Sake To You-govos

As it has trickled down from the aristocracy to the people, it has gained refinement, .plexity, and variety. Here is a scouting report on five of Izakaya’s selection of 50 fine sakes (click here to read a detailed review of Izakayathe hot new restaurant at the Borgata). Sake is such an important part of eating in Japan I tried to incorporate it into all aspects of the dining experience at Izakaya, says chef/owner Michael Schulson. Sake charts a course from cocktails to appetizers (the truffled broth for edamame dumplings), dinner (the soak for deep-fried edible fluke skeleton), and dessert (the zip in strawberry shortcake). What grapes are to wine, rice is to sake. There are dozens of varieties of sakamai, or sake rice. Ginnosei, the rice used to brew Ama no To’s Heaven’s Door, is a hybrid developed to withstand the fierce winters of Akita, the prefecture on the northwest coast of Japan where this sake is made. .pared to table rice, sakamai has larger grains with a bigger shinpaku (white heart), the starch packet in the center. Milling polishes away the exterior proteins, oils, and minerals that would create off-flavors if brewed. Anywhere from 30 to 60 percent or more of the outer surface is polished away. Generally, the higher the degree of polishing, the more .plex, fragrant, and expensive the resulting sake. In ancient Japan, rice was polished by chewing (and, yes, spitting out), which also introduced the enzyme that changes the starch to sugar. Today, breweries use .puter-controlled machines. The brewing process (called multiple parallel fermentation) involves yeast as well as the enzyme, and is more .plex than that of beer. Most sakes (including the five below) are filtered and pasteurized. Whether to drink sake warm or chilled is .pletely up to a customer’s taste, says Izakaya manager Craig Slotkin. There is no right or wrong temperature. Schulson’s .mitment seems to be paying off. Sake actually outsells wine and beer at Izakaya, he says. NAME: Living Jewel BREWERY: Tozai LOCATION: Kyoto (S Central) GRADE: Junmai (pure rice, no alc. added) COLOR: Pale Hay BODY: Medium FLAVOR: Red delicious apple; hints of tangy fruit NOSE: Subtle, earthy, wet oak leave ALCOHOL: 14.9% SERVING SIZE/PRICE: 8 oz. carafe, $12; 22 oz. carafe, $32 GREAT WITH: Sushi, especially oily fish salmon .MENTS: "Earthy yet subtle." ******* NAME: Dreamy Clouds BREWERY: Rihaku LOCATION: Shimane (SW coast) GRADE: Tokubetsu (reserved) junmai COLOR: Milky White BODY: Full, round, milky FLAVOR: Ripe melon, tropical fruit, low acidity NOSE: Wet slate, mountain stream ALCOHOL: 15.5% SERVING SIZE/PRICE: 8 oz. carafe, $10; 22 oz. carafe $27 GREAT WITH: Spicy or highly acidic foods .MENTS: "High quality at an entry-level price." ******* NAME: Yuri Masamune BREWERY: Yuki No Bosha LOCATION: Akita (NW coast) GRADE: Daiginjo (finest brewing art) COLOR: Semi-clear BODY: Crisp, clean, lean FLAVOR: Starfruit, kumquat, minerals NOSE: High minerality ALCOHOL: 17% SERVING SIZE/PRICE: 8 oz. carafe, $11; 22 oz. carafe, $30 GREAT WITH: All sushi .MENTS: "The most poignant on your palate of our carafe sakes." ******* NAME: HoHo Shu BREWERY: Marumoto LOCATION: Okayama (SE coast) GRADE: Sparkling junmai COLOR: Bubbly, faintly milky BODY: Rich, smooth, frothy FLAVOR: Honeysuckle; notes of peach NOSE: Fragrant fruit; cherry blossom ALCOHOL: 6% SERVING SIZE/PRICE: 300 ml. bottle, $27 GREAT WITH: Spicy small dishes, grilled vegatables .MENTS: "A novel new entry on the market." ******* NAME: Heaven’s Door BREWERY: Ama No To LOCATION: Akita (NW coast) GRADE: Tokubetsu junmai COLOR: Clear, slight shine BODY: Medium to full FLAVOR: Refreshing, hints of cucumber, squash NOSE: Parsley, cilantro, tarragon, chervil ALCOHOL: 16.2% SERVING SIZE/PRICE: 8 oz. carafe, $22; 22 oz. carafe, $59 GREAT WITH: Heartier dishes like the seafood stew .MENTS: "Herbaceous, sophistocated; from a great producer." 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