Kanpai!

Sake is the new wine of choice, a perfect pairing for summer dining

Photograph by © Nishihama – stock.adobe.com

Americans are sipping a lot more sake these days. As imports from Japan continue to rise, artisanal rice wine makers are springing up anywhere from Oregon to Brooklyn. “Sake enhances the food and the experience,” says Chef Brian Lewis of OKO in Westport. “Sake doesn’t fight with food; it embraces it.”

Why not be part of this new imbibing trend? According to Tony Pham, chef and owner of Mecha in Fairfield and South Norwalk, you can begin exploring by ordering a flight of sake, which will allow you to distinguish sake’s clean, smooth textures, and varying flavors of fruit and flowers. Keep that in mind when you make a reservation.


DRINK-TIONARY
Sake for Dummies

GENMAI
brown rice

GINJO
milled 40 percent, fortified with distilled alcohol

HONJOZO
milled 30 percent, with alcohol

JUNMAI
standard grade, from an unspecified mill

JUNMAI DAIGINJO
50 percent milled

JUNMAI GINJO
milled 40 percent, with no alcohol added

KIJOSHUI
dessert sake

KUSHU
aged sake

NAM
unpasteurized

NIGORI
unfiltered sake

TARU CASKS
containers used to store sake


ON THE WINE LIST
Tony Pham, chef and owner of Mecha, suggests a flight of the following:

1 Shirakabe Gura, Japan, Tokubetsu Junmai

2 Momokawa Organic, Oregon, Nigori

3 Wandering Poet, Japan, Junmai Ginjo

4 Tears of Dawn, Japan, Daiginjo

Pair It:
Steamed bao with pork belly, KFC (Korean fried chicken bao) and roasted mushroom dumplings.


PERFECT PAIRINGS
Chef Brian Lewis of OKO recommends the following:

OPTION 1
Sake: Shichi Hon Yari, Junmai The Seven Spearsmen
Eats: Vegetable tempura selection with scallion soy sauce and white miso aioli
Why: The sake delivers crisp, creamy umami flavors with good acidity and earthy mushroom aromas. The acidity cuts the fat of the fried tempura.

OPTION 2
Sake: The One with the Clocks, Joto, Daiginjo
Eats: Ten-piece sushi nigiri or sashimi
Why: A super premium Honjozo with a delicate aroma, this sake is light, dry and crisp, and is perfect for delicate flavored nigiri or sashimi.

OPTION 3
Sake: Marumoto’s Hou Hou, Sparkling Sake Blue Clouds
Eats: Matcha chocolate cake or soft serve ice cream
Why: This sake is fermented a second time in the bottle in the traditional méthode champenoise. Its soft bubbles, creamy texture and appealing sweetness cuts the richness of the desserts.

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