it to get the most out of it), or are you buying something nice just to enjoy by itself regardless of whether the food will pair or not; this could be the case for some of the highly sought after high end sake in which case might as well take it to fine dining of any sort (unless it's greasy/oily like tempura). If enjoying multiple bottles think about at what point in the meal do you open your bottle. This has served me pretty well when considering my purchases. Lower end like Junmai, Junmai Ginjo are versatile enough to pair with a wider range and thus do not have this problem. Work in a nama or two (or single pasteurized) if you can. Don't forget those fun individual portioned "one cup sake" which Aji No Machidaya is supposed to have the best selection in town (which is also where Standing Bar Buri in Ebisu gets most or all of theirs from, in which they also serve Euro influenced gastropub fare, as well as some Japanese whiskey). Usually the one cups are from Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, or Honjozo (could also be Futsushu), great for on the go or smuggling into movie theaters.

over 2 years ago 1574710175


Not sure if all bottles I bring back, would be something I've tasted. I'm pretty sure, unless I come across it in a restaurant, or the store gives me a pour, that Toyobijin I will be getting blind. Hasegawa seems like a reliable source, if my neighborhood indie hunt doesn't come across it.

I think within my social reach of people, I probably would be more knowledgeable in sake (though that's not much compared to Japan locals), and would be the one to introduce people to new ideas in how they see sake. As you might already know, many people in North America know very little beyond Kubota Manju and Dassai, when it comes to their concept of special occasion sake. And as we've discussed with the hot sake topic, most people feel they might as well pay less anyways, thinking the heat brings all sake down to the same level, which is not true.
So I buy, with myself as the criteria of good taste in mind, haha. And I think about what special restaurant I might go, or if a certain bottle might be a valuable and memorable experience to someone that I invite.

After all this discussion, I do think I will attempt to pair some sake with food. You seem to be very experienced in knowing what dishes go with what. My knowledge of pairing drinks isn't so vast, beyond things like foie gras with sauternes for instance. I have it pretty hammered into my head, that nothing pairs better with cold elegant sake than sashimi. Though I'm starting to expand on that.
I do consider what course the bottle is opening at. Though there have been times, when I couldn't wait any longer, and it gets opened way before it's supposed to. Heh.

I am particularly excited about finding some good nama sake, and trying them at optimal freshness. Perhaps I'll bring some back, though the process of keeping them at the highest state seems to be a pain, when you consider transit back to hotel, chilling with ice if a hot day, storing it during my stay, transit during the plane, cushioning... Seems a lot too consider.

I know very little about one cup sake, aside from the obviously most famous one Ozeki. I see their product placements in tv shows quite a bit. I didn't actually know there's so many brands of one cup sake. Honestly, I'm not opposed to smuggling in an entire giant bottle of liquor into a movie theater! I've gotten away with bringing in steak and pasta on occasion. A sushi platter and 720ml daiginjo is not out of the question, haha. But maybe US movie theaters are far less strict than Japan. The teenage staff will usually turn a blind eye.

over 2 years ago 1574836027
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Food pairing with sake can be hit and miss. The more you drink it with a variety of food and also outside of Japanese food (izakaya fare is a fantastic start and safest/easiest, then venture into fusion izakaya fare where Western cuisine elements are incorporated) the better you will get at it. In the end it's still just instinct but sometimes you can end up being wrong (as I have quite a few times) despite your best guess. Especially true when you haven't tasted an exported version of a sake which could have changed since it left Japan. Then there are restaurants no matter what sake you bring, you can't force the pairing (sometimes because the food is just no good haha).

You would be surprised how well certain sake pair so naturally with say, Italian cuisine (especially seafood pasta), or dry higher acidity Junmai Daiginjo with something as simple as whipped butter. A Junmai Kimoto works nicely with a VPN Margherita pizza. Kenbishi Mizuho (aged 5 to 8 years) with very high acidity is fantastic with charcuterie (especially the fatty porky meats like salami, head cheese, porchetta, lardo). Some of these are rather basic (much like wine pairings where you use astringency and acidity but mostly tannins to cut into fat), it's the out of the box pairings that are very hard to grasp.

A friend is in Japan now and she sent me a photo of a new top of the line Toyo Bijin, it's a blue bottle I've never seen before and just slightly higher in price than Ichiban Matoi Junmai Daiginjo. Might be a seasonal release but I'm sure it's really good. I believe the Toyo Bijin Junmai Ginjo Karakuchi (red label) is now available / exported to the US but only in certain markets...they're going through a distributor that deals with wine and they impose a higher cost than a Japanese importer that doesn't deal in wine. The white label non dry Junmai Ginjo seems to be the one to get as I'm seeing several sough after Tokyo sushi restaurants I'm dying to try, actually carry it in their beverage pairing.

over 2 years ago 1574895070


I guess I have to just eat more with pairings to get further experienced in it, and natural at spotting things. In some cases, if I'm already planning to bring a bottle out to dinner, I just wish for the best, and hope I can time it to the right dishes.
I have experienced what it's like to try a bottle of something (beer, wine, cider...), but opening a second bottle much later, it not longer tastes the same. Not necessarily sake, but I suppose I will run into the same challenge here too.

If the food is no good, do you sometimes give up on opening the bottle, and wait until the next time?

I actually can't mentally picture sake going with Italian too well, in my head, haha. I eat a lot of tomato based dishes. But I get the seafood one. And probably clam linguine 'vongole'! And I've definitely tried certain little dishes at standing sake bars, that sort of resemble whipped butter. Sometimes it's more a cheese or spread. There's a trend lately I've come across: whipped beef tallow, in place of butter. Seems to be catching on.
Sake with pizza is a thought I've never had. But I'm starting to see different beverages served with neopolitan pizza, not just a beer and soda. Especially if you go into the realm of white sauce, anchovies, and with an egg on top. I think Pizza Studio Tamaki is a good place to do something like that. He is very interesting, and expresses interest in experimenting with different drinks. Over here, the popular drink nowadays at any Italian place, is the cocktail negroni, or its variations using Campari/Aperol. Now that I think of it, if there's a decent champagne sparkling style sake out there, I would enjoy it with pizza.

That Kenbishi sake is quite famous right? I can definitely get this one easily! And yep, I do like head cheese, lardo, most charcuterie, etc... I really like that prosciutto wrapped around a bread stick. On this topic a bit, have you eaten at Pellegrino? I sat at the ham bar of a restaurant one day, and realized it's quite similar to what I imagine in pictures there. Same ham slicing machine.

I'm getting more careful at balancing acidity and such, with wine/sake paired with the right/wrong food. Probably I'm not advanced enough to mentally come up with creative ideas, as to what weird 'out of the box' foods could go with what sake. But from what I've seen so far at different places with odd food, it seems it's all fair game. At least I think most people know when something doesn't pair, because it tastes unpleasant, and you discover you shouldn't have eaten that. Sometimes I think this is why it's much better to leave a set course and pairing in the hands of the chef and sommelier, rather than order ala carte. The most common error I keep making, is eating something too sweet, and forgetting about my glass on the table.

I think the Toyo Bijin you recommended me before is a white label, with red script character? I see they have many different types of labels. Even a red font on blue sticker, and an all black bottle. Will get very lost trying to find out the differences. I will keep an eye out for that non dry white label. Hope I get to try a few on my next trip. I recall that their bottles are pretty big.
What sushi restaurants with strong sake pairings, are you excited to return, or try for the first time? We've spoken in depth on Kurosaki. I remember Amamoto paid rather close attention in describing sakes to his guests. I would like to perhaps know more about Japanese restaurants with an interesting approach to the beverage program, with unique personality. I think I commented in the past on my experience at Ichita, and the surprisingly good selection he had. I used to not really look at that 'drink' tab in the Tabelog photo gallery section. But I think I will be doing so from now on!

over 2 years ago 1575019613


I no longer have the URLs but if you type in the Japanese name of Uchida and then the Japanese characters for strategy and then motsuyaki into google search you will find maybe a few blogs that really detail the rules. I had them bookmarked on my phone ready to check them out, but was a bit worried about falling ill with food poisoning (you never know with these things) before a trip to Hyogo prefecture.

Shinkame is probably one of the most otaku level sake out there, but if you ever get the chance try their second label Hikomago (grandchild), aged an additional year (2 for Shinkame vs 3 for Hikomago) and the resulting smoothness and complexity is ridiculously good. Some of these really dedicated traditional old school non celebrity breweries make sake that are so good that I think some of their top of the line offerings could give celebrity sake a run for their money and even pair better with food (and also at a fraction of the cost). I'm dying to try Shinkame Junmai Daiginjo and some of their crazy 10+ year aged koshu lineup, but those you will have to trek to Saitama prefecture to get it.

I think your chances of hitting a pretty decent izakaya or drinking hole in Shinbashi are far better than if you were to go to places like Ebisu Yokocho which is more for youngsters grabbing quick bites and moving on. As my friend used to say, if in Shinbashi just follow the salarymen, unless you want to scout out the OL's for eye candy haha but the venues they go to may be a bit different in vibe.

Kirakutei is excellent. Subjective but if you liked Kurosaki you will enjoy Kirakutei (the owners are very good friends with each other). It's an upscale kappo izakaya, super chill vibe. Chef's English is very limited although okami san speaks a little more (she's awesome too). Their sake is a bit lighter bodied but there are some very fun surprises, and some cult sake as well. Some don't like the place because for the same money you could eat a mid tier kaiseki restaurant, but others love this more casual relaxing format.

There are other neighborhoods much further out that are a lot of fun. Sangenjaya in Setagaya ward is completely unexplored territory for a lot of great local fun, but it's not for those who are uncomfortable wandering into a place where servers don't speak English and no English menu at all.

over 2 years ago 1573150365

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I took a look at it. I googled 宇ち多 戦略 and translated the page. I did not realize so many items can be customized, and that lots of it are raw, and off menu. Really feels like an intimidating place. But maybe I'll have a Japanese friend look over the 'strategy guide', and we can attempt to try it. There was no line last time I went. But the place is really busy, despite the rest of the hallway being fairly empty.

Are you talking about Shinkame 'Hikomago junmai daiginjo? Or is it just under the regular Shinkame name. If so, I might be within reach of a bottle, and maybe should take a look.
I do like 10+ year aged sake quite a bit, when it turns really brown. Really interesting earthy taste. Not every day, but it's nice occasionally. Reminds me of madeira.

Yea, I've walked through Ebisu yokocho, but never really stayed. The surrounding streets are more interesting to me. The main intersection reminded me of Takadanobaba (?), I think there's a drinking alley there? Tokyo is so huge, it's hard to remember some of the places I've been, and how to revisit places, when I forget where they are. But I would love to map out every yokocho in the city, as I've done so for mostly all the central ones.
I think my main issue walking around salaryman neighborhoods is, I don't want to make a mistake, in case it doesn't taste good. So I've sometimes not walked into any place, just wandering around Shimbashi. But I do like when it pays off. So much variety in that area. Japanese breakast, with pickles and fish... spaghetti napolitan. The gyoza shop on the second floor I wandered into was pretty rowdy and fun.
I would love to know where these OL go... haha. Probably not quite 'serious gourmet' spots I'd imagine.

Kirakutei does look interesting, but like you said, some of the dishes remind me of a kaiseki restaurant, and the prices reflect that. Lots of Jikon I see. I notice it's the highest rated actual izakaya in the Tokyo area on Tabelog. Maybe if I really want to have that upscale sake and snacks night, I will do it. And Kurosaki seems to have quite good taste, so I'd imagine it's a good place. He seems to be friends with quite a few well known chefs?

Last time, we scoured Kita Senju and Sangenjaya, which is a place full of surprises. My friend took me into a place called Sai 采. Was really a blast. Their sake menu is so organized, into 4 types of tastes, and they serve you from giant bottles out of one of their fridges. We were standing at a small table, not at the main counter, but in some ways, was probably a better experience. Some of the little dishes were so unusual, I couldn't even figure out what it was.
And noted, a lot of these places are really a challenge for a non-local. Another place around the corner served us 5 types of raw chicken, and threw in horse for good measure. And then a whisky bar, called Pond, with a ridiculous selection of bottles. In the daytime, I even like the bakery Signifiant Signifie. Probably the best of this type of bread I've tried anywhere.

over 2 years ago 1573286957



Not entirely...while there are some unicorn and harder to find sake, some of them (like Tatsuriki) are relatively easier to find. The idea is that if you come across any of the 16 at a restaurant (not Tatsuriki though), order a glass and give it a try. Especially true if it is a unicorn sake and you're willing to splurge 3000+ yen on a glass of Juyondai, and is probably a unique bottling you cannot get anywhere else.

Also no restaurant will carry all of the 16. The big problem is that there are so many sake out there and no shop tends to carry a brewery's complete portfolio (just like in the wine world). There are some breweries in the suburbs where the everyday kind of sake (honjozo, futsushu) are not sent out to Tokyo a way they are very local sake but absolutely spendid and dirt dirt cheap, like less than 1800 yen for a 720 mL bottle if a honjozo that's only available in the area where the brewery is, or a one cup sake version of it. Then some sake breweries do limited production of certain bottles because they want to play around with a different sake rice, or a different recipe altogether....then another variation, and sometimes it isn't archived and you don't see pictures of it on the internet. Think of it like table wine. Some are just absolutely splendid and pair spectacularly with local food. Hence "what grows together goes together" holds true especially in rural Japan. Although the term "terroir" is a bit debatable with wine folks in the sake world...but the concept is there.

Zaku has maybe three bottles through Mutual Trading (you mentioned New York) but they are the lower end. I have not tried them yet.

Ichita is where I tasted Denshu Junmai Daiginjo 45. Tabelog listings have beverage pictures uploaded by users, and you can always inquire about the availability of a bottle with the restaurant. Otherwise if you just ask them for sake they will pour at random. Ichita has Juyondai as well, but I find that Juyondai has a very limited and specific pairing range.... pretty much appetizer/apertif level, and if there are sweet and sour components (like a sunomono) with some texture or crunch from say, something like tobiko. Otherwise it's a waste at most sushi restaurants and quite a few izakaya. I've had the 2nd or 3rd from the top of the line (Shichitare Nijyukan) from a 1.8L bottle at Namba Hibiya, and I have to give them credit for using a Burgundy glass which allowed the sake to breathe quicker. Fantastic sipper/apertif, and perhaps it's like having a Domaine Leflaive Grand Cru with a lot of age (or Coche Dury)....but I think the money or black market pricing on Juyondai is better spent on a white Burgundy cellar selection. All Juyondai are nama or single pasteurized, but many wine collectors don't realize this and just keep it at cellar temperature. At the same time the sourcing/handling is unknown on the black market so they could be experiencing a much lower percentage of what it has been originally.

Cult sake is great, but many cult sake have limited pairings. Kind of like in the wine world to an extent. Junmai and Junmai Ginjo are fuller bodied and have a much wider pairing range than Junmai Ginjo, but if one knows what they are doing, they could pair Junmai Daiginjo with the right food, but it has to be more exacting. Or the sake has to be built in a certain way that works beyond sashimi and light clean fare.

Nothing wrong with Junmai Ginjo also, some are polished to Daiginjo levels but are still humbly called Junmai Ginjo (to keep the price down). Some JG are a bit pricier than they should be, but they're kind of like the in between....smooth enough to sip but structurally sound enough to pair with food. Think of Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo akin to Premier Cru vs Grand Cru.

There are some Tokyo restaurants that allow corkage, most of the time not advertised, but if you politely ask they will inform you. I know L'Effervescence allows it (forgot the fee but much lower than New York) and I did it back in February (and also got an almost full sake pairing). Other restaurants won't allow corkage until you become a regular (and you also pour the master some out of courtesy). which makes sense...especially when you go the first time and you don't know what the profile of the food is like. You can also ask concierge to ask for you when you book restaurants as well. Or you bring a bottle as a gift to a friend who owns a restaurant and maybe they'll feel like drinking and sharing...but that's rare.

It is actually very sad that a lot of higher end restaurants (Japanese and non Japanese) don't take food pairing and sake into consideration. But then again traditionally, pairing with food is never thought about like wine, and some frown on that. It is the sake bars run by sake geeks that are pushing this and some of them actually do love wine as well, but they take a more specific attack and do a bang up great job with it.

Glad to have you as a reader... I was a bit worried at the lack of audience and interest in my chronicles LOL.

over 2 years ago 1571895183

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Once again, I apologize I messed up my login, and then typed in the wrong box. Hope the duplicate wasn't confusing. But yes, I am both Guest and Menchikatsu, my real name, haha.

I like your use of the term 'unicorn' here and above. I too am a white whale hunter! Make fun of me, haha. We should keep with using mythical beasts to refer to wine, sake...

Ok, I understand now. I will keep my eyes peeled for the labels you listed. Actually, I remember quite a few, from the bottle design and logo, coming across them at different sake stores. Especially the ones with kanji names you pasted in the comment box. So now that I have your stamp of approval, I can perhaps buy them now. Personally, if I saw something as rare as a Juyondai or whatnot in a restaurant, I would be perfectly fine paying $30 for a glass. Quite frankly, that is the price of a cocktail in Ginza anyways, with the cover charge included.
In fact, because I was so inspired by your post earlier today, on my way home, I stopped by a rather ambitious wine shop I know, and acquired one of the only bottles of Hiroki junmai daiginjo there. They also have many different types of Jikon, which threw me off, when you revealed how hard it is to find retail.

You make a good reference, that I have never come across a Japanese restaurant, that has a vast cellar of sakes, like those of French restaurants that carry every vintage.
And yes, it frustrates me at times, when I hear of a limited release that you can only get if you go directly to the brewer's location. I've heard some people being nuts enough to drive across the country to secure a rare beer, fly just to pickup the bottle they won in a raffle, or wait 8 hours for a pint of draft Pliny in California. But I am not that nuts. I hear Hitachino does the same thing, that their best beer is only at the hq in Japan.
Also, I too believe not always does price = greatness. I happen to have often found great red wine for less than $40. And sh***y stuff above several hundred dollars, that's 10 years too early to drink yet.
I think the concept of terroir is important. I like the idea that a certain rice dish pairs with the sake that it's made with. Or something like an animal, is cooked with the very hay/straw or vegetables it feeds on. I've even had local shellfish, cooked in its own ocean water and kelp. But keeping within the idea of things belonging to a certain place and identity, is certainly worth more of a look. Something that really fascinates me in Japan, is how 'ice farmers' actually send their naturally frozen lake ice to kakigori shops, and that hardcore shave ice nerds will go to try that region's water. They even eat it without any toppings, which amazes me.

Sorry if my replying is getting a bit long. It's a bit late, but this is really interesting stuff you're writing!

I always sort of ignored Tabelog's drink photo gallery before. But now I finally understand the importance. Used to just wing it drink wise. But going to a restaurant specifically to try a certain bottle is a very interesting approach.
I must say, your attention to detail... to even be able to notice the difference between a Burgundy glass and any other type, in altering how the sake tastes. I am usually too focused on not embarrassing myself when asking for a glass of something else, that all my concentration is put to being polite. Usually, the drink turns out to be pretty good.
I don't know much about the sake black market, for I've never bought anything at over inflated prices. But I do know, at a reputable wine store in Beverly Hills, I once asked the buyer, long before Juyondai became known internationally, about what was good. And he recommended it, as a special order. The tokubetsu honjozo was priced, after import and middleman fees, at $700+.

Although I am not the most experienced on the topic, I can see how just throwing a rare cult sake out there could be exciting to a collector geek, but makes no sense to a real gourmet. I too have experienced having had so called 'inferior' wines, which paired better with whatever food I was eating. So I leave it to the chef to recommend me what they think is a good idea, and sometimes they actually say "better not to drink that one now", no matter how good it is.

Aside from your perspective on junmai, ginjo, and daiginjo. I would love to hear what you think of nigori, umeshu, or even hot sake.
On my last trip, a friend took me to a place I couldn't even find online. Kurakawa くら川 in Urawa, Saitama. I found out, they (only?) serve sake hot, and specialize in hot sake. I mentioned it to chef Kurosaki at his sushi counter, when he asked me where else I went that week, and to my surprise, all I said was "a hot sake place in Saitama", and he named it. There are truly some under the radar places out there, that only insiders or super locals know.

Ah that makes sense, that regulars would have that privilege of byob. Actually, I have never not gone to a restaurant anywhere, and done corkage without offering it to the chef/manager/waiter/and other staff. Sometimes, they've even waived the fee for me, for bringing something so hard to find. I think I will try that next time... bring something cool to amuse the chef. I also sometimes wonder, is it appropriate to ask the chef to drink with you, while they're on the job. I've occasionally seen an over excited tourist insist on buying a drink for the chef. But they've got a whole night to get through, and probably can't take too much, especially holding a knife in their hand.

Thank you for reading my long reply. When I'm more awake tomorrow, I will recheck and hope it's not that I wrote too much.

Yes, I think you should continues to write your thoughts and publish them. More people need to be educated in the knowledge of pairing sake with food at Japanese restaurants. But because the topic is so daunting and huge in its scale, I think many foreigners especially get intimidated. Just looking at all those bottles with kanji/hiragana they can't read, is scary to choose the wrong bottle. And at a restaurant in Tokyo, I don't think they even know what 'nihonshu' is. They just divert to nama-biru. Maybe I will buy your book at Tsutaya one day? :)

over 2 years ago 1571909784
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The person you met in LA who introduced you to aged sake, is it Courtney Kaplan of Tsubaki/Ototo? ;-). Never met her but I know who she is.

I'm still learning and have much to learn about wine, but you're right...there's always a risk of opening up an old it the cork or in the case of some white burgundies with premature oxidation (and you can't tell until you open it).

If you don't pack too much in the way of clothes, but have enough to use as wrapping protection for bottles, you could in theory pack 13 (at least) across two suitcases, if not more.

Some sake are not meant to age that long like wine. Certain types are built for aging post bottling and once available retail, and of course some geeks will try to push the boundary but those are less known. Then there's aged sake which is another animal altogether, and even if you let those sit at room temperature in cool dry place they will last quite some time as well.

I enjoy umeshu, the best ones are made in house each year by izakaya and some do lots of weird eclectic combinations. Typically the base is shochu, although there are some that introduce sake inside. I also enjoy versions that are pulpy, but those typically do not get exported (in the West and East Coast, there is a Daiginjo Nigori umeshu that's quite good, by Takenokawa). Some sake breweries make umeshu, but their base is kome (rice) shochu. Niwa No Guisu (Fukuoka Prefecture, green bottle) makes an excellent rendition that is super pulpy.

I'm not a fan of traditional creamy nigori, but have been rather surprised by its versatility in the form of nama nigori in Japan...particularly when it's very savory, high acidity which adds additional texture/mouthfeel and can actually pair strangely with say, shirako risotto with shaved truffles on top. There is also a form that's easier to tolerate if you don't like that creaminess, which is usu nigori, where the sendiment is nowhere near as thick, but the liquid is a touch cloudy...those you don't feel like you're drinking salty liquid yogurt.

Hot sake... it depends on what the sake is. Cheap mass produced sake hot and improperly warmed can be off putting. I think the really really old style junmai and honjozo (made during the era of Samurai or before) like Kenbishi can be really good if warmed up properly. Tatsuriki makes a non exported Junmai that is polished to 80% that is quite good hot as well, and same goes for Shinkame which is aged 2 years (they also have a lineup aged 3 years that's smoother and far more complex). Older Japanese folks love hot sake, and some like it as hot as 80 C where you can experience a ton of acidity and some aroma. Most sake purists I talk to think the sweet spot is between 40 to 50 C, where you get the most at around 45 C. Beyond that, additional heat will kill all the umami. Kokuryu has a sub label called Kuzuryu (nine headed dragon) that are built for warming, and their Daiginjo is fantastic warmed to about 45 C and is quite perfect with Japanese crab, plus the bottle is damn cool black with red kanji. At some random 7-Eleven's in Tokyo (or other convenience stores) there is a sake by Kikuhime that is a Yamahai Junmai. Quite excellent already at room temperature but withstands heat very well (Kikuhime is an excellent producer as well), and is one of the best sake to go with oden.

Kurosaki san is originally from Saitama prefecture. He's a chef who eats around a lot and has an incredible and talented sense of taste. He also enjoys wine so I think he understands pairing from that side of things, and carries a wide selection of celebrity and geek level sake. If you go next, ask for his Junmai pairing and get ready to have your mind blown. I think he's the only one that I know of that does this in Tokyo and takes all that into consideration.

Congratulations on finding Hiroki and Jikon at your wine shop! I think I found some also at a wine shop online somewhere in Canada, but always wondered if they refrigerated them properly. Hiroki Junmai Daiginjo is single pasteurized but still needs to be always kept in cold storage. Most Jikon are nama (especially the seasonal spring, fall, and winter releases) and there are single pasteurized versions, some typically make it onto the black market.....depending on the sourcing I'd be a bit careful as you might not get the full 100% capability of the bottle.

over 2 years ago 1571956535


Yes! You know so many people. How interesting. I’m curious now, if there are other overseas Japanese restaurants or drink establishments you have stories about.

And to rephrase what you were saying, can’t trust any bottle just because the label is prestigious. Even the most famous companies can make mistakes in brewing. Also that restaurants might not have properly stored the bottle.

Packing wise, I tend to use my clothing as padding. At most, I’m comfortable with one large sake bottle, or several smaller ones. I started bringing back sake, because I gave up on figuring out how to write the proper travel documents for wagyu a long time ago, haha.

The shelf life of sake seems to be a challenge. I wish some would last a long time, so I can collect a few good bottles, and admire it on my shelf, before drinking. Someone in the hobby of finding great sake often, must end up drinking a lot on a frequent basis!

I really like the idea of bottling fresh ume plums, and soaking them in shochu, then keeping it under the floor boards for a year. I’ve wondered whether the sake version is more or less a gimmick, since most households use shochu. I too like the pulpy stuff. Niwa no Guisu has the little bird on the label. I saw it recently. Perhaps I will go back and take a look. The one I really liked this past year, is the 5 year aged Manzairaku.

I know very little about nigori, aside from that girls seem to love it. It certainly is pleasant. And it gives me that grown up version of the satisfaction like I’m drinking Calpico. If you know Korean food, they have that drink called makgeoli (makkoli) which in some ways resembles what you’re describing.
Not sure if it’s as close to it, but I’ve really started getting into amazake recently. You mainly drink it on the first day of the year hot, at temples and shrines, before sunrise correct? But I’ve never had the privilege of being there at that time. I like it all year round.

Wow, these notes on hot sake is so informative. I will have to memorize it. I’m glad you told me, because too often, when I ask people in America who drink hot sake, they tend to buy the cheap stuff because they think it loses its flavor anyways when heated up, so why pay more? So now, I’m starting to know better. I never thought about heating the sake to a precise 45c degrees. I very much like how sake is heated up in those oden box bath things. I think I saw one at Kimura when I went. And ofcourse, quite often at casual neighborhood izakaya. I think going by what you’re saying, I could do the same in a sous vide machine at home.

That’s right! He did say he was from Saitama. And I recall my meal as being thrilling. A lot of sensitivity in all the dishes and sushi, with very balanced flavors. I remember his room and customers as having a more inviting feeling, and sense of comradery, than other counter restaurants I’ve been. Can’t wait to go back. I will definitely do the junmai pairing you’ve recommended.

Thank you, I will drink the Hiroki soon, somewhere with people who appreciate sake. There’s an import company that brings Jikon across the ocean, called ‘That’s Life’. I think the store you’re thinking of is called Legacy. For the wine shop I went to, I think all the bottle types were in the fridge.I can’t say how long it might have sat in shipping boxes before being moved. That’s always a mystery, and a big reason why I never liked buying resell wine on the aftermarket. No idea how much heat damage it’s taken during shipment.

Looking to hear more about your sake knowledge in the next article.

over 2 years ago 1571986887
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@Menchikatsu, Uchida has very specific set of rules to abide by for ordering. It was like cramming for an exam trying to study it using google translate (several bloggers have put the rules up to make it easier for locals). Never made it though...And of course you have to order an alcoholic beverage. There is also a specific entrance where you wait. You might be better off going to Torishige where it's easier (and you get high quality motsuyaki) but you have to sit by the counter with the owner I think on the upper floor.

Geek level sake is more about the producer itself, the brewmaster doing crazy things, their philosophy and resulting brews, their either traditionalist or non conforming approach (usually more traditionalist), and perhaps the additional steps they take to do something out of bounds from the brewing process or the sourcing materials, yet achieving some sort of cult status from the really serious drinkers (and not in a celebrity kind of way). Could also be small producer/regional. Honda Shoten/Tatsuriki is one (but they also have a premium luxurious lineup)...the late Honda Takeyoshi san got his PhD in argiculture past age 70 and was researching Yamadanishiki into his 80s, and thought about ways to draw out maximum nutrients and umami from the best rice, and he was the chairman of the low temperature aging sake association. If you visit their brewery you may get to taste a 1983 aged Junmai Ginjo (not for sale) that's amazing. Shinkame is another (and they do aged sake very well, they even age it at room temperature yet the color is not amber). Geek level sake can be warmed and it will taste very complex at different temperatures, and have some of the best killer pairings with food. I guess you can also say geek sake is also basically sake that appeals to the purists who love Junmai/Junmai Ginjo, and the producers put a lot of effort (and high cost) to make them, yet the results are fabulous even at the entry point. Tamagawa is another one, especially their Muroka Nama Genshu Yamahai sake, and their amberish sweet sake that was based on a recipe dating back to the Samurai period (and pairs brilliantly with fatty liver like foie gras as well as desserts). Some geek level sake are groundbreaking in their own ways, although not necessarily celebrity status like popular, but highly respected nonetheless with certain groups of drinkers.

Yeah please check out those izakaya. You don't necessarily have to hit up the best of tabelog. I did Kotaro once, and while I only did omakase (the sampler tasting greatest hits) it was just ok for me. Looking back, the sake selections were small at least from the menu. The food was delicious, but I wasn't wow'd even just from the small sampling. It is very popular with the jetsetters and some of the more famous and higher visibility sake people in Tokyo. I just find it wrong that if you want the best you have to sit at the counter and order from the Japanese menu, but the omakase which are greatest hits from the menu, are not as good....

Personally I prefer Kirakutei, although they tend to focus more on medium / lighter bodied sake....although if you hit the right pairings it can be very awesome too.

I would recommend Kanade in Toranomon (probably a bit closer to Shinbashi)

and you can easily disregard the 3.27 tabelog score. Watanabe san is the owner, and her oden and fresh shellfish sashimi are so good, as are some of her other dishes like shinjo. She has Taka, Jikon, Masumi, Kid and various other muroka nama genshu you can pair to your heart's content. Loved the raw oysters too. Her English is minimal but if you speak nihonshu and Japanese food you could get by. I went with two friends after a sake event, started off with Spanish bubbly then progressed to sake. A very locals kind of place, modernistic vibe and very fun but tight spaced place. I would go back if I had time.

over 2 years ago 1572914977


I see, so you wrote up that vol. 3 to highlight the most well known difficult to find bottles. Excellent, right down my alley. As you might know, in the beer world, a rare and super limited bottle is called a 'white whale'. Which is exactly what gets me interested in trying. They just get snagged so quickly though.

Actually, I sought out Zaku, because it took first place at a recent sake competition, in the junmai ginjo category, ahead of two other bottles of Toyobijin. I will definitely do my rounds, and find that red bottle you mention. Do you another place I've found surprising success? The liquor section at Meidi-ya, when no other store has something, I've found stuff here, right in the front shelf.

You have a real palate for pairing sake with food, much like wine. It's really interesting to hear. Not many people understand beverage pairings. But I like where it's going. The juice pairing at Florilege really intrigued me. As far as sake goes, I usually get the chance to try new ones at sushi restaurants, picking from whatever they offer the customers throughout the course. I've also come across some interesting things that I wish I took pictures of, at restaurants like Ichita.

I took screenshots of those sakes for reference.
I too like scouring the basement floors of departments. Isetan and Ikebukuro Tobu/Seibu are some of my regular routes. But as you know, for someone not experience in sake, the selection is as daunting for a newbie as browsing wine store. Another bottle I found here, and I almost pulled the trigger on was a special release: Senkin Kamosu. Except that my luggage was way too heavy already.

On the topic of corkage, I wondered this, but didn't know how I would go about doing corkage at a Japanese restaurant. Is the corkage fee high? I would love to bring some stuff over from America, that people in Tokyo can't get.

Thank you for giving me more hope! Haha. I've been able to locate Juyondai in the past, but that was like a needle in a haystack. And as one can imagine, when you find a bottle so early in the day, it's not easy to haul it around as you walk from place to place. I am definitely on the hunt for a nice bottle of Denshu on my next visit.

Sounds like Nabeshima is a bit more rare eh? I thought it'd be the opposite way around. But I get them mixed up sometimes. Hibiya Midtown is the place to be now it seems... in terms of upping your business prices. Ryugin, Sushi Namba... even a branch of Buvette. Which by the way, is amazing, if you ever visit New York City.

I would love to bring back many bottles! But the sheer weight is a lot to carry, haha. You are absolutely right. I've gone under the impression, and people tell me, that junmais have more taste, because not as much of the rice if polished off, and you lose it. I feel that these days, too much glory is placed on the idea of junmai ginjo, that uneducated new sake drinkers get the wrong idea. And they think, "so... only drink junmai daignjo, it's the best, why drink anything else?" So they fall for it, when a company like Dassai mass produces, rushes, and makes sloppy milled batches of rice, but meet the criteria to name it a junmai daiginjo, when smaller craft sake makers are doing better junmai. Not knowing that they're missing out on so much from other types of sake. I compare this to the idea of Starbucks Reserve beans, which can't compare to superior (cheaper) small batch roasters. I especially find savory and aged sakes exciting.

And thank you for the tip on the nama sake. I usually just have the hotel hold any bottle I get, and hope for the best during the commute. I once grabbed an unpasteurized bottle from Nara. Seemed ok when I tried it. I didn't get sick :D

Please do another article sometime. I am about to read your one on the proper way of ordering. I also wish the site would have more articles on other topics too, like a full magazine.

over 2 years ago 1571871419

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over 2 years ago 1571871554
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The idea with celebrity sake is to taste them either by the glass from a very reputable establishment, or if you buy them, get them retail from a shop and bring it back yourself, and thus you eliminate all the middle men/channels that would have introduced something strange that would impact quality. The problem with sake like Juyondai in Tokyo is that allocations are severely limited and you may get a shot at lottery for a shop for a single bottle of which you don't have a choice in. Another option that I see some people overseas in Asia do is using Rakuten as apparently they can get bottles shipped from Japan to almost anywhere in Asia but not across the Pacific. Or you can go through Rakuten Japan and have the sake shipped to your hotel or a local person's address during your visit....I have never done that but if you are willing that is one last resort. Of course you will still pay a markup and there are risks involved either way, but people seem to be willing to do that to get what they desire..

Junmai and some Junmai Ginjo could last longer, and again depends on how they are built. Would have to be double pasteurized for the most part, although I hear some of the nama brews by Tamagawa for the Junmai, are so robust, high acidity (22% alcohol) that the master brewer himself thinks it's fine to age them at room temperature (major exception if that is the case). If the sake was aged one year prior to release and at either low or room temperature, then chances are another year won't hurt. If two or more then if you leave it in your closet (dark cool dry place) it should be fine also in theory. I recently tasted a 2016 bottling of a sake that was kept in cold storage for a while, and luckily it still tasted reasonably well, although couldn't help but think what it would have been like as a newly bottled specimen. Generally best to consume most sake within a year. You could experiment with some lower end sake and keep them at very low temperature for an extended period of time and try and see how they taste. The ideal aging temperature would be to have your cold storage be at 0 (or as close to it as possible). and better if -3 to -5 degrees C. There is also some thought about the quality of sake in a 720 mL vs 1.8 L, I can't speak to the differences with that.

Those aren't "oden boxes" at Sushi Kimura but I get your description. It's an electric water heater that can be sectionalized for containers to warm sake (or other things, Kimura san might have used them to serve the broth at the beginning). Sake is poured into these vessels for being warmed in the water bath (I want to say they are tin or aluminum but could be another kind of material, and can be ridiculously expensive) and then when done, poured into ceramic containers (for lack of better word) for portion serving, which are then poured by the customer themselves into these tasting ceramic wider flatter cups, which is an ideal way to taste warmed sake. Come to think of it there was one course at L'Effervescence where for the sake pairing, a sake was actually heated up to 80 degrees C, poured into the small tasting vessel as described earlier, and the sommelier wanted the customer/us to experience what it was like as the sake comes back down towards room temperature, and that taste profile is completely different than if you just heated up the sake to a certain temperature below 80 C, and the sake if it came back down to room temperature would also taste completely different vs the same pour of the sake without heating at room temperature. This part is very complex and not something I've experienced much as well. It would be worthwhile to try this yourself at home or at a restaurant that not just handles corkage for you, but also has the capacity to warm a portion of your sake at a specific temperature. Denshu might be fun to try this with.

over 2 years ago 1572023743


I think that is very sound advice, to try sake at a place reputable, or buy in a way that it's most likely to be at its best. Best to cut out the middle man. But lots of people overseas, who just want to flaunt their money, care more about the name prestige and showing off.

I must report to you something interesting. I was horrified (I exaggerate) yesterday, when I went to the main branch of a Canada liquor store. This is supposed to be a credible importer and distributor, as they basically control everything that enters the country. They had about 7-8 bottles of Jikon junmai daiginjo, along with a few other nama sakes. All were only on the outside room temperature shelf, no fridge. The very nice gentleman who worked there also shared his displeasure at the situation, as he agreed they shouldn't be selling nama sake outside a fridge. But the store's policy was to keep it there, because apparently it doesn't get seen in the cold aisles. He also noted to me, that in the event the bottles don't get sold by a certain time, they will return to the importer. And who knows where it goes from there. He also said, I could purchase it, and as long as I didn't drink the entire bottle blatantly, you can return it for a full refund, if it's not up to par. I was actually considering doing this, haha. But I passed. It was (if you exchange currency) priced at about ¥17000.

I've occasionally looked at Rakuten, and considered buying stuff form them. But don't really know how I would go about it. And I'm not sure if it's like an ebay, or Amazon, where an independent store ships it to them, and they redirect it. My friend bought a Hibiki 21 from there for a reasonable price. Seems the only Japanese alcohol that Americans are really interested in is whisky.

This is some interesting points on the little details that come with aging. For me, the best I can probably do is a refrigerator, a freezer is probably too cold eh? And as to the differences in bottle size affect on the liquid, that is really some advanced stuff I think. I do feel the material differs a lot, in the same way that water/soda in plastic bottles are never as good as glass, and also differ in metal. But I guess sake almost never distributed in anything but glass? I do try to put it at the coldest place in my fridge tho.
What you're describing, as to the effects of age, is very much like what I've experienced with bouborn barrel aged stout beers in America. A lof of the top brewers attempt to incorporate actual coffee, chocolate, or even vanilla into the beer. If you drink it early on, you get all these sharp strong notes. But if you age it a year or more, you lose those flavors, in exchange for something more mellow and balanced. So a lot of beer collectors buy 2 bottles, to compare a year later.

Yea sorry, I was writing on the fly and didn't take the time to look up the box name. I did not know the device would be so expensive. And I thought most izakayas put the ceramic bottle directly into the bath, with sake already in it?
You talk about L'Effervescence quite a bit. It's starting to make me want to go and do the beverage pairing. He's one of 4-6 main chefs who run the JAL business/first class meal programs. This warming and cooling service you're talking about, I do myself a lot at coffee shops, haha. I buy a hot coffee, and taste it as it cools. Or I get a cold brew or iced pour over, and taste it as it warms up. Different I know, but I thought this was a funny comparison. And I do notice, you start to notice different acidity, or other unpleasant notes when it's not at the right heat, and can figure out the best temperature to drink it.

On a semi related note, have you seen the movie 家族はつらいよ (What A Wonderful Family) by director Yoji Yamada? I bring it up, because each movie always has a scene, where the grandfather is drinking at an izakaya, and they always serve hot sake from these hot water baths on the counter. So everytime I think of hot sake, I immediately think of this. I think this is also a good way to popularize certain things, placements in movies to glamorize it. I'm also a huge fan of 孤独のグルメ Kodoku no Gourmet. And sometimes ワカコ酒 Wakako Zake, which actually tells you the label name of sake brand she drank, at the end of the episode.

over 2 years ago 1572149915
User default d6f8776075bbcbf91b3886fd7b0aeb86c94956e290bd9b9223466618a8cd47a2



It is worth noting that Jikon (and Sharaku) offer versions of their bottles that are nama and namazume (single pasteurized) but they called single pasteurized something else in Japanese. The bottles found overseas tend to be single pastuerized, unless otherwise stated on the bottle and it's a good thing that way. Single pasteurization could survive transit a lot better, and sometimes a properly handled bottle of such can be quite delicious and have some level of complexity. However any mishandling could affect the product quality regardless.

It is horrifying but not uncommon to see something like what you reported. Had that same bottle of Jikon be available for retail in Japan without after market markup would have been in the order of 5000 yen on average/tops (maybe a bit less even). A Jikon Junmai Ginjo single pasteurized in Hong Kong would also sell for about US$70 to $80, and very likely kept out of refrigeration if they had it... and I did have one once from there, brought over by someone as a gift. It wasn't bad, so perhaps some air conditioning in the shop, but can't really count on it.

I haven't paid much attention to availability and various types of hot sake vessels, but there is a porcelain hot water container with a center piece that will accommodate another porcelain vessel for warming sake. And of course there are lots of ceramic hot sake vessels that you can put into hot water baths for home use. I believe hot sake is another topic in itself entirely, as the enjoyment, science, and tasting is still somewhat untapped territory and something I haven't been exposed to as much.

I highly recommend you try L'Effervescence (cheaper during lunch) and try either the beverage pairing (wine and sake) or just the sake pairing. Even better if beverage director Sosuke Aoshima san is there (he also is the one to perform the matcha service at the end). I went with an industry friend who Aoshima san knew and I guess we got a better than expected set of pairings. Another great somm is Kimura Yoshinobu, formerly of Narisawa, his pairings were super eclectic and out of the box good (not so good for Japanese wine though, sake only). He's now at Sushi M but they do very weird forcing of matching, such as using pinot noir grain mustard on maguro to force a light bodied Pinot Noir or red wine pairing. I'm sure you can ask for just sake only and still get some very eclectic brews that you cannot otherwise get retail. L'Effervescence also stocks some brews that they get direct from a brewery that is unavailable locally, and I believe Aoshima san might do some internal aging of some sake. Of course they have some unicorn level sake as well at random, but perhaps some of them are strictly by the bottle only for the VIP guests or those willing to splurge.

I've seen all episodes of Shinya Shokudo, Kudoku No Gurume (except season 8 which is either airing or pending), and the first two seasons Wakako Zake (some of them I just skip forward to the sake section, as the storyline and acting got a little bit boring and repetitive....WZ tries to imitate Kudoku No Gurume a bit too much and it gets either a bit silly). Izakaya Fuji is another fairly decent drama but doesn't showcase much sake. I have not watched the other one you mentioned.

over 2 years ago 1572212211


Thanks for the insider back room info on pasteurized bottles. I would much prefer to have something as fresh as possible, but understandably single pasteurized is much less risk.

I suppose if most customers don't know the difference, they just reshelf the expired bottle. Despite the refund policy, I bet lots who buy the bottle, save it for a long time, and by then, it's beyond the point where they're allowed to return it. I was told the reason they don't keep it refrigerated, is that it doesn't sell as well, unless it's right out front on the floor, where most of the shoppers walk by.
If I get to sample more of the same type of sake, then one day I can make comparisons to good and bad bottles too.

I took a look again at the photo from Kimura, and the device he uses. Looks like there's two large holes for putting a bottle in. And it's a lot more technical looking than I remember. The standard water bath in a typical izakaya is really much more simple. I saw that a place in Shibuya has the same expensive device, and they have a sommelier that specializes in hot sake too. 'Utsura Utsura'.

I will ask for the L'Effervescence beverage director, and start from there. I'd imagine dinner would give more of a chance to try more sakes, and I can skip the tiredness afternoon drinking would certainly give me. The Sushi M concept certainly seems interesting, how it focuses on the sake equally to unusual sushi. But I am very interested in Shinobu Namae's food, and have increasingly wanted to go over the last two years. Sustainable cooking is something that's interested me recently, and I have found greatly memorable and educational meals at places like Florilege, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and I guess even Kimura can be considered in this group... where they all put emphasis on not wasting food, looking for ways to salvage waste. And I think pairing drinks with that concept is very interesting.

Ah, yes. I forgot Shinya Shokudo. If you can please help me, I've always wanted to know where I can find places that look almost exactly like the izakaya in the show, hahaha. I think I bought dvds of it, before anyone else in the west even knew about it.
For Wakako Zake, I agree it's a bit slow. But the restaurant and sake recommendations at the end make me really want to try them. The original cartoon is really quite a bit more likeable. And I highly recommend it, being it's so short and easy to find.
Another one I just thought of, is the recently popular anime KonoSuba. In Season 1, Episode 9, there is a rather long scene which depicts the pouring of sake into a crab shell head, with kani miso in it, and heating it over a flame grill. Then drinking the hot mixture all together. I have no idea if this is actually a popular thing to do, but let me tell you... I went right out the next night, and found a place that serves kani miso and hot sake :D So yes, I do believe inserting these subtle product placements in tv shows is an effective method of educating new gourmets.
I think Kodoku no Gurume season 8 is already airing? Just started this month.

over 2 years ago 1572341127
User default d6f8776075bbcbf91b3886fd7b0aeb86c94956e290bd9b9223466618a8cd47a2



You could in theory minimize the risk of the wine shop purchase (after being willing to spend the money and markup) by checking when the shop received the bottles, try to get information on how they were shipped and stored prior to arriving at the shop, and also look at the bottling date. Definitely don't want to buy them when the weather is very warm. Either way you are looking at a maximum of maybe 75 to 80% of the bottle's original flavor.

I once found a single pasteurized Hakurakusei Junmai Daiginjo (a sake that is served on one of the big name Japanese airlines First Class but maybe a different version) at an Asian supermarket, it was kept under air conditioning (at least during operating hours) and luckily it tasted ok. I gave one to a friend who kept it in his wine cellar and he forgot about it so it "aged" at wine cellar temperature for a year at least. When he re-discovered the bottle and took it to a restaurant (and paid corkage lol) we tasted it and it had this weird mushroom earthy note to it that was not there when I consumed my bottle a year prior. I even experienced this mushroom like flavor in another high end Junmai Daiginjo at the same supermarket (because it was heavily discounted and I was curious)...but it was likely a combination of very old stock from the distributor and bad handling/storage. Sometimes you just shouldn't take the risk.

I doubt the sectionalized water bath will do different temperature, perhaps it's just to maintain position and separataion between vessels of various sake to be warmed, or perhaps one is soup/broth.

The benefit of doing L'Effervescence during lunch is the lower cost, although you likely get at least one or two courses less than dinner. The sake I got that was warmed to 80 C then allowed to come back down in temperature was paired with their signature Tokyo turnip that's been on the menu for a long time. Namae san was not present in the kitchen during my visit, but the experience was fantastic nonetheless.

I've actually visited a few neighborhood eateries from the show because Kokoku No Gurume, although the canteen inside this fish market was just ok (very blue collar). As far as eateries that look and feel exactly like Shinya Shokudo I have not found one in that format....the closest would be this chain looking restaurant I went to in Nishi Shinjuku that serves very affordable lunch sets and open you can get things like saba miso ni or sanma hiraki, add on some natto and have soup, rice, pickles. There is a very tiny eatery inside Omoide Yokocho with a sliding door and the food is very cheap but excellent....they have tonjiru and some pre-prepped food that they just heat up or grill. Designed for salarymen and those who want some simple comfort.

Yeah pouring cheap (but good) sake for warming into the crab head / miso is very common at those seafood BBQ / hamayaki shops. Might be able to request that combo at the likes of Isomaru Suisan (24 hours). Probably started from those grilled turban shells (sazae no tsuboyaki). Japanese crab (and shellfish in general) with sake is just too good for words. Let me also recommend you go try Akaoya which is very close to Ebisu station (JR), it is a shellfish themed izakaya that has some good sake selections, and the owner also can offer some interesting combinations of warmed nama sake from different regions to go with the shellfish (raw, cooked, clam liver sukiyaki). It's also a non smoking establishment as well.

over 2 years ago 1572376685


I think I will try to start friendly relations with the sake buyer of different shops. And will also ask to see the shipment date. I think most bottles I see have the bottling on it, as well as the year, so that's easy enough.
I assume it's never good to buy a sake over a year older than the current year? I confirmed, the shop you probably saw, that had the Jikon online, they don't refrigerate it. A 2017 junmai daiginjo is just sitting behind a glass case. I think I will just have moderate expectations for sake outside of Japan from now on. If something surprises me, that's good. But I will keep this 75% expectation in mind.

Speaking of buying sake, I just picked up something rather interesting. It just came in, and was refrigerated, so I felt confident it was ok. 澤屋まつもと 守破離 ID. I bought it, because I always see this label, at one of my favorite sake stores in Tokyo. Which happens to be called Liquor Shop Matsumoto, in the Toranomon area. It all makes sense.
This project seems to emphasis the idea of terroir, as they offer the same sake from 3 different plots of land in Okamoto. And they ask you to drink all three, side by side. From what I understand, the goal is to help categorize all qualities recognized from rice grown in this region of Hyogo, Tojo.

So it's a mystery to you, whether the mushroom taste was caused by the supermarket or your friend's wine cellar. Is this 'earthy' note, not well received in the sake world, as it is in wine? Haha. I too would be rather pissed off. Can't pass it off as 'aged' either.
I wish there was some kind of device, like a blue light, that can detect a sake's quality in comparison to its ideal.

I suppose one could get the same results in controlling temperature, using a simple water bath, if they had a Joule sous vide stick, or some similar device. Are you familiar with the device? Very useful tool.

L'Effervescence, only missing out on 2 courses isn't that bad! Considering the 10000 yen lower price. The only drawback, would be how relaxed and tired I will probably be, after a huge wine pairing in the afternoon. The course names are so funny, like 'Silent Deep Forest' and 'World Peace'. I've seen photos of this turnip dish (A Fixed Point~) many times.
The 80 degrees for this sake is different from the 40-50 sweet spot range you've mentioned for others. I'm excited to start asking restaurants about how they feel about this temperature control, and make mental notes on my finding.

I've been to a few from Kodoku as well, in Ningyocho. I confirmed, the show's already on its 8th season. I just watched the Yokohama Chinatown opening episode.
What really appeals to me about Shinya Shokudo, is the idea that you can walk in, and he'll make you anything you want, as if he has all the ingredients in the world. But to my disillusion, I've not really ever encountered a restaurant that does this.

My dream is to do this kind of thing, at a restaurant with taiza crab in the winter. Maybe travel to the Taiza, and stay at a ryokan. Or eat at a place like Wakuden.
Thank you for the recommendation, I will put that right into my restaurant folder. That Ebisu area where it is, is really fun at night. I'm looking forward to pairing many new seafood dishes with hot/cold sake.
I'm actually completely fine with izakayas allowing smoking. Seems to add character. Not in a fine dining venue, but it has its place. When I heard the coffee kissatens would stop allowing cigarettes this fall, I was quite disappointed. You lose out on something, atmosphere wise.

Thank you always, for your very thorough replies. I see that it can be difficult, to keep referring back and forth to the previous message, when it's as long as this.

over 2 years ago 1572504127


Just a brief follow up, on something we talked about before. Tonight, I brought a bottle of Shinkame Hikomago junmai to an upscale izakaya, and had it corkaged. The boss brought up, that he used to have a kandouko sake warmer 燗銅壺, but not anymore, so they heated it up in a hot water pot for me. It drops in temperature very quickly using this method! The bottle recommends it at 55-60 degrees celsius, which I liked it most at... though I burnt my tongue. 45 degrees it's still good, but the taste is definitely different. I brought my own thermometer, which got a laugh out of the staff. Drank it with a variety of shellfish (local abalone, oysters), sashimi (tako, fatty fish), and various types of snacks. People seated next to me were from Kyushu, and are regulars at wagyu restaurants in Tokyo, like Yoroniku and Jambo Hanare. I shared some sake with them. They were drinking satsuma shochu. They tell me, apparently Fukuoka is more shochu territory.

over 2 years ago 1577000970

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Thanks for reporting back! I hope the corkage fee was not high, considering the bottle you brought was probably less than 2500 yen. Yes, every 5 degrees increase, there are different names for the type of warm sake. Good to know about the kandouko, that does explain similar experiences I had.

Imo Shochu is actually quite delicious with heavy yakiniku (probably pairs better with wagyu) and also with yakitori. There's a sake called Kuro Kabuto from Fukuoka prefecture that is brewed using black koji that is normally used in shochu brewing, and their Junmai Daiginjo is exported. Quite a few sake breweries also make kome shochu (Shichida, Tatsuriki, Juyondai, Dassai come to mind).

over 2 years ago 1577052780


The corkage was no so much. The food was particularly so however, haha.

This kandouko came up in a previous conversation we had, about the box at Sushi Kimura. This one:

They seem to be usually made made of copper. I did not realize there are so many different types.
This company makes one that resembles the one he has, with the hand mallet/hammer finish. I wonder if it's the same maker:

This has made me feel like I should buy a kandouko, with a nice tokkuri, to make kanzake with.

In your note, it is interesting how rice kome shochu and sake share a history. And almost resemble the way beer and whisky use the same ingredients, but differ in method of brewing vs. distillation. I just looked it up, and saw how many ingredients can be made into shochu (rice, sweet potato, barley, sugar, corn, sesame...)
I suppose you've been to Florilege? Similar philosophy towards sustainability as L'Effervessence. The beverage/bar man seems to be distilling(?) his own shochu, using many types of ingredients he labels on the bottles. I remember shiso, maybe buckwheat, and even cheese I think... He incorporates many of them into the cocktail pairing. Worth a visit for this alone. I myself want to return and try the unusual non-alcoholic beverage pairing.

over 2 years ago 1577085923


@Menchikatsu you mentioned that using a hot water pot caused it to drop in temperature very quickly but I'm curious what the alternatives are? I'm not familiar with kandouko sake warmers so not sure the advantages it brings. We've successfully used a water bath with an immersion circulator in the past with pretty good success ourselves.

over 2 years ago 1577135624


Hi @Shi !
I think in most cases, you get a little tokkuri pot of sake directly on the counter. Even if it's been heated by the kandouko, they serve it to you separately, and then it gets cold fast. In my case here, they actually brought me a bath bowl of hot water, with the tokkuri sitting in it. The opposite of champagne in an ice bucket. And yet... it still got cold fast after it drops below 45C degrees. But while it was at 60C, it stayed there for quite a while. So I guess the hot water bowl helped for a bit. And they kept changing the water, to keep it hot.

Are you talking about something like a Joule sous vide? Yes, I'm sure that's an excellent solution. Though I doubt restaurants would have one on hand. And if you really need to keep sake hot for a very long time, you probably aren't drinking it fast enough! Haha.

Personally, I don't know much about the kandouko. I only caught notice of it recently. ChuToroZuke would know much more about these things. I've read some sake shop owners say, the machine enables you to perfectly control the temperature. And some have multiple machines, set to different temperatures.

over 2 years ago 1577171299


Yep in our case it's like a Joule immersion circulator we just happen to use the Anova brand! Appreciate the clarification, I'm interested in trying more sake warm as I've only ever had anything other than house sake's warmed up at Godenya which were quite tasty. When we used to warm up sake it was more of a comfort thing than us actually knowing what we were doing and we'd generally stick to less expensive bottles so as not to let our ignorance spoil them haha!

over 2 years ago 1577171898
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To be honest this is an area that is still uncharted territory for the most part to me. The ideal situation is that you get the standard 90 to 180 mL pour of a warmed sake at a very specific temperature, and the owner selects a sake profile that works once it's warmed and also when it comes back down towards room temperature (the taste will be totally different than if it were not heated).

I don't think the idea is to drink the warmed sake as fast as you can, but rather a smaller portion at a time where you can savor the aromas and the heightened acidity (at least in theory), and this is where specific porcelain vessels (or saucers) work more tradtionally that the typical ceramic cups even for warmed sake.

Pretty sure the nicer hot water warmers that transfer heat to the copper sake warmers are plug in with or without a thermostat. I would be surprised if Goshima san of Godenya didn't use top of the line equipment for serving warmed sake.

over 2 years ago 1577173390


Hopefully this is not too presumptuous of me, but I created a flickr album of our 2017 visit to Godenya. My wife is kind enough to handle most of the photography and it seems she did not take pictures of the warming apparatus in our most recent visit having already photographed it on our first trip haha:

As we've discussed previously both our visits with Goshimaさん have been absolute delights. If there's interest I can upload our 2019 visit as well.

over 2 years ago 1577181650


The silver cups, with handles and a thermometer, look like parts that would be inserted into a kandouko. The big pot more or less looks like something that could be used for oden. And is that a portable heater underneath? I do like this method though, I've seen izakayas where they do use a square oden bath for heating up sake. And according to the website above, you can actually custom make an oden + kandouko combination piece, that fits your restaurant counter.
Going back to your comment above, about only ordering cheap sakes warm. I used to think the same thing, but I've been rethinking the whole thing lately. And I've found a few people at restaurants in the west, that have also learned the difference between cheap and high quality hot sake, if done so properly. I do occasionally come across a restaurant that simply microwaves it still.

over 2 years ago 1577262802

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