Sake Talk Anyone?


This link explains the chemistry behind wine making and is a little bit analogous for sake as well, where rice is replaced with grapes and the process is different, but there is fermentation at work

But yes bottom line, alcohol is a by product of fermentation, just like beer

I can’t speak to starch vs sugar, but ultimately rice is a carbohydrate which in the body breaks down and converts to glucose, and the fermentation process to involve something like that for sake brewing. Pure rice just means no alcohol added in.

Sugar is never added into sake brewing process. The sweetness or sweet/fruity profile comes from a myriad of factors in actuality (what I explained before was too simplified). The more polished the rice grain, the closer to the center it will be, where all the sugars/proteins are, so you are left with a much smoother sake and generally a bit fruitier. The sake rice varietal used for the brewing also plays a part in the profile (some varietals are easier to extract a fruitier profile, while some others add earthiness…how the rice is cultivated, stored, processed, and from what regions in Japan it comes from, affects things bit by bit…also for a particular sake is the rice blended, what is the polishing technique used etc), then the rest is the brewing technique (and everything else within and in between) and the master brewer’s experience and recipe. The type of yeast used has an effect on the aromas, and it can be anything from flower yeast (e.g. sunflower) or known fruits (apple or strawberry), or standard sake brewing yeast.

Much like with wine, the more you taste or the more you drink, the more exposure you get, and you’ll get there :slight_smile: . Once you reach a certain level, go outside your comfort zone and even explore sake in Japan, it will blow your mind what’s not available here.


A few sakes I had recently

Akitabare Suirakuten “Heaven of Joyous Delight” - Flowery with a hint of savoriness

Kokryu Black Dragon - Savory

Izomufuji - Light and crisp

Kamoizumi “Sachi”- well aged sake. Rich, savory. Reminds me of awamori.

Sushi Noz - UES

Was this in Japan?


Guessing it’s Noz or one of those sushi powerhaus places in NY, there are a few sake he had that are exclusive and distributed only to NY and/or the UK.


Okay, I was wondering because of the way the lady is dressed.


Good guess, yup it was Noz. Loved the Kamoizumi pairing with the koji fermented salmon otsumami course!


Akitabare Suirakuten - your bottle is a Junmai Daiginjo, guessing it was aged two to three years before release at low temperature. Akita Prefecture, and your description of flowery is spot on…possible they brewed it using flower yeast. Cho Kai San, another sake from Akita prefecture is very well known for its floral aromas in a similar manner. Perfect with smokey flavors as well. This Junmai Daiginjo is only sold to a very few number of places in California for some reason. The Daiginjo is more easily available (e.g. Mori Sushi), super easy to drink and very good with raw oysters

Kokuryu Jun Gin (Junmai Ginjo) - very solid, perfect grill / yakitori / yakimono sake. Some sushi restaurants carry this but it probably needs some intense flavors, and I suspect this is better with jukusei sushi (where aged fatty fish will shine with more umami characteristics), but not sushi where it is slice and serve , and where sugar is added to the shari (yikes). I can probably think of some better choices than Jun Gin, though that one will work.

Izumofuji - haven’t had this yet, but should be decent. Shimane prefecture I think?

Kamoizumi Sachi, I think available only for UK or NY/East Coast. Must be a pretty intense koshu if bottled in 1997. Interesting that it’s paired this early on as otsumami! There is a 2 year aged single pasteurized nama called Red Maple that’s also pretty good (by Kamoizumi) and I think RM is only brewed for export. Kamoizumi’s umeshu sake is not bad either.

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@beefnoguy Thank you so much for the additional info on the sakes!! Some additional info on the progression of the pairings.

  • Pairings for the initial otsumamis were a lovely Calsac champagne followed by a couple of chardonnays I neglected to note.
  • The Kamoizumi sachi was a single purpose pairing with the final otsumami, an intensely flavored koji fermented salmon. Definitely best enjoyed with food. I really enjoyed this pairing.
  • Izumofuji paired with the lighter shin ika and kasugodai, akami and chutoro
  • The Kokuryu was paired with the heavier o-toro, ikura, uni dishes
  • Akitabare Suirakuten was the final pairing for the aburi toro, anago, tamago


The Kamoizumi sounds like it could work with some roasted meats, cheese, and some gastropub type fare, particularly heavier flavors (smokey stuff for sure) so perhaps the koji marinated fish acted like a mix between smoked fish and blue cheese together.

Should anyone make it to Tokyo and want to explore the world of food pairings with koshu/aged sake, I recommend heading to Shinagawa’s Shu Sa Ron that specializes in aged sake.One of their koshu pairings with braised beef cheeks was quite nice, although I must admit I’m a slave to the pairing with a good Brunello Di Montalcino instead for that dish.

While I haven’t had Izumofuji, I’ve had other sake from Shimane prefecture (Junmai) and yes to the light crispness, but also has sufficient umami that it matches nicely with some of what you mentioned (which have umami in themselves, maybe a little with the kasugodai if they accentuated the flavors right e.g. konbujime or sujime with kimi oboro and the shari to bring it all together).

The Kokuryu JunGin pairing is well thought out, there were some peppery tones when I last had it and it’s the right approach for toro for sure. There is a little bit of umami in that mix, but is not as heavy as Kokuryu Kuzuryu Junmai (which I actually prefer personally).

Interesting to have the Akitabare to close for the final trio.

At least Noz is approaching the sake pairing like a wine pairing…you get poured for what matches with the food. This is unlike quite a few places in Tokyo where you are given pours that are enjoyable on its own, maybe not matching the food (that’s subjective), and these places aren’t out to force a pairing on you like a wine pairing. It’s a different mentality.


PSA - John & Pete’s on La Cienega has a nice selection of Sake from World Sake.

Here is a shot of the full case. Kerry Tamura set it up with floral/fruity on the left and dry on the right.

…slightly better shots of the tags. I think I’m missing a shelf. :roll_eyes:


Wild Sea Urchin (uni) from San Clemente.

Thanks to @Sgee’s rec, we ordered these beauties from Maruhide and picked them up on the way home from our semi stay-cay in the LBC. I’m going to attempt my first Nigiri w/Nori. Can anyone rec a nice bottle for under $50 from John & Pete’s?


Last time I went to John and Pete’s up the street from Aburiya Raku I was appalled at how they store sake. Some were literally collecting dust and I’m surprised World Sake allowed them to continue carrying bottles!

The picture you posted looks more proper so an intervention was needed…

Find some raw oysters and make it a shellfish night with the uni. Head to K&L and buy Taka Tokubetsu Junmai or if you must both wine shops carry Tedorigawa Ikki Na Onna Daiginjo. Worst case a Dassai 23 works wonders with uni based on experience though more expensive.


Ah, good intel. That was the first comment from you I’ve seen bordering on angry. :slight_smile: I understand. When you are passionate about something and see it treated with dumb disregard it’s frustrating.

Yes, K&L is the place, for sure. They have a good selection, will order select bottles and their staff is well-trained. Unfortunately, we don’t live close enough to pop by on a regular basis. We’re always on the look out for a decent neighborhood fix. BevMo doesn’t come close to qualifying.

This is what I can tell you about John & Pete’s current Sake situation. They are listed as a retail source on World Sake’s website. Kerry-san and I also had an email convo about it. He personally selected the Sakes in J&P’s case and insisted on certain guidelines. The store has new owners - I don’t know timeline or if it means anything with regard to the Sake. But they were excited about the case, it was selling well and said Kerry-san, who is schooling them, insisted they try every Sake. This translated into excitement, not necessarily expertise. The one who seems to have studied the situation most was the tall, thin, older man named Chris, who I think has been there for years. Anyway, he wasn’t there Thursday and we went before your response (uni won’t wait :slight_smile:) - in other words I was lost and decided to wing it.

There is very little Uni/Sake pairing suggestions online. One Serious Eats food talker wrote this about Sake w/Caviar, Uni, and Salmon Roe - “Rich sakes can be an excellent foil for the saltiness of fish roe, but I actually prefer a dry style of sake with roe to emphasize the salinity. My favorite pick is Harushika’s “Cho-karakuchi” Junmai”… okay. I will seek out your recs of Taka Tokubetsu Junmai, Tedorigawa Ikki Na Onna Daiginjo and definitely the Dassai 23 - a little more pricey is fine every now and then. Curious? Were those the only bottles you saw worthwhile in the case or the only ones for my particular Uni needs?

To add to the mix, the San Clemente Uni seemed to me more delicate in flavor, less sweet, slightly briney, but more mineral.

Anyhoo, we selected these…

I wasn’t sure if Kinka would be good with Uni
and we kept it for another time. The softness of the Cherry Bouquet was nice, but sweeter than my plan for the meal. I preferred the Chrysanthemum Meadow - slight herby flavor and an almost dessert-like creaminess without too much sweet. But I don’t know if they paired well with anything.:relaxed: My attempt at Uni Nigiri was half a disaster, so at this point I was drinking the Sake mostly for relaxation, flavor profile second.

I hear ya’. That vacay plan of indulging in food excursions and reading Sake books by a pool or beach wasn’t quite to be. My time at the beach was spent planning a beloved uncle’s funeral repast. Long story short, our Uni/Seafood/Sake evening was kinda’ rushed and somewhat hastily put together, no time for research and sourcing proper ingredients, accompaniments, blah-dy, blah. You probably didn’t see the report on my first stab at Oysters on the half shell. Let’s just say my shucking speed needs improvement.

Here they are…

I thought, “Well, how hard can it be to make a few halfway decent pieces of sushi at home? After all, Charlie Sheen & Daryl Hannah did it in Wall Street, and I won’t even need their dumb Shari machine”. Okay, reality check, it will take quite some practice just to prepare the Shari correctly, and that’s even before cooking. Let’s not talk about the awful Nori… and also, Uni melts! Thankfully, I only committed a few pieces to this endeavor. We mostly ate it right from the tin. :yum: I’ll probably just use it as a Ceviche topping next time.

Pan Roasted Weiser Farm’s Delicata Squash

These weren’t a planned accompaniment, but I had them, so why not? Not quite as nutty, buttery as Butternut, but very good and easy to peel. I think they went nicely with Sake.


Well done! As someone who is not certified but just a huge fan of sake and having tasted a variety, you picked a good range to start with, and quite honestly the more you drink the more you try different pairings, and the better you will get at it. I used to drink run of the mill super polished stuff because that was the entry level but now have moved on to the “cheap” stuff and by that I mean the ones that pair the best with food and have more full body, structure, sensation, finish. That’s not always the case with the cheap stuff, and you have to take a lot of other things into consideration. It’s like wine…sometimes you encounter that out of the box pairing and it is so satisfying.

Sake is very subjective in this sense. I am currently in Tokyo right now and can tell you that people’s sake menu selection are picked based on the current trend of popular sake which are refreshing, lighter, a bit sweeter, and more effervescence like sparkling wine or a very light champagne. Plus it is still pretty hot over here so they don’t want to drink the heavy stuff (re: the cheap hardcore good stuff) and those who I have encountered who like this style are serious sake drinkers and big geeks, which can be a fun group to encounter.

So yeah, give yourself a few pats on the back! Good picks. Oka is very floral and is a very standard Ginjo but polished to 50% (Junmai Daiginjo levels) and a lot of sushi restaurants pick this. Interestingly I saw the Oka several times at 7-Eleven/Family Mart convenience stores on this Tokyo trip. Of course it’s a lot pricier in the US.

Kinka… I would give that a spin with Italian, French, or even some mildly spicy Chinese food (or Cantonese banquet dining). The Kinka is actually quite good with typhoon shelter spicy crab, Cantonese style stir fried shellfish (or steamed). Beware of the higher alcohol content though.

The Yamahai Daiginjo is actually my favorite from the Tedorigawa lineup. Maybe the most masculine, and for me great with kaiseki cuisine. For you maybe their Ikki Na Onna Daiginjo will work better for you. At least you have access to a small 300 mL bottle to try.

The comment about J&P is a bit two fold here. I’m aware of how World Sake operates from talking to certain people and they have their own rules and expectations. They care about storage and handling of sake. But what I saw at J&Ps was not the case at all at the location a few minutes away from Aburiya Raku. I actually picked up a sake (a cheaper one) from them and after taking it back home, it tasted nothing like the bottle I had at Raku by the glass (and it was an already opened bottle too at Raku, and that tasted better!). The worst part is that the sake is structured enough that it could survive odd storage conditions, but maybe J&Ps storage conditions expedited the quality’s downfall a bit?

If you go visit some of the sake shops here in Tokyo, they really go to great lengths to keep certain sake at the right temperature, as they too care about preserving the flavor after it is transported from the brewery to their shop. When bottles are shipped from Japan to the US by freight/sea, this is when the quality control can go out of whack (but sometimes honestly it could be the batch itself).


Copying and pasting this because it’s fun…and true.

Palpatine: It’s upsetting to me that the council doesn’t seem to fully appreciate your talents. Don’t you wonder why they won’t make you a Sake Master?

Anakin: I wish I knew. More and more I get the feeling that I’m being excluded from the council. I know there are things about sake that they’re not telling me.

Palpatine: They don’t trust you Anakin. They see your future. They know your power will be too strong to control. You must break through the fog of lies the Junmai Daiginjo have created around you. Let me help you to know the subtleties of the sake.

Anakin: How do you know the ways of the sake?

Palpatine: My mentor taught me everything about the sake - even the nature of the cheap side.

Anakin: You know the cheap side of sake?!

Palpatine: Anakin, if one is to understand “the great mystery” one must study all it’s aspects, not just the expensive narrow view of the Junmai Daiginjo. If you wish to become a complete and wise sake leader, you must embrace a larger taste of sake. Be careful of the Junmai Daiginjo Anakin… only through me can you achieve a power greater than any sake drinker! Learn to know the cheap side of the sake and you’ll be able to save your wallet and ego from certain emptiness.

Anakin: What did you say?

Palpatine: Use my knowledge, I beg you!


Perhaps something that pairs well with Kumamoto/Shigoku oysters will pair well with uni’s creamy briny flavor profile.

I usually just slather seasoned sushi rice atop packaged seasoned nori and top with copious amoutns of uni and a touch of wasabi. I don’t bother trying to make nigiri/gunkan at home.


Aww, thanks @beefnoguy!

I can’t imagine you knowing less than the certifieds.

Do you mean this a little tongue and cheek - like the super polished stuff (pricier) is trendy for people who want to have what is popularly considered the best? But it’s not as interesting to you as a Sake with less polish and bolder flavor profiles?

I obviously like the bolder Sakes, but I do find they can become cloying when drinking on their own without food. Maybe you could rec a “refreshing, lighter” Sake for drinking on its own?

Yah, the Kinka, I first had at Aburiya Raku and is one of my favorites with food. I’m excited to try it with your suggestions. I enjoyed the Yamahai Daiginjo and will also try the Ikki Na Onna Daiginjo.

That’s interesting about J&P’s. I was actually wondering if someone who knows Sake well has ever bought a bottle from them and if it tasted as it should. Do you remember when you were there? I’m wondering if they have since improved. I do tend to select bottles more from the back of a case, not the front where they’re subject to temp changes from the frequently opened door. But this probably means nothing if it wasn’t stored properly before going in the case. I will tell you, the first time I went to J&P’s for Sake there was the refrigerated case, but also a whole display (unrefigerated) near the front of the store. I don’t know if it was only a display and the boxes were empty, but it has since been removed.

Side bar: We went to Majordomo the other night. Our Wine & Sake pairing included Dewazakura Omachi “Jewel Brocade” Junmai Ginjo. I was excited because I’ve had it before (based on your rec) and it made me feel like my Sake knowledge is improving. :blush: It went well with the lighter fare and excellent with the richer fattier items like the fried Sausage Stuffed Peppers w/Buttermilk Dip.

…Anyway, as you say, I’ll keep drinking, exploring, experimenting and learning.

P.S. I hope you’re having a great time in Tokyo!




Hi @Sgee -

I should have done the same. Did I mention the Nori I chose was horrible for Sushi (Eden Toasted Nori from Whole Foods). I tried it alone, it was just as chewy and inedible, maybe better for broths? The Uni would have been better off on top of TJ’s Roasted Seaweed Snack. At least it’s tasty.


P.S. Thanks for the new vocabulary word.