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Friday, April 15, 2011


OYA Restaurant & Lounge/SEI Restaurant


April 15, 2011

What IS Sake?

Sake is a brewed beverage using special types of rice, yeast, koji mold and spring water. Somewhat like beer in that sake is produced grain (rice) but worlds apart from the flavors of beer. Often sake takes on more of a wine-like flavor profile.

Premium sake is divided into three levels related to how much of the outer rice husk is polished away before brewing. The higher the percentage of polishing, the higher the grade of sake.

Honjozo/Junmai—30% polished
Ginjo—40% polished

Daiginjo—over 50% polished

A HUGE misconception is that sake is always served HOT. While some sake can be enjoyed slightly warmed, many Japanese restaurants in the United States serve very low quality sake which is served hot to mask its flavors. Often these “carafes” of hot sake are poured from a large box not different than boxed wine.

In the restaurants, I usually divide sake into three main categories based on aromas and flavors to help guide guests into selecting the style of sake they will enjoy.

Aromatic and Floral; Perfect for Sashimi and lighter fare. These are the “white wines” of sake and are usually in the Daiginjo or Ginjo polishing level. Almost always better served chilled.

Light and Aromatic; Versatile with Foods. These are great beginner and everyday sakes. Usually at the Ginjo or Junmai polishing level. Can be served gently warmed or chilled.

Rich; Earthy; Good Hot; Pair with Rich Food. Sake in this flavor category is usually at the Junmai or Honjozo polishing level and can be served hot or cold. Can be paired with meats and heavier foods.

Fruity and Creamy; Unfiltered. These often have the appearance of skim milk due to the tiny rice particles left in the liquid. These are generally on the fruitier side and can be enjoyed on their own. I don’t recommend heating this style of sake. Period.

Sake Tasting

Taisetsu ‘Ice Dome’ Junmai Ginjo,
Hokkaido, Japan
Fragrant, lychee, anise, white flower, clean, crisp, dry

Tozai ‘Living Jewel’ Junmai, Kyoto, Japan
Clean and smooth with a hint of tangy fruit, dry finish

Genbeisan No Onikoroshi ‘Demon Slayer’ Honjozo, Kyoto, Japan
Light, smooth, clean, dry, can be served hot

Ozeki Nigori, Hollister, California
Rich, creamy, slightly sweet, smooth finish, unfiltered, amazing with sushi

Ozeki Hana Awaka Junmai Sparkling Sake, Hyogo, Japan
Light, fresh, Asian pear, white peach, tropical fruit, slightly sweet and bubbly

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