Tokyo Table Trip

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In Volume 4 of The Sake Chronicles, we will go over some recommended retail shops to shop for sake and/or taste sake in Tokyo. Every store is unique and will have its own different inventory, style, approach, and arrangement of their bottles.

The smaller neighborhood shops generally do not accept credit cards (cash only) and employees may not be able to converse proficiently in English. The larger shops and especially department store basements will be likely more English speaking friendly, prices could be a bit higher for the same bottle elsewhere, and if you show your passport and receipt at the correct floors you may be eligble for a tax refund, and they will also wrap your purchase tightly for transit if you inform them of the request.

This list is a general guide for sake enthusiasts of all levels and is by no means comprehensive.

Here they are in no particular order.

1. Suzuden - Yotsuya

This legendary sake shop was established in 1850 and is revered by many in the industry. It is just a few steps away to the right of the original Sushi Sho Yotsuya, so if you happen to have lunch there or you arrive prior to dinner, do stop by inside to take a look! You will see many selections in their refrigerators on the ground level and also some bottles outside (non refrigerated). As this shop also supplies to restaurants there will be a lot more 1.8 Liter bottle formats for sale and sometimes the only option for a particular type. In general the more eye catching bottles are in the refrigerators, from the high end rare bottles to the seasonal draft releases. Don’t miss going downstairs into their walk in freezers (about 2 or 3 separate storage areas) for even more sake to browse (and to conveniently cool down during the hot summer months). Suzuden carries some eclectic selections and stocks rotate frequently. They also have an adjacent space selling sake and standing bar style food that I believe operates starting in the afternoons. When it gets really busy you may see customers bringing food into the shop to enjoy. A lot of the small bites offered pair nicely with sake. The shop appears to be cash only, so make sure you have enough money on you just in case. It is also possible that employees may not speak much English at the shop. Recommended to come here only if you know what you would like to buy.

Website: http://suzuden-sake.com/
Address: 1 Chome-10 Yotsuya, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0004, Japan

2. Takashimaya Times Square - Shinjuku

Head to the basement level, close to the wine and champagne section to find the sake section. Some of the most high end respected brands and offerings can be found here. The higher end and most expensive bottles are in the refrigerated section. You might also find some bottles that are only sold exclusively by Takashimaya (for example: Tatsuriki). Depending on the days of the week, they also have a booth showcasing a particular brewery with various sake you can taste for free before buying. This gives you a chance to interact with the brewery representative if they speak some English, or sometimes an employee of Takashimaya pours on their behalf. Do not hesitate if you really enjoy something you taste, so buy if it you really like it! The booth may not be there for long (especially if it is a regional brewery and offering). Takashimaya also has a location in Nihombashi, although I prefer and recommend the Shinjuku location personally. If you have time, it is worth visiting both locations as their inventories are not entirely the same.

Website: https://www.takashimaya-global.com/en/stores/shinjuku/
Address: 5 Chome-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-0051, Japan

3. Isetan - Shinjuku

Similar to Takashimaya Shinjuku, the sake section is in the basement. They also have a bar where you can taste whatever sake is featured but I believe you need to pay. There are some brands and labels that Isetan will carry that Takashimaya does not and there will also be a little bit of overlap. Also depending on the schedule, sometimes they will showcase at least one brewery on an almost weekly basis, with representatives coming to pour during non brewing season especially, and have some samples for customers to taste for purchase. Sometimes certain breweries only go to one big department store but not the other..

Website: https://isetan.mistore.jp/store/shinjuku/foreign_customer/index.html
Address: 3 Chome-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0022, Japan

4. Ginza Imadeya (Ginza Six basement 2nd level)

Imadeya is a shop that originated in Chiba prefecture, and their Ginza store, located in the second level of the basement at Ginza Six, is truly a sake lovers dream. There should be another location in Sumida, but the one at Ginza Six is the newest location, and a lot more accessible for visitors. The shop is very well laid out and easy to navigate, and most of the staff appear to speak English. The breadth and depth of selection is amazing and includes a lot of cult and highly sought after (not to mention limited production) brews, including a few mentioned in Volume 3 (16 sakes you must try), with the exception of Juyondai and a few others. In general those brews are stored in the refrigerator, so be mindful of handling and storing them properly after purchase. Quality of service is great. Adjacent to the cashier is a section where you can also pay to taste what they have on offer. Ginza Imadeya also stocks some very high end expensive sake bottles that can go upwards of 100,000 yen, perfect gift for the super fan of rare sake. If you only have time for visiting a few sake shops, make this one your first and top priority.

Website: http://www.imadeya.co.jp/shops/ginza/
Address: Ginza Six: 6 Chome-10-1 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan (Imadeya is B2 level)

5. Hasegawa Saketen - Nihonbashi, Tokyo Station, Omotesando.

This is another very famous sake shop that carries a wide range of selections from famous regional breweries across Japan. Unless the brewery is very obscure and extremely small production, it is likely you will find something here. I highly recommend visiting the Kameido location for the widest and largest selection even though it is very out of the way for many visitors. Nihonbashi location is the newest of the lot and is probably better than Nishiazabu and Omotesando in selection, and has a good sample of some very popular brews amongst big fans of sake. Both Nihonbashi and Omotesando Hills location have a bar where you can pay to taste sake (the list changes daily), although unfortunately the sake bar menu is only in Japanese. If you cannot make it to Kameido location, the Nihonbashi will be the next best location.

Website with address info: https://www.hasegawasaketen.com/shop_en.html

6. Kimijimaya - Ginza, Ebisu

Kimijimaya has three locations: Yokohama, Ginza, and Ebisu (in the Atre building near the station). You can pay for a small pour ~ 90 mL to taste, but is subject to availability and what they have opened. The menu is also only in Japanese, but sometimes being adventurous can pay off. Some tastings belong to super rare bottles that are not sold in the store, so you may get lucky. You may find some interesting cult regional sake selections here, and they also have a small selection of wine (mostly French) as well for Ginza and Ebisu locations. There are also a select few bottles that were created exclusively for Kimijimaya (e.g. Masuizumi and Tatsuriki) and you will not be able to find them anywhere else.

Website: https://kimijimaya.co.jp/
Address:
Ginza: 104-0061 Tokyo, Chuo City, Ginza, 1 Chome−2−1 紺屋ビル 1FL
Ebisu: 150-0022 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Ebisuminami, 1 Chome−6−1 (Atre building West Wing 4th FL)

7. Isego Honten -Flagship store in Nakameguro area

This is the flagship location of Isego. It is not as big as some of the other shops, but everything is neatly arranged and for the brews that require refrigeration, are neatly put in for safekeeping until purchasing. They carry some of the more eclectic selections, and I believe they do have a bar area for tasting, although they don’t operate until sometime in the afternoon. If you are in the Nakameguro area, please check them out.

Website: http://isego.net/
Address: 153-0042 Tokyo, Meguro City, Aobadai, 1 Chome−20−2

8. Tokyu Food Show (basement) - Shibuya

Literally just right outside JR Shibuya station, locate Tokyu Food Show and head into
the basement. Adjacent to one of the supermarket areas is the alcohol section. Right before you reach that area is a small place where sometimes a sake brewery representative will set up bottles from the brewery’s portfolio to sell and likely the chance to taste for free before purchasing. Normally these bottles for tasting are not sold at Tokyu Food Show sake shop, so if you like you can buy and pay for it at the cashier. Don’t miss the chance in case there is a remarkable and super affordable bottle that you like, it may not be available for purchase again once the display has to be taken down. Otherwise the sake selection of Tokyu Food Show has some interesting bottles to look at, even if smaller. While you are here, explore the wonderful food, produce, and supermarket at this level.

Website: https://www.tokyu-dept.co.jp/toyoko/foodshow/
Address: 2 Chome-24-1 Shibuya, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0002, Japan

9. Niigata Antennae Store (N’Espace) - Omotesando

Strictly for fans of Niigata sake. This shop not only stocks a variety of produce, snacks, and food souvenirs from Niigata, they also have a fairly decent selection of Niigata sake from big name producers to some smaller regional ones. You won’t find much in the way of rare high end bottles, but you may find interesting affordable variations not available in the big shops.

Website: https://www.nico.or.jp/nespace/
Address: 4 Chome-11-7 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

10. Mitsuya Liquor Store - Nishi Ogikubo

This is a store recommended by John Gaunter, one of the first leading sake educators and sake samurai. A lot of regional small to medium sized producer brews, shochu, wine, and even some aged sake if they have in stock. A serious store with a serious selection for the sake connoisseur. Recommended for advanced drinkers who know what they are looking for.

Website: http://sake-mituya.com/html/products/product.php
Address: 2 Chome-28-15 Nishiogiminami, Suginami City, Tokyo 167-0053, Japan

11. Sumiyoshi Shuhan - Tokyo Midtown Hibiya

Sumiyoshi is a very famous sake shop from Fukuoka, so naturally they will have quite a few selections of sake and other offerings from that region, Saga Prefecture, and other souvenirs from Kyushu/Kitakyushu areas. It is a good place to visit before or after a meal at Sushi Namba Hibiya. As far as some of the more sought after sake (e.g. the more expensive bottles of Nabeshima which may appear sometimes), this location of Sumi Yoshi may have even higher prices than at Fukuoka. You might also find some of the top of the line sake by a few other cult breweries (e.g. Sawaya Matsumoto / Shuhari).

Website: https://www.hibiya.tokyo-midtown.com/jp/restaurants/80300/
Main website: http://sumiyoshi-sake.jp/
Address: Hibiya Midtown: 1 Chome-1-2 Yūrakuchō, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 100-0006, Japan (B1)

This list is just a sample of many that are out there, but is a great way to get started for sake shopping.

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Menchikatsu

Adding a little to the previous conversation about glassware below. @ChuToroZuke @Shi

It came back in my memory, that last year I bought something called an 'Usuhari daiginjo glass'. It's a thin lantern shaped glass, with a little stem like protrusion moving inwards from the bottom of the base. One of the really enjoyable things about it, is how light it feels in your hand.

I was wondering if you might have any comments on how this glass helps to capture aroma, taste, etc... Or if the little point sticking up really does anything at all.

Here are photos on google:
https://www.google.com/search?q=usuhari+daiginjo+glass&client=firefox-b-d&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjUw6uo2NnmAhW6HjQIHTvGBHYQ_AUoAXoECAwQAw&biw=1215&bih=777

10 months ago

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Shi

Oh that's quite an interesting design, I'm also curious as to the function of the centre spike! Have you had an opportunity to try compare it with other glasses when trying a daiginjo?

Funnily enough my sister got me a christmas present of a daiginjo glass as well:
https://kimuraglass.net/product/tasaki-sake-daiginjo-whisky-4oz/

Sadly, I haven't had a chance to open a daiginjo to try it out yet. The shape does seem to resemble your Usuhari glasses though sans the centre protrusion.

10 months ago
Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

@Shi , actually I bought it as a gift for a friend. But now, I'm thinking of getting one for myself!

The glass you got for Christmas reminds me of the ones some bars use for whisky.

Also, I'm quite interested in finding that Riedel you mentioned last time. I bring back several cups with me from Japan, on every trip.

10 months ago
Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

@ChuToroZuke
So I have BS日テレ on my TV. And I just stumbled upon a show called Furuhata Maeda Enishi Sake 古畑前田のえにし酒. Basically, these two cute hosts walk around different neighborhoods, and check out places to drink. This episode was in Shimbashi. They went to a place called Sake dokoro Ame 酒どころ海美. I thought it was kind of a silly show, judging by the appearance of the two girls the show's named after (one's a pop idol group member, and the other a seiyuu voice actress). But when the proprietress brought out the Toyobijin and Juyondai for them, I started to think, they're not messing around!

Here's the link for the show, and the izakaya they went. I think the place specializes in sake pairings. Perhaps you might enjoy getting into this show.
https://www.bs4.jp/enishizake/
https://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1301/A130103/13162276/

10 months ago
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ChuToroZuke

Yeah I have an Usuhari Daiginjo glass, first tasted with it as a friend had it. Those things are light and very fragile. It works quite nicely with Junmai Daiginjo and Daiginjo sake, and depending on the profile accentuates rice umami flavors quite incredibly, whether the sake overall drinks masculine or feminine. Might still want to use it along with a Chardonnay wine glass as it may not be the best depending on the brew (or Burgundy if a long term low temperature fermented/aged Junmai Daiginjo).

Thanks for the link to the TV show, too bad no full episodes are available for streaming.

10 months ago
Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

It's nice to know that Usuhari glass is not just for show. Really well crafted I think.

If you're looking for it, just for reference. On bilibili, but you can find the episode if you search: 191229 古畑前田のえにし酒 ep11
The sake izakya in Shimbashi is the first half. The Toyobijin is brought out during the 5 minute mark, and Juyondai around 10 minute.

(I'm not sure if that website is doing anything to conflict with Japan tv contracts, but as a person in Japan who already has BS included in their tv package, I think it should be acceptable to rewatch.)

10 months ago

Menchikatsu

Not to bombard you, as I've just written back below, in reply to your Nytimes sake article link. But I was looking back to a thread I messaged Saito-san a month back, and found that you replied me, but I might have missed it.

Allow me to paste it here, with a few questions.


"...allow me to throw one recommendation for kappo kaiseki.

Fushikino

https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1309/A130905/13130697/

Although from the counter you likely won't see any kitchen action unlike Seizan/Aoyama Ichita. What would be very appealing at least for you, is that they specialize also in sake pairing, namely pairing specific sake with very specific dishes. Their food style is supposedly kyo-kaiseki. This is unlike at Goryukubo where if you ask for a recommended sake you get maybe a 90 mL portion to last several courses (and same for Ichita) where the pairings can be subjective and sometimes hit and miss but if anything they will make you feel good.

The tabelog score is 3.60 so that will likely deter a lot of visitors, but this shop also does warm sake using very specific ceramic vessels (the ones that look like saucers) that elevate aroma and the right amount of acidity in a great balance, and I'm sure they will serve other sake at their optimal serving temperatures depending on the brew and course to match. While I have not eaten here, this place comes highly recommended by one of the best sake bar owners in Tokyo, a friend who visited recently, as well as the okamisan of a Michelin star Japanese restaurant in LA who went there also.

This one is actually on my to try list next time I visit, but I welcome you to consider, as it could be quite off the beaten path. At least it is recognized by some sake industry folks, but still under the radar. Oh by the way, the okamisan of the LA restaurant, her husband does some wicked modern style kappo washoku (a little bit of fusion, California local ingredients where appropriate) that also matches with sake, so her endorsement to me is valid."


Well, let me say I've now added it to my folder! Haha. Fushikino, the decor certainly suits my tastes, with its den like environment. I will most certainly try to go on my next trip. Kagurazaka is not out of the way, as I quite love that neighborhood. And their careful approach to pairing sake with very specific dishes, and hot sake with proper ceramic vessels/temperatures, is quite appealing.

May I ask, what sake bar in Tokyo made the recommendation? I'd love to visit it too.
And in LA, which modern kappo is this? Very few places fit that description plus one Michelin star. Shibumi is one. There's also a newer 1 star counter, Hayato, who actually trained at Goryukubo you've mentioned above.

10 months ago

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ChuToroZuke

One of the answers will be part of Sake Chronicles Volume 5, I'd rather save the material for that. The modern kappo would be Shunji Japanese cuisine (people love the sushi, but the strengths are more in the cooked dishes). I've been to Hayato as well.

10 months ago
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Shi

Hopefully not derailing too far off the subject but I'm curious about your thoughts on Godenya in Hong Kong?

We've dined there twice and have quite enjoyed the experience where he pairs sake with various dishes with certain ones being served warm as noted above. I feel that Goshimaさん's pairings have worked quite well for us with his dishes which we have also found very tasty.

10 months ago
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ChuToroZuke

@Shi Goshima san of Godenya is very well regarded amongst sake people in Tokyo. He is for sure a wizard for serving sake at the right temperature and focuses entirely on pairings with food. The type of sake he selects is very artisan jizake that connoisseurs will enjoy, but I think he also serves them so that anyone will also appreciate it. He is able to procure very eclectic brews (some of which are aged possibly by himself). His brother runs the kitchen and my friends who have visited said it is some of the best kappo washoku in Hong Kong. I’m also told he is also super knowledgeable, like an encyclopedia, whether it be sake, food, culture. He did a collaboration earlier this year with one of the Cantonese fine dining seafood restaurants for sake pairing, that would have been fun.

It is on my to visit list.

10 months ago
Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

No problems at all @Shi , always good to hear new tips about worthwhile places in different cities. I think that sort of goes along with the bottom portion of this thread anyways.

@ChuToroZuke , good idea to wait. I'll look forward to your Volume 5 in anticipation then.

I haven't been back to Shunji in a long time, but this makes me want to go back and try it. I used to frequent the soba/snack restaurant Yabu on the same block. That intersection of Pico street is convenient for Japanese food in every direction. With nearby Sawtelle, Mitsuwa down the road, and Marukai right there. The locally famous, referral only yakiniku Totoraku is also closeby on Pico.

You've already been to Hayato! I have not yet. Do you think he's moved away from the styles he trained under, at Goryukubo and Ishikawa?

10 months ago

Shi

Has anyone tried the Riedel stemware that is specifically targeted to sake? I know of two offhand, the Daiginjo and the Junmai glasses. Wondering if they make a notable difference in the experience

10 months ago

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guest

ChuToroZuke uses them. He's a proper nihonshu otaku, after all.

10 months ago
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ChuToroZuke

@guest, LOL. I should say "thank you!" :-D It's like when Ono Jiro called Nakazawa Daisuke a shokunin for mastering tamago, haha.

@Shi: Riedel makes two sake glasses as you mentioned already. However within those two you can also get machine made or crystal (much thinner, more fragile, but really elegant in touch/feel). Most people I've talked to say the machine and more affordable versions are sufficient.

Yes I do have the Junmai glass, and really do believe in it. However it does not work with every single Junmai....but if you like to drink muroka nama genshu Junmai, sake that has been aged, full bodied and want it to breathe quicker to release more aromas and accentuate umami, then this glass is for you. So far of all the Junmai sake I've tasted in Japan with the glass, does work really well, and even Junmai Ginjo Muroka Nama Genshu, as well as If the Junmai (or Junmai Ginjo) is lighter bodied, letting it breathe too much would weaken the finish (and shorten it).

I personally have not tasted with and also do not have the Riedel Daiginjo glass. Some say it is a rip off and does little to it, and essentially you could get away with drinking a Daiginjo grade sake in a Chardonnay or Riesling glass, which it is not that far off from.
The Daiginjo glass is also offered in a version with a wine stem, and one without.

You can find these glasses easily at any Riedel shop in Tokyo, the one in Ginza near Yurakucho side will surely have it, and you can also check out some of their small sake selections (and wine) as well. However if you or anyone lives in Taipei or Hong Kong you can purchase the Riedel Junmai (and likely Daiginjo glass) there as well. Still not available in the USA yet in retail shops.

10 months ago
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guest

It is also available from Amazon for $45 with free shipping.

https://www.amazon.com/Riedel-Vinum-Leaded-Crystal-Daiginjo/dp/B0000DC0ZJ

10 months ago
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10 months ago
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Shi

Thank you so much for that analysis @ChuToroZuke the breakdown and detail on all the options was very very helpful. We'll be spending time in Hong Kong, Taipei, and Japan in the next month so will keep our eyes open for the Junmai glass!

Also thank you for hunting those down for me @guest if we weren't going to be in Asia so soon I'd definitely consider alternative options

10 months ago
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ChuToroZuke

@Shi, it is best that you buy it directly from Japan, and if you are going to be in Tokyo anyway then drop by any Riedel shop there so you will get the original packaging. The setback is that you will need to hand carry it on the plane and not pack it in your suitcase to ensure its safety (a large backpack would be sufficient). You can also ask if they have the two glass box set, it ends up being a little cheaper buying a pair in a box rather than one. With mail order you run the risk of not knowing the quality and packaging, and there's nothing you can do if it arrives cracked/broken. .

10 months ago
Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

That Riedel junmai glass is indeed quite beautiful. It almost reminds me of the coupe glass, used for martini style cocktails these days.

10 months ago
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Shi

Thank you for the advice @ChuToroZuke - we will plan on visiting the Riedel shop in Tokyo and make sure to allocate space to carry it on with us on the trip home!

10 months ago

ChuToroZuke

Thank you all very much for your kinds words! There are a lot more shops out there, but this list is a nice start for sure! Watch out also for regional Japan antenna shops (each one representing a prefecture of Japan selling its unique souvenirs) as places to find some regional sake (no high end bottles for the most part). For example, there are several around the border of Ginza and Yurakucho (closer to Yurakucho side). You can find some interesting rare lower end bottles of Born, Kokuryu at the Fukui antenna shop, and don’t miss the Hyogo, Osaka, Akita, Hokkaido antenna shops inside Tokyo Akitsu Kaikan buildings for more regional fun shopping!

The sake shops I am sure will gladly appreciate all of you for any support!

11 months ago

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Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

When you mentioned antenna shops, I completely forgot, that I have actually gone into the Yurakucho location of Kimijimaya. Didn't even know the name, until I just checked the map. Right in the middle of all those antenna/satellite shops. Went after buying my loaf of bread from Centre the Bakery. That area is one of my favorite morning walks in Tokyo.

11 months ago
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ChuToroZuke

I believe the Ishikawa, Kochi, and Okinawa antenna shops are nearby to where you are. Although the Okinawa antenna shop is more awamori focused and I don't recall seeing any sake in there. Some of these antenna shop offerings do really sell the true jizake, not the high end brand name ones, but sake that is more local and common...some you could find elsewhere in Tokyo but some you can't, mostly at the Junmai or Junmai Ginjo (and honjozo) levels. Truly a nice walk just visiting all the various shops and area around Yurakucho, quite a lot to see! The Hyogo antenna shop apparently went through remodeling and looks more snazzy, and the Tatsuriki selection seems to have expanded, I believe there may be a sake bar in that building somewhere as well that's open in the evenings.

11 months ago
Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

I am curious the difference between large sake makers and revered brands vs. small batch jizake. Which would be considered the higher in quality? Sometimes, when I've visited towns outside Tokyo, I've stopped into local sake stores, a few off the beaten path. Sometimes they are actually really nice shops. And they only carry stuff made nearby. I think I've been into a few in Kanazawa, Hida Takayama, and the nearby Kawagoe.

I did see last time I went to Yurakucho, there was indeed a renovated antenna store which heavily placed focus on its sake.
A sake bar in Ginza which seems to come up in a lot of foreign travel guides, is called Sake no Ana, with 160 types on hand. Right next to that wonderful classic western restaurant Rengatei. I think I will also check out the Ginza Kengyo Sake Cellar.

11 months ago
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ChuToroZuke

@Menchikatsu, at that rate the answer is more subjective. The more you taste, the better your sense of preference, flavor profile proclivities, and value your money can buy, and also if you think about food pairings. No doubt large producers also make fine sake (especially high end), but small producers make equally if not sometimes more powerful and impactful brews on all sides of the spectrum and willing to push boundaries that large producers won’t to distinguish themselves.

I guess it helps if you understand the philosophy and expression the sake maker is trying for, the geography and local food culture, as well as their limitations. It’s the same thing with wine.

11 months ago
Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

The range and possibilities of sake, is becoming more and more endless to me. I am actually a big supporter of the small town hero, and note a quality decline whenever beer/wine makers ramp up production. So I would hope small batch makers do the most exciting work.

I am a sorta nerd about terroir. I like to think the term goes beyond just climate & soil, into local practices and tastes. "A sense of place" really covers a lot. So I would certainly think about a town's sake in context with the daily food they live in and think about.

On another note, I noticed you sometimes compare certain sake to a Burgundy Chablis grand cru. Recently, I've been trying to sample these, along with Meursault, Pouilly Fuisse, and California chardonnay. I think the preference between fans of metal vs. oak barrels is interesting.
This general category of 'drink' is all encompassing, and you can really discover similarities different drinks have in common, when exploring from different angles.

11 months ago
User default d6f8776075bbcbf91b3886fd7b0aeb86c94956e290bd9b9223466618a8cd47a2

ChuToroZuke

@Menchikatsu, I think the more I’ve been drinking White Burgundy and Alsace white wine recently, the less now I think the comparisons are as valid. There is more noteable sharpness from grape tartness and acidity that is different in sake, and even certain bottles when I have them side by side with white wine don’t have that similar characteristics. But I think in terms of enjoyment and to a lesser extent for pairing, you could put them together and try a food item to compare their effects. I haven’t had the pleasure to try a fresh Nama sake of a solid producer in Japan side by side with a great white wine with a similar profile just yet... but I’m sure if you used the right glassware it would be quite enjoyable for both.

11 months ago
Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

Ok, I will note that the white wine to sake comparison is only valid at a certain entry level, but not as you go deeper into it.

I'd think, it's not common to see white wine served side by side with sake, to a single customer at most restaurants. Although it is acceptable and the norm in Japan, to order small pours of high end sake, it would be the bottle of white burgundy that is harder to ask for a glass. I'd think they'd ask you to buy the whole bottle, as it is in most western restaurants. And I've not seen a place where you're required to order the full bottle of sake, rather than just a glass.

Proper glassware is really a detail fan's subject, and I'd like to see it come up more. Sometimes, when a Japanese restaurant offers you a choice between what little pottery/ceramic sake cups to use, I wonder if I chose the wrong one... or if they aren't even offering the best option. I wonder the implications of sake, of trapping the aroma in a glass, as they do for wine.

10 months ago
User default d6f8776075bbcbf91b3886fd7b0aeb86c94956e290bd9b9223466618a8cd47a2

ChuToroZuke

@Menchikatsu, that is correct. It's much simpler to pour a village level Chablis or Bourgogne ("Burgundy Blanc") literally table wine by the glass and let its sharp acidity have enough power to do really simple effective pairings. It's much lower cost to a restaurant to do a pairing that way. Same for Sancerre, Pouilly Fuisse, Pouilly Fume (except for the higher end pricey bottles). Of the places that do Chassagne or Puligny Montrachet by the glass, expect a higher price point for it.

There's so much to learn about different glassware. A trained certified wine sommelier who has a taste for sake might be able to approximate the right glass. I'm not a huge fan of some of the ceramic cups for sake in Japanese sushi restaurants in America, and depending on the sake, in general most white wine or Chardonnay glasses would work, but depending on the structure of the sake, a wine glass could accentuate a certain sake's weakness or a profile you don't want accentuated. It takes a lot of knowledge, wisdom, and experience to determine what's the best case....so trial and error learning is best. But this is all moot if a restaurant sells sake by the glass but the rate of attrition for the bottle is uncontrolled, you ask for a wine glass to give it a bit more surface area to breathe for a bottle that has been opened for a while, and you pretty much let any residual aromas escape... so maybe that kiriko is better or that shorter ceramic glass (hard to say then).

10 months ago
Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

I'd love to have more of the nicer Montrachets at all. Though I probably won't come across it in a restaurant, unless part of a very nice course menu wine pairing. How much a glass of Leflaive or Leroy would even cost... probably the entire budget for dinner.

I did happen to be treated to some nice sakes tonight, at the hands of a veteran sommelier. He poured me by default, sake using a wine glass. So it's nice to see some progress on this side of the world towards sake. They keep some ceramic cups on hand as an option. I sampled the Niwa no Uguisu 50, a yamahai, and a few others.

Combining the subjects of a) wine glass shape affecting a sake's taste + b) and pairing with the right food, this really becomes very complicated! It must take some great intuition to know exactly which glass goes best with the sake, which pairs best with a certain dish. So there is no substitute for experience when things gets this advanced. And I would hope whoever is in charge of the sake, is actually tasting the bottle after opening.

10 months ago
User default d6f8776075bbcbf91b3886fd7b0aeb86c94956e290bd9b9223466618a8cd47a2

ChuToroZuke

@Menchikatsu Leflaive has a sub label Olivier Leflaive, and they also have village level wine akin to honjozo or futsushu, Macon and Pouilly Fuisse (of course the PF is at least x2 to x3 a typical PF). I don't think Grand Cru level will ever be offered by the glass, at most it would be 1er Cru but certainly not Leflaive or Leroy kind of brands.

Last I checked September 2018, Esquisse Ginza had Okuyokawa Tatsuriki Dragon
Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo by the glass. Not unicorn, but it was an interesting choice.

Speaking of sake in wine glasses:

https://www.nytimes.com/paidpost/jfoodo/is-sake-the-new-white-wine.html

10 months ago
Blackglasses1

Menchikatsu

If I ever saw a premier cru of that high reputation offered by the glass (at a reasonable price) I would jump at the chance to have with dinner.

I've heard Esquisse is getting better and better, as he continues to refine and improve his cooking. It's always been on my radar, right next to L'Effervescence.

On the topic of this article you've linked, I've actually had the lucky fortune of visiting a few of these restaurants.

I did not know Orsa & Winston had such a strong sake program, I would like to return, and sit at the counter, where it's a difference menu from tables. I like where the beverage director notes about wine glasses: “You also have the opportunity of smelling the sake first. We want it to be equated to that same full-sensory wine experience.” And that he refers to sake as what pairs best here.

The Rappahannock oyster bar part is interesting, the idea of drinking sake from an empty shell. I twice dined in front of the previous chef, at his two LA restaurants, before he left for Detroit, to start a modern izakaya called Antihero. Quite a forward thinking guy, quite skilled.

Cosme is especially interesting to see, being that their food is modern Mexican. But maybe not so surprising, being that ceviche is essentially a highly dressed citric sashimi, much like Italian crudo.

It's nice to see more and more high profile American restaurants, exploring the possibilities of sake in their restaurants, and educating new diners to the possibilities.

10 months ago

Shi

Very enlightening will definitely reference this during our upcoming trip! Thanks ChuToroZuke and Saito!

11 months ago

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