October Seasonal Japanese Seafood

Kinki

Kinki

As the waters become cooler the fish become rich with fat. We love sanma (Pacific saury) this time of year, both as sashimi, or simply salted and grilled. If there is a nice cup of nihonshu on the table, eating the guts of the sanma is also a treat. For miso soup a handful of shijimi (corbicula clams) into the pot brings lots of umami and flavor. A bowl asari (Japanese little neck clam) steamed in nihonshu is a perfect appetizer to dinner. While I always thought of hirame (halibut) and karei (flounder) as white fish and hence non-fatty that is not at all the case. These flatfish can take on a lot of fat – which you can actually see in the flesh. These are great as sashimi, or after a day or two we love to simmer until tender in nihonshu. Kinki (thornhead) is a fish that Shinji loves. It is often served as a nimono, simmered in a delicate soy broth.

Ainame 鮎並 fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii)

Aka garei 赤鰈flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)

Amaebi 甘海老 sweet shrimp(Pandalus borealis)

Asaba garei 浅羽鰈 dusky sole (Lepidopsetta bilineata)

Asari 浅蜊 Japanese little neck clam (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Awabi abalone (Haliotis sorenseni)

Babagarei 婆鰈 slime flounder (Microstomus achne)

Baka gai 馬鹿貝 surf clam (Mactra chinensis)

Benizuwai gani 紅頭矮蟹 red snow crab (Chionoecetes japonicus)

Botan ebi ボタンエビ Botan shrimp  (Pandalus nipponesis)

Hakkaku or tokubire 八角 sailfin poacher (Podothecus sachi)

Hata hata 鰰  sailfin sandfish (Arctoscopus japonicus)

Hime ezobora 姫蝦夷法螺  sea snail (Neptunea arthritica)

Hirame 鮃 olive halibut (Paralichthys olivaceus)

Hokkai ebi or hokkai shima ebi 北海海老 Hokkai shrimp (Pandalus latirostris)

Hokke 𩸽 arabesque greenling (Pleurogrammus azonus)

Hokki gai (uba gai) 姥貝 hen clam (Pseudocardium sachalinense)

Hokkoku aka ebi or amaebi 北国赤蝦  Alaskan pink shrimp (Pandalus borealis)

Hon maguro (or kuromaguro) 黒鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

Hotate gai 帆立貝 Japanese scallop (Mizuhopecten yessoensis)

Kaki  牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Numagarei or wakagarei 沼鰈 starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus)

Kegani 毛蟹 horsehair crab (Erimacrus isenbeckii)

Kemushi kajika 毛虫鰍 sea raven or toubetsu kajika (Hemitripterus villosus)

Kinki or Kichiji 黄血魚 thornhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kitsune mebaru 狐目張 or mazoi fox jacopever (Sebastes vulpes)

Kuro gashira garei 黒頭鰈 cresthead flounder (Pleuronectes schrenki)

Kurosoi 黒曹以 jacopever (Sebastes zonatusschlegeli)

Madara or tara 真鱈 Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus)

Magarei 真鰈 littlemouth flounder (Pleuronectes herzensteini)

Mako garei 真子鰈 marbled flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Masu 鱒 trout (there are many types of trout – see nijimasu, sakuramasu)

Matsukawa garei or tantaka or takanoha 松皮鰈 barfin flounder (Verasper moseri)

Mizudako 水蛸 North Pacific giant octopus (Octopus dofleini)

Muroaji 室鰺 Brown-striped mackerel scad (Decapterus muroadsi)

Niji masu 虹鱒 rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Nishin 鰊 Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Sake 鮭 salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Sakura masu or yamame 桜鱒 cherry salmon (Oncorhynchus masou maso)

Sanma 秋刀魚 Pacific saury (Cololabis saira)

Shako 蝦蛄 mantis shrimp (Oratosquilla oratoria)

Shiira 粃 mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)

Shijimi 大和蜆 corbicula clam (Corbicula japonica)

Shirauo 白魚 icefish (Salangichthys microdon)

Shishamo 柳葉魚 capelin (Spirinchus lanceolatus)

Souhachi 宗八鰈 pointhead flounder (Cleishenes pinetorum)

Suketou dara 鯳 Alaska pollack (Theragra chalcogramma)

Suna garei 砂鰈 sand flounder (Limanda punctatissima)

Surumeika 鯣烏賊 Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Tachiuo 太刀魚 cutlassfish (Trichiurus lepturus)

Tarabagani 鱈場蟹 Alaska king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Ugui 鯎 Japanese dace (Tribolodon Hakonensis)

Wakasagi 若細魚 Japanese smelt (Hypomesus nipponensis)

Yanagi no mai 柳の舞 yellow rockfish (Sebastes steindachneri)

Hanamaru Market Food Fair at Shinjuku Odakyu

Hanamaru Market is a morning television variety program. While it is not a food program, it introduces the favorite food of each day’s guest. I have found this program a great way to be introduced to products I would not necessarily come across. Food items include regional items from guests’ hometowns to some local favorites in Tokyo.

The Omeza Fair at Shinjuku Odakyu is a food fair that introduces some of these popular foods. Some of my favorites include Azabu Juban’s osembei shop, Mamegen’s shio okaki. These deep-fried rice crackers are simply seasoned with salt. These are addictive so watch out.  From Kyoto, Gion Kinana’s kinako ice cream, an ice cream flavored with toasted soybean powder, and Izumiya chirimenjako, small sardines and sansho peppers, perfect for topping over a bowl of rice. As well as pickles, mentaiko, umeboshi, gyoza, shumai, pork buns from Nagasaki, and much, much more.

If you are in Shinjuku stop by as it is near the station. The event runs from today until Tuesday, October 4th. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., on the last day the event closes at 5 p.m.

Shinjuku Odakyu 11th floor.

Wine Dinners with Master Sommelier Ned Goodwin – Salt

Here is the first upcoming wine dinner with the great Ned Goodwin.

Jamsheed Wines

Jamsheed Wines

■ Jamsheed Winemaker’s Dinner @ Salt

The Jamsheed label began in 2003 with a focus on single vineyard Syrahs and aromatic whites from unique sites in Victoria. The vineyards are selected to demonstrate the versatility and charm of these magnificent varieties. Each wine is made utilising thoroughly natural processes, indigenous yeasts, minimal handling, no fining or filtering to allow each individual vineyard to fully convey its character.

Winemaker Gary Mills will be hosting a special dinner with Ned Goodwin M.W at Salt on Friday September 30th where guests will be able to enjoy 5 of his stunning wines paired with an exceptional menu. To be held in the private room at Salt, this dinner is limited to just 9 guests. This is Gary’s first winemaker’s dinner in Japan so this is a rare treat to enjoy his “new-school” style graceful and elegant wines.

About Jamsheed Wines

Jamsheed Wine Makers Dinner

Date / Friday September 30th
Time / Start 19:00
Venue / Salt Access
6F Shin-Marunouchi Building, 1-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Charge / JPY 18,000 (including tax and service charges)
Wine Menu / Great Western Riesling Westgate Vineyard 2010La Syrah 2010

Yarra Valley Syrah Healesville Vineyard 2010

Great Western Syrah Garden Gully Vineyard 2010

Yarra Valley Syrah Silvan Vineyard 2010

Reservations /
Please email Sally to make a reservation.Or telephone 03-5786-3280.

Wine Dinners with Master Sommelier Ned Goodwin

Here is the second upcoming wine dinner with the great Ned Goodwin.

Jamsheed Wines

Jamsheed Wines

■ Jamsheed Winemaker’s Dinner @ Tableaux

The Jamsheed label began in 2003 with a focus on single vineyard Syrahs and aromatic whites from unique sites in Victoria. The vineyards are selected to demonstrate the versatility and charm of these magnificent varieties. Each wine is made utilising thoroughly natural processes, indigenous yeasts, minimal handling, no fining or filtering to allow each individual vineyard to fully convey its character.

About Jamsheed Wines

Jamsheed Wine Makers Dinner

saturday 1st october 2011

dinner from 7:30 pm
15,800 JPY per guest

◆ WINES ◆
westgate riesling 2010
sylvan syrah 2010
healdsville syrah 2010
garden gully syrah 2010
la syrah 2010

◆ MENU ◆

hirame amuse bouche
konbu seaweed marinated halibut・kyoho grape

botan ebi gazpacho
hakodate jumbo sweet shrimp・lobster bisque foam

smoky challan duck
roasted beats・feta cheese・grecian kalamata olives

crispy skin salmon
one side sautéed salmon・lens beans & akari mashed potato・harissa ratatouille

char grilled tasmanian lamb
aurora lamb kofte・bulgura wheat ricena

stephane vieux wine dinner special dessert

◆ Reservation ◆

Restaurant Tableaux

Sunroser Daikanyama B1 11-6 Sarugaku-cho Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0033
Telephone:03-5489-2201
Email:tableaux@global-dining.com


Tokyo’s Top Places to Drink

Izakaya 居酒屋 are literally places to have something to drink. When I was working as a sommelier at the New York Bar and Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo my shift would end late at night, well after dinner. I would often stop by a local izakaya for a beer and some small bites. What made this one so special was the friendly mama-san. I was always welcomed and the food was all made by okaasan. Good izakayas should be just this, offering good food and drinks, and making the customer feel comfortable.

Tokyo is also home to some of the world’s top mixologists at places like Star Bar Ginza  or Bar Tender. These will be covered in a separate post. For now, here are my favorite places to have a drink in Tokyo.

  1. A popular izakaya in the nostalgic shitamachi district of Morishita, Yamariki 山利喜  was introduced to me by Japan’s first Master Sommelier Ned Goodwin. Ned brought me here one night to drink French wines with izakaya cuisine. Yamariki has a sommelier on staff, Mizukami-san who will gladly pair wine with your order. One night here I ran into John Gauntner, who said the restaurant also has a great selection of nihonshu. Yamariki is also known for its nikomi, soy-simmered innards, which has been made with the same broth for over forty years. It is also known for its yakiton or grilled pork bits (like yakitori but made with pork instead of chicken). Koto-ku, Morishita 2-18-8.
  2. Sasagin 笹吟 has one of the better selections of nihonshu in the city and exquisite fare to go with it. Best of all, if you ask them to help you select interesting ones to try they will. It is very popular so reservations are highly recommended. Shibuya-ku, Uehara 1-32-15.
  3. For wine I love Maru マル because of its value. Next door to the standing bar is a wine shop. Pick up a bottle there and the corkage fee is only 500 yen at the bar. It feels a bit like a European wine bar with food like cured ham and cheese but there is also a grill station on the second floor for grilled skewers. There are also seats on the second floor. Chuo-ku, Hatchobori 3-22-10.
  4. Buri is a popular standing bar near Ebisu. I come here for the one cup sake, a selection of about 30 to choose from. Small plates to share, seasonal seafood, and some grilled meats. Ask for the frozen sake which is almost like a slushy. (I don’t think the brand I had was Hakutsuru, but this video shows you what the slushy looks like.)  Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 1-14-1.
  5. Everyone needs at least one reliable place for beer and my go-to bar is The Harajuku Taproom. Delicious craft beer by the talented Bryan Baird and kushiyaki (grilled meats and vegetables). It is also conveniently located just off of Takeshita Dori, a few minutes’ walk from Harajuku station. There is also a location in Naka-Meguro. To educate your palate, try small cups of a variety of his beer. You won’t be disappointed. Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 1-20-13, No Surrender Bldg. 2F
  6. Saiseisakaba 再生酒場 is the place to go if you are into innards. From sashimi to simmered to grilled, you’ll find a wide selection to choose from. My personal favorite shop is in Monzennakacho but there is also a branch at the Shin Maru Building near Tokyo station. Alternatively, the Shinjuku branch too is a lot of fun. I usually drink shochu as it is a great partner for the offal. Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-7-3. www.ishii-world.jp/brand/motsu/nihonsaisei/shinjuku3/ 
  7. Located in the heart of Ginza, Sake no Ana 酒の穴 is on John Gauntner’s great book, The Sake Handbook. I came across it as I was looking for a place to try a variety of nihonshu over lunch and this was the only place that was open. I called ahead and was told that there was a kikizakeshi (sake sommelier) on staff and that he would be there for lunch. Sakamoto-san gave us exactly what we were looking for, a variety of different nihonshu. The evening menu is also available at lunch if you ask for it. Traditional izakaya bites like grilled himono (salted and air-dried fish), natto omelet, and much more. Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-5-8.
  8. It is a bit of a journey to Ikejiri Ohashi, but well worth it to get to Tsukushinoko つくしのこ. One of my favorite nights out learning about nihonshu with beer writer (and nihonshu aficionado) Bryan Harrell. It feels very local and cozy inside and the selection of nihonshu is great. Staff are also very knowledgeable and can help guide you through a variety of sips. Typical izakaya fare – ask for a nabe (hot pot) in the winter time, you won’t be disappointed. Meguro-ku, Higashiyama 3-1-11.
  9. If you are looking for somewhere to celebrate an occasion then the New York Bar & Grill in the Park Hyatt Tokyo is on top of my list. Perhaps you’ll recognize it from Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. The high ceilings and the spectacular views from the 52nd floor are breathtaking. My recommendation is to go just before sunset so that you can see the lights come up on the city as it sparkles below you. I used to work here, and I am even more convinced that this is one of Tokyo’s special places. Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2.
  10. A good martini and burger can be found at beacon in Aoyama. One of Tokyo’s top chefs, David Chiddo not only makes a great burger, he also knows his martinis. David’s Perfect Martini is made from one of my favorite gins, Hendricks. Parent company T.Y. Express is also the owner of the brewery TY Harbor, making really good beer, which is also on the menu here at beacon. Solo diners can sit at the bar and enjoy their martini and burger. Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-2-5.

Hokkaido Food Festival at Ikebukuro Tobu

Running now through Tuesday, September 27th at Ikebukuro Tobu is a big Hokkaido Food Festival. My favorite food to pick up here is always the amazing bento, both seafood based but also including some wagyu. I am always a fan of the seafood from Sato Suisan, like the bento layered with uni, ikura, and crab legs (for only 1,575 JPY).

Hokkaido, also famous for its milk and sweets, you’ll find a large selection of sweets. I like the puddings, fresh melon, and chocolate-dipped potato chips from Royce. And, of course, a selection of wine and sake.

Tobu Ikebukuro – 8th floor

ends at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21

ends at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, September 27

Five Questions for Sake Master John Gauntner

Sake Master John Gauntner

Sake Master John Gauntner

John Gauntner has done more to promote sake than any other non-Japanese in the world. John is the author of five books, an informational monthly newsletter, and for those lucky enough to be in Tokyo, he holds interesting tasting seminars at Takara.  His accomplishments are too numerous to list all of them here but some highlights include being the only non-Japanese to be certified in both the Master of Sake Tasting and as a Sake Expert Assessor. He also sits on many panels, often as the only non-Japanese, and rarely does a month go by where John is not in a Japanese magazine or newspaper. He has inspired many in the world to pursue and learn more about sake.

He has influenced my life as well. While I was working at Takashimaya’s flagship store in Nihonbashi as a sommelier in the sake department the staff were given a chance to study another beverage. The store manager encouraged me to study sake but John had done so much to promote sake that I decided my energy was better spent learning shochu. Originally from Ohio, this fellow Midwesterner also came to Japan on the JET program the same year that I did, in 1989.

John generously shares with us some with insightful tips for sake lovers visiting Tokyo. My recommendation is to time your trip with one of his sake seminars, to subscribe to his free newsletter, and pick up one of his books. My personal favorite at the moment is The Tokyo Sake Pub Guide.

1. On your website you list many of the best izakaya in the metropolis. If a visitor to Tokyo has only a limited time, could you suggest three izakaya. By visiting all three readers would have a better understanding of the izakaya scene in Japan.

This is a hard question to answer without qualifying. It all depends on whether or not one speaks Japanese. But I think one all around recommendable izakaya for food, sake, ambience and user friendliness is Sasagin. Another great and classy one on all fronts that flies under the radar a bit is Nakamura in Shibuya. Everyone that goes there is surprisingly pleased. And perhaps the ultimate gritty (in a good way) izakaya experience with great sake too is Taru-ichi in Kabukicho. Finally, the fourth of the three is Ajisen in Tsukishima: outstanding food, great sake, but very small, very popular and a bit more expensive.

But there are so many more…

2. What are good retail sake shops in Tokyo? Ideally conveniently located.

Surely the Hasegawa Saketen shop INSIDE JR Tokyo station at Gransta is the easiest and best. They have a great sake selection, English spoken (a bit) and optimally located albeit inside the wicket. Their Azabu Juban store is good too. Next would be Sakaya Kurihara in Moto Azabu, at the bottom of the hill down from the Chinese Embassy. Solid, classic collection and friendly proprietors but English may be strained. And in Shibuya, Tokyu Food Show just below Hachiko has a great selection too.

But there are so many more…

3. You have your finger on the pulse of what is happening with sake in the world. What sake trends do you see right now – either in Japan or in the world?

Domestically it is hard to see trends in a contracting industry but I do see some

-New branding, i.e. “our regular stuff sells under this old name, so let us make a new brand name for ginjo only, or junmai only.”

-Lots of young blood, i.e. younger brewers with new enthusiasm and ideas.

-Overall higher milling rates. Not necessarily a good thing, but I do see this trend.

-A second wave of muroka (not charcoal filtered) nama (unpasteurized) genshu (undiluted) sake. Personally this kind of sake lacks subtlety but it does seem to be making a comeback.

-More character-laden sake like kimoto, yamahai and naturally occurring yeast sake. Not a ton, but enough to see a trend.

4. What sake is in your fridge now? What good sake have you had recently?

In my sake fridge are about 30 sake, lots of which are “science experiments.” But most interestingly are a couple from brewers that no longer exist, like Suzuran in Iwate. The ones I most want to taste are Tensei, Mori no Kura, Sakuragawa, and a Kame no O from Niigata that is about  ten years old. Oh, and one Tatsuriki made with Toku-A Yamada Nishiki @ 35% that needs a year to open up.

5. What are some easy to find sake to look for at izakaya?

One way is to look for harigami, streamers on the wall, to see what is just in or not on the main menu! Two is to ask the proprietor not for a recommendation but rather what he or she likes now or best. Then ask for something similar if you like it or different if you do not. Some places (like Sasagin) will assess you and pick one for you. Others are more reticent to do that. Finally, ask for what you like and if they do not have it ask for something similar. And I highly recommend taking notes on what you taste!

John’s Blackbook

Sasagin 笹吟

Shibuya-ku, Uehara 1-32-15, Kobayashi Bldg.

03-5454-3715

http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1318/A131811/13004599/

Nakamura 並木橋なかむら

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 3-13-5, Ipuse Shibuya 2F-B

03-6427-9580

http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13059986/

Taruichi 樽一

Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 1-17-12 5F

03-3208-9772

http://www.taruichi.co.jp/

Ajisen 肴や味泉

Chuo-ku, Tsukishima 1-18-10

03-3534-8483

http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1313/A131302/13002247/

Hasegawa Saketen はせがわ酒店

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Station, GranSta B1

03-6420-3409

http://www.hasegawasaketen.com/english/about.html

Hasegawa Saketen はせがわ酒店

Minato-ku, Azabu-Juban 2-2-7

03-5439-9399

http://www.hasegawasaketen.com/english/about.html

Sakaya Kurihara さかや栗原麻布店

Minato-ku, Moto Azabu 3-6-17

03-3408-5379

http://www.sakaya-kurihara.jp/

Tokyu Food Show Sake Department

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-24-1 B1

03-3477-3111

http://www.tokyu-dept.co.jp/foodshow/shop/liquor/

Shochu 焼酎 – Shiro しろ

Shiro

Shiro

Perhaps the most asked question I have is what is a good shochu to start with for those who are new to shochu. A rice based shochu is a good place to start as it is usually light, easy-drinking, and clean, much like rice. A good brand to start with is Hakutake Shiro, referred to simply as Shiro. It is made with shiro koji, a white koji, that produces delicate shochu.

Kumamoto prefecture is famous for its kome jochu (rice shochu).

Shiro しろ

Made in Kumamoto

Made by Takahashi Shuzo

Kome (rice) shochu

25% alcohol

Otsurui

Shiro is great on the rocks, or in the winter I like it with hot water. It is also an excellent mixer for cocktails. Mix it with fresh juice.

Sake no Ana: Best Place for Tasting Sake for Lunch in Tokyo – Part 2/2

Sake no Ana 酒の穴
Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-5-8
03-3567-1133
Juyondai and Denshu

Juyondai and Denshu

3. Juyondai Honjozo 十四代 本醸造
Premium sake, very hard to purchase retail. Often sold at much higher prices on E-bay (Sakamoto-san, the sake sommelier said that the bottle we had would go for 10,000 JPY even though the retail price is only about 2,500 JPY.)
From Yamagata prefecture.
http://www.yukinosake.com/juyondai.html (sake brewery site in Japanese)
rice: gohyakumangoku (somewhat popular for sake making)
nihonshudo: +2
4. Denshu Tokubetsu Junmaishu 田酒 特別純米酒
Also a premium sake from Aomori prefecture. Very hard to find outside of restaurants like this. Also sold overpriced on E-bay.
rice: Fubuki (don’t see this too often)
nihonshudo: +3
Dassai

Dassai

5. Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 獺祭 純米大吟醸
From Yamaguchi prefecture.
This is a top sake that is imported to USA. Good to look for at restaurants, and it is at most Japanese restaurants with a good sake list. This is one brand that I highly recommend.
Dassai also makes a nice nigori (unfiltered) sake that is also sparkling. Very fun to try if you get the chance.
Dassai is also famous for milling the rice down to only 23% of the original size. Dassai 23.
rice: Yamada Nishiki
nihonshudo: +3
http://www.asahishuzo.ne.jp/en/ (brewery site in English)
Kokken

Kokken

6. Kokken Yamahai Junmai Nigorizake 国権 山廃純米にごり酒
From Fukushima prefecture.
Nigorizake is unfiltered sake.
This one is also in the yamahai style where the sake ferments with naturally occurring yeasts in an open tank.
rice: Miyama Nishiki
alcohol: 14.5%
nihonshudo: +3
http://www.kokken.co.jp/eng/top.html (brewery site in English)
http://www.kokken.co.jp/eng/makingsake.html (great info on sake making process in English)
Sake no Ana

Sake no Ana

7. Sake no Ana Daiginjo 酒の穴 大吟醸
A private label daiginjo sake made for the restaurant.
From Nagano prefecture by the Ozawa brewery.
Nagano is famous for its water. The bottled water they served here was also from this brewery.
rice: Yamada Nishiki
nihonshudo: +4
Ryujin

Ryujin

8. Ryujin Daikoshu 1970 龍神 大古酒 30年
From Gunma prefecture.
Aged 30 years.
alcohol: 18-19%
Kameizumi

Kameizumi

9. Kameizumi Junmai Ginjo Namazake 亀泉 純米吟醸 生酒
From Kochi prefecture.
Made with yeast that went into outer space called CEL-24.
nihonshudo: -8

Sake no Ana: Best Place for Tasting Sake for Lunch in Tokyo – Part 1/2

Sake Sommelier Sakamoto-san

Sake Sommelier Sakamoto-san

Sake no Ana 酒の穴
Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-5-8
03-3567-1133

There are many wonderful izakaya in Tokyo, however finding one that is open for lunch is a challenge. I was in particular looking for an izakaya with a wide variety of sake by the glass that is open for lunch. All of my favorites, including Sasagin and Takara are only open for dinner.

I found this izakaya from John Gauntner’s great book, The Sake Handbook. John Gauntner’s wonderful website is also an outstanding resource that lists the top izakaya in the city. Out of all of these, only Sake no Ana is open for lunch. Sake no Ana in Ginza is an amazing place to go for lunch if you want to try many different sake by the glass. The location also can not be beat, in the heart of Ginza across the street from Matsuya department store. When I made our reservation I confirmed that a sake sommelier would be on hand to help with the tasting.

Sakamoto-san (no relation, unfortunately) was amazing. I asked him to taste us through all of the different types of sake (from honjozo, junmaishu, daiginjo) and asked him to put in some other fun stuff like nigorizake and koshu. Also, good to know that the evening menu which is full of sake-friendly bites, is available at lunch, you just need to ask for it. The restaurant is busy at lunchtime, mostly with salarymen and office ladies taking their set lunch specials, so it is not really the most conducive environment for such a tasting. But if you are in Tokyo for a limited time and want to use a lunch to explore sake, then I truly believe this is the best spot in the city. And Sakamoto-san is friendly, knowledgeable, and provided exactly what we wanted, a variety of sake.

Highlights of our tasting:

Suzune and Fukucho Purasu X

Suzune and Fukucho Purasu X

All sake below are between 15-16% alcohol unless stated.

1. Suzune すず音
Sparkling sake from Ichinokura (name of brewery) in Miyagi prefecture.
http://www.ichinokura.co.jp/syohin/t/suzune.html (picture of the bottle with notes in Japanese)
You called this the Moscato d’Asti of sake.
alcohol: 4.5 – 5.5%
nihonshudo: -70 to -90
2. Fukucho Purasu X Karakuchi Natsu Ginjoshu 福久長 プラスX 辛口夏吟醸酒
Made by Miho Imada, a female toji (sake brewer) – very rare for Japan where most sake brewers are men.
Made in Hiroshima prefecture.
Yamada Nishiki rice (most popular rice for making sake)
http://fukucho.info/?mode=f6 (sake brewery site in English) – good notes here on the sake making process
nihonshudo: +10