When the days start heating up – I head for my favorite Japanese restaurant. Why? ‘Cause its sake season. Honestly, nothing beats the heat better than chilly sushi and a glass of ice cold sake (ok maybe a perfectly chilled glass of rose) . For me, that means a trip to Shaker Square. Simple and chic, the stark white tables at Sasa Izakaya & Asian Bistro puts the focus on food and drink – and rightfully so. Boasting a stellar list of sakes made from polished grains of rice including Ginjo-Shu (polished to 60%), Daiginjo-Shu (polished to 50%), Nama-shu (unpasterized), and Nigori (sweet dessert sake), Sasa is THE place to sip and learn about this ancient beverage. If you are new to sake – no worries. Here’s a quick sake 101 lesson.
First the outside of the rice is removed or”polished off” to expose the starchy part of the rice and then steamed. To break down the starch, a portion of the rice is kneaded with aspergillus spores (a fungi) creating a mixture called Koji. Ultimately, the remaining rice and Koji are placed in a vat with yeast and water to ferment. If the sake is made only using rice, water, koji and yeast is is called Junmai-shu. If short cuts such as adding alcohol during the fermentation take place, the sake is called Honjozo-shu. And that is all you need to know – best bet for learning more – go to Sasa and talk to the chef/owner Scott. He loves to chat about his native beverage and has a late-night menu that rocks. The kitchen is open until midnight! Do try the SasaTini and/or the SakeTini. Both are perfect finds for martini lovers – just in time for sake season. Cheers.