Oh wow… Thanks!
Here’s another @beefnoguy rec - Fukucho Suigetsu Moon On The Water. It’s the limited version of Moon on the Water. In case I forget again I’m calling K&L Wines right now to see if they can order it.
This place, in Pasadena, has lots of high end (to me!) sakes and, at happy hour? Buy one, get one for 99¢ Their sushi is lovely, so, at happy hour an easy way to taste, learn and play.
Could I ask a question please that may be considered gauche? What does a medium good, not great, bottle of sake cost? TIA
It’s better to put the sake bottles in the context of whether you want to buy to drink, and then drink it with what and where (and whether corkage is involved), and a separate list of where to buy from a restaurant to drink and what to order to pair.
Some of the sake from this list that made it to yours came from a restaurant’s instagram page of having some very special bottles, probably hand carried from Japan, that it would be more for something for you to try should you visit Japan (and if you are even able to encounter them since they are small production, high in demand), and that would be the Hiroki, Nabeshima, and the Aramasa which are not exported here.
If you look at one of the Raku threads there were mentions of recommended sake to try (and some to bring if you can buy them). But if the sake menu changed again feel free (or anyone) post pictures of the menu and I’d be happy to give recommendations. Same goes for any restaurant, though it would be helpful to know what your preferences are.
Some of the sake on your list can be purchased from truesake.com since they are likely not available in any retail store in Southern California (while some you can find at K&L Hollywood, and some at random wine shops). I assume Ishidawa is Ishidaya, usually these are only allocated to very high end restaurants who do enough volume, and the instant markup results in $500 retail per bottle (even these are notoriously difficult to come by in Japan).
That’s a very tough question… “not great” and “medium good” are subjective. There are mass produced sake you can find at some Northern California Chinese and Korean supermarkets, that may be of a bit lower cost $30 and under that I probably won’t touch but someone might find them medium good / not great. I can find some truly excellent performers that are versatile with food, for either a touch more or about the same price and at the end of the day it is personal preference. It’s possible beginner drinkers of sake may find what I think are great QPR and food pairing friendly sake as rougher around the edges. Note that sake is about double the price retail here vs in Japan. So let’s say a $30 ish sake is 1200 to 1700 yen range for a 720 mL bottle, and I can pick one that will outperform a brand name North America export version that’s mass produced.
Think of the equivalent of value wines. If you know what to pick and can appreciate, something in the medium good but not great price range will be quite excellent depending on what you’re eating with and who you are with (ideally someone like minded who also enjoys the same kind of stuff).
I think the lowest priced value sake I’ve come across was $23.99 or so plus tax that I enjoy (it’s a Junmai).
Their website is under construction. But you can tell they’re known for their happy hour, because it’s the first thing that comes up when you google the name.
Oh - funny! But make sense as their happy hour IS fab.
They also have a Tuesday only omakase for $34.00. (They said they are doing that as Tuesday is their slowest day.) Pair that with the half price sake and I think you’ll have some happy peeps!
Thanks for the context. I’ll add some more notes and assume that I shall not cross paths with many of these special bottles in the wild.
Let’s make it a little easier:
Dewazakura Jewel Brocade Junmai Ginjo - super food friendly sake, great with grilled food. K&L used to stock this (Hollywood). Someone go bug them to restock. Or order from truesake.com and pay corkage unless a restaurant in Southern California has it e.g. supposedly Blue Fin, Kitayama, Matsumoto, MTN, Sushi Ginza Onodera, Takao, Yagi (some of these are kind of odd choices but who knows maybe they work with sushi or their food).
Yukimanman - $99 at K&L Hollywood. Should be available at Blue Fin, Hanare, Japonica Dining, Sushi Ginza Onodera, Takao, Yagi, Yakiyan, Yojisan. Aged 5 years at low temperature (Daiginjo), works great in general with sushi and also enjoyable with salty grilled food but some see it more as apertif. It’s a splurge though, and it will cost even more at a restaurant.
Fukucho Junmai Ginjo Moon On the Water - double pasteurized version, K&L Hollywood might have a few in stock. Take it pretty much anywhere and do also pair it with seafood of any sort (including shellfish) or light non tomato sauce pastas.
Kokuryu Junmai Ginjo - $43 at Hi Time Wine in Costa Mesa, similar from truesake. Available at Aburiya Raku, Blue Ribbon, Ichi Gyo Ichi Et, K-zo, Kinjiro, Matsumoto, N/Naka, Shan Social House, Takao, Yakiyan. It could work with the right sushi but maybe not so much in LA. Great with cooked food and grilled fare for sure.
Yamahai Daiginjo - that’s probably Tedorigawa. Truly excellent sake. Should go with pretty much any good cooked food and izakaya. In SoCal find it at Kakurega, Moto Azabu Sushi Bar, Robata Jinya, Shabu Shabu Zen, Sushi Go 55, Wolfdown, Yakiyan. $39.98 at Hi Time Costa Mesa or get it from truesake.
Bizen Maboroshi - I saw it at Marukai (Northern California) $31 but it could be below that for Southern California Marukai’s. Great value performer, take it to your favorite izakaya, Chinese restaurant, KBBQ if you like.
Akitabare Koshiki Junmai - get it from Hi Time or John & Pete’s. Sold in restaurants: Blue Fin, Japonica, Kitayama, Shan Social House, Takao, Butcher’s Daughter, Yakiyan
Akitabare Suirakuten Daiginjo - try John & Pete’s. In restaurants: Blue Fin, K-zo, Kukrega, Kitayama, Mori Sushi, MTN, Sushi Tsujita, Takao, Tsubaki, Yagi. Super easy to drink and dangerously good/smooth. An excellent raw oyster sake (great candidate for Connie & Ted’s, FWD etc)
Tedorigawa Ikka No Onna - High Time Wine Costa Mesa, and try K&L Hollywood. Available at restaurants: Blue Fin, Hanare, Ichi Gyo Ichi Et, Japonica, Koi, MTN, N/Naka, Sushi Tsujita. Personally I don’t find this to be a good match with sushi.
Wakatake Junmai Daiginjo - fairly easy to find. Try K&L. $50 mark and works with pretty much anything. It’s a bit fruity so goes with savory fare and very easy for sushi. Maybe too sweet for advanced drinkers.
@beefnoguy makes a good point. I still think it’s a good start to put everything on one list instead of having to search thru posts and bookmarks. 2nd step to modify and categorizing as he advises.
Awesome. Let the categorizing begin!
Yes I’m trying to figure out where to store this info on my phone. But this is extremely helpful.
I bought a bottle of Born Gold at Tokyo Central for $29.99. I also bought a 300ml bottle of Dassai 50 for $13.99 at Hi Times. Based on some research I think these are pretty reasonable prices.
One thing to keep in mind other than the price, is to check how the sake was stored and the bottling date.
A bottling date of within the last 6 months should be fine. If the bottle of Born Gold is dated 2017, chances are old stock and perhaps marked down price to get rid of by the store. Some sake are aged before release but you would rather have the brewery do that aging than the store. Some sake keep better than others, so all this are not hard and fast rules. But in the case of the Born Gold you want to make sure it’s structurally sound and kept very chilled all the way (how it arrived at the store is out of our hands, it’s what happens next).
I took a very quick look at some Yelp listings of Tokyo Central, the sourcing and stock/inventory does not seem far off from Marukai (at least based on my visit last night to our Northern California location). Some sake would be fine to purchase there, but maybe not everything.
Same goes for Hi Time, some sake I recall sat on the shelf for the longest time and were still being marked the same price after a while. They do have some very high end sake inside the cellar room, though ideally they should be stored at an even lower temperature…I did buy two high end bottles from that cellar and they still tasted good by the time they shipped to me…but part of me wonders how much better the quality would have been without all those factors. I also picked up a Dassai 23 centrifuge nama once there, and the bottle was not good…and confirmed even more so after I had the same bottle again from somewhere else (although a different year/batch, they release these once a year to ring in the New Year so the consistency can be different) and something about the bottle from Hi Time was off.
Man I’m getting schooled the last few days. In a very good way. I am a very big IPA and wine drinker so I am always very aware of vintage or canned/brewed dates. For some reason I never thought to consider when sake was bottled but it clearly makes a lot of sense.
Thanks for all your advice, info and suggestions @beefnoguy.
(fresh / unpasteurized) This would be the most vulnerable to long storing and temp changes?
Yah, it’s a big eye opener. That and trying to figure out which Sake at the store should be stored in a fridge at all times. Which is why @beefnoguy is skeptical about John & Pete’s on La Cienega, because a while back he was there and they had some Sake sitting on the shelf that had no biz being there. But they swear that’s all changed, so…
@beefnoguy can you recommend a nice bottle (or 2 lower cost options) from this retailer to pair with chirashi sushi? TIA!
@Sgee well if this is for a New Year’s eve party I’d say live it up just a little but also have a wider variety of food available so you can make the best use of sake. How many people?
Here are some suggestions if the core pairing is with chirashi sushi. Also look these up online and review their tasting notes to see what fits you better.
Azumaichi Junmai or Junmai Ginjo (personally I prefer the Junmai Ginjo which finishes dryer)
Born Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai Daiginjo - make sure it’s super chilled when you buy and bring home and keep it/serve it chilled, don’t let it go above 15 degrees C or it becomes sweeter and less complex. Very easy to like for both males and females. 19% alcohol so sip slowly.
Denshu Tokubetsu Junmai - very versatile sake and you can even serve it warm. Lots of umami and quite aromatic, you can even enjoy some of it with Chinese cold appetizer at dumpling restaurants (e.g. marinated beef or beef tendon, even if a bit spicy). In Japan this is very hard to find, we’re lucky that a portion gets exported.
Kokuryu Kuzuryu Junmai - a little bit of low temperature aging, may be a little harsh for beginners but really good umami and you can warm this too, probably a sake for the likes of Noz. Denshu is more refined and easier to drink in relation, but this is a bit cheaper
Kuro Kabuto - value performer of a smooth yet a touch richer mouthfeel Junmai Daiginjo. If you are dining with females they will love this one and it has enough body that dudes will like it too. Quite excellent I must say.
Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai - dry/semi dry and quite floral.
Taka Tokubetsu Junmai - an excellent sake that drinks like a White Burgundy chablis. Even better if you can try pairing it with raw oysters and even lobster or scallops. Or try it with Italian food
Tatsuriki Kome No Sasayaki Daiginjo - it’s pricier but it’s one of my top favorites at the moment. Probably better with a wider ranger of food, perfect for end of year celebration…very sophisticated, elegant, and lots of proteins in the Yamadanishiki that’s likely aged a bit and a ton of umami, but requires the drinker to pick this up. Or you can buy one and bring to your favorite Japanese restaurant (kaiseki, sushi, higher end izakaya). Plus it should come in a green velvet box and looks very festive and beautiful.