the underbelly

Satsko Sake
February 11, 2008, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


Being the native Californian that I am, I still refuse to acknowledge the cold. So I walked into Satsko sake bar with a head of frozen hair. But Jessie, the bartender, didn’t judge. Instead he set before me a feast of sake.

We started with the house sake, Shochikubai. It tasted like…well it tasted like house sake. Like alcohol and rice and grain or “nail polish remover,” as Jessie said. This was contrasted with Taru, another Jumai sake but more refined. It was smoky, floral and a heck of a lot creamier than the others.

At that point the chef produced a few plates of his new fried rice. Awesome. If I’m good for anything in this world it’s tasting sake and testing free fried rice.

Then it was onto the sweeter sakes. Again, a house versus a higher tier sake. The first was the house, a Nigori Shochikubai, in a huge green bottle. It wasn’t filtered so the liquid was almost thick and very cloudy, incredibly opaque. Now, I don’t want to insult my fellow Californians (the sake was from Berkeley) but it was terrible. Okay, not terrible, I did drink it all. But it was the only one I had to shoot to get down. It tasted like candy, in the bad way. It tasted like corn syrup had been dumped into it. Apparently this sells very well. Good job college kids, way to ruin those palates.

The next one, a Nigori Ginjo called Kamoizumi, which means “mirror of truth,” was worlds away from the house Nigori. It was thin and white and sweet on the tongue at first but then dry at the end. The nose was that of a perfumed honeysuckle and it tasted reminiscent of pears. Delicious. I could definitely drink a small bottle of it…a large one on a hot summer day.

The third round was between Wakatake, a Jumai Dai Ginjyo (which means uber good and refined rice) and a Kubota Senjyu, a Jumai Ginjyo. These were both very high end and yummy, both so different from what most Americans would think of as sake.

The Wakatake (which in my notes is walkie talkie, which makes me like it even more) came in a large brown bottle. It was floral, oaky and creamy. It smelled like a ripe apple orchard. It was incredibly complex. Every time I sipped I tasted something new. This was by far my favorite of the group.

The Kubota was something I would have with a meal. It was very direct, to the point. Incredibly clean on the palate but it had the same floral nose.

The bar was friendly, small and very out of the way (7th between B and C) but somewhere I would definitely take people, just to show them how good sake can really be. As I sit here with my thick, robust bottle of McSoreley’s black and tan, I’m happy but I crave the delicate nature of some of the better sakes we tasted. I’ll be sure to head to Sakaya soon to pick up some bottles for myself and experiment more. Because “the only way to really know this stuff,” Jessie told me, “is the drink a lot of it.” I can’t agree more with his advice.

Gold Sake!

Gold Sake! We didn’t have any of this….It’s for things like weddings and looking like a rock star.

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