If the recent sake dinners by celeb chefs LP+Tetsu’s Laurent Peugeot and Japan’s first overseas sake ambassador Tetsuya Wakuda of Waku Ghin held here are anything to go by, Japan’s underrated national beverage nihonshu is the hottest spirit of the moment. We’ve scoured the island for some great places to drink the stuff.
Orihara Liquor Shop and Bar
If you’re just looking to dip a toe in the water, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better spot in town since they have a range of tasting flights ($30 for three sakes) to choose from. This bar/liquor store is reminiscent of some of our favorite izakayas in Tokyo (be prepared to stand) where you’re bound to find other like-minded boozehounds. In addition to an extensive selection of sake (brace yourself for over 500 labels), addictive bar snacks and friendly service, we also like the selection of ceramic and glass cups you get to choose from when you open a bottle.
Fukuichi Japanese Dining
Skip the main dining room in favor of their al fresco terrace with its nice, relaxed vibe, dark furniture and dim lighting, populated by local and Japanese 30-somethings alike. It’s not just the laidback atmosphere that we find so appealing, it’s the well-stocked bar of around 70 premium sakes that’ll ensure a return visit.
A real highlight here is their very own certified sake sommelier, Sano Nobuhiko, who’s happy to talk you through the extensive list of drinks and food pairings. Combine that with a big, well-dressed space that houses a main dining room, an intimate live robatayaki counter (with only 10 seats), a teppanyaki station and a sushi/sashimi/sake bar, as well as modern Japanese dishes, and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular spot with those with generous company expense accounts.
It’s more swanky Japanese restaurant than casual bar which explains the chi-chi crowd, but its very premium sake list (with prices to match; award-winning Isojiman 2011 Nakatori Junmai Daiginjo 35% goes for $1,000/bottle with a SMV of +5 and a seimai-buai of 32%) is reason enough to pay it a visit. The Zen interior ensures the focus is firmly on chef Kunio Aoki’s simple yet contemporary fare; (though he’s no slouch, having even served Japanese emperor Akihito).
Sake meter value (SMV)
Refers to the specific gravity of a sake. The more unfermented sugar in the sake, the more dense it is. The sweeter the tipple, the lower the number. The scale generally runs from -10 to +10.
The typical serving size of sake (180ml). A bottle is four go (720ml).