Monday, October 18, 2010

Niigata Sake: It's the water, baby!

Sake made in the prefecture of Niigata, Japan
Fall means visits from Japanese premium sake makers: several family-owned breweries from Niigata showcased their fine sake at Gonapachi Beverly Hills recently including Aoki, Kinshihai, Kirinzan, Matsunoi, Musashino and Obata. There are 96 sake producers in Niigata; I find I prefer Niigata-made sake--and now I know why. It's the pristine water source, predominantly from snow melt that feeds local rivers and wells.

Matsunoi Shuzojo brewery was found in 1895

A tokubetsu junmai (rice milled to 55%) from Matsunoi (labeled "Wishing Well") was outstanding: fine, delicate and hint of toasted rice but with a mouth feel of fresh spring water.  Their toji has been making sake for more than 50 years using a local rice (Takane Nishiki).  Another standout was the Yukikage "Snow Shadow," another tokubetsu junmai, made from an on-site spring at the Kinshihai Shuzo brewery.

Gonpachi restaurant's Japanese sake list is one of LA's best.

The LA tasting was sponsored by the Sushi & Sake newsletter; the group moved on to San Francisco after stops in Dallas, TX and New York City.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Zengo Santa Monica's Japanese sake list impresses

Toyo Bijin Ohkarakuchi
Junmai Ginjo

Served at sunset.

Dassai 50
Junmai Ginjo

Also served in a fragile but elegant Schott crystal glass.

Zengo Santa Monica
Santa Monica Place, Third floor dining deck

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tips on how to order sake

You're in a restaurant and you've been presented with the sake list. Guess what? It's probably like no other list you've ever seen and that's because there's no uniformity in lists. Unlike wine, where most lists have the vintage year, varietal and brand name, sake lists rarely have a vintage year (though you can often find it on the label) and you may find the brand name or brewery and also a proper name and sometimes the region where the sake originates. At Kabuki in Hollywood (above), I tasted a sake sampler--the little card below comes with tasting notes--a good intro to a sake list.

You'll find some very useful tips here from San Francisco writer Tom Gray on how to order sake in a restaurant.  He suggests ordering Japanese sake over domestic, cold over hot (in a wine glass please!), no nigori (cloudy, roughly filtered sake) and Junmai ginjo which he thinks are the most wine like. All good tips.

Six things to know before ordering sake: Comes from Rory Moulton who also discusses nigori, he reminds not to pour your own sake, cold sake is best and avoid sake bombs!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sake at LAMill Coffee Silver Lake

Kikusui Junmai Gingo: clean, crisp with a touch of citrus and a most elegant presentation at LAMill Coffee in Silver Lake (Los Angeles). Pair with LAMill's jidori chicken. Sake glasses are perched on small pedestals; sake is served from a carafe with a small ice pocket.

LAMill Coffee
1636 Silver Lake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 663-4441

Monday, February 15, 2010

Japanese Sake from Trader Joe's: Junmai Ginjo Sake by Oimatsu Shuzo

Thanks to Trader Joe's you can try a very approachable, middle-ground premium sake for approximately $10. Some nice tasting notes from rateabeer. Their consensus: the sake is slightly floral, fruity and very drinkable. Sake is from the Oimatsu Shuzo Co. in Hita, Japan (on Japan's Southernmost island). The SMV (sake meter value) is +3 so medium dry and 45% of rice polished away.

If you look on the lower left hand corner of the label, you will find a date that indicates when the sake was bottled.  (09.09 above) The one I served on Valentine's Day was bottled September 2009; you should try to drink sake within six months and definitely within the year.  If it's over a year old, serve it slightly warmed.  I paired it with a miso-marinated cod, grilled shrimp and teriyaki chicken.