Flashback with me to 1980’s New York, won’t you? Picture Breakdancing in Washington square park, Act Up blocking traffic on 5th Ave and absolutely no one checking their email on a cell phone. Now Picture little timmy arriving
at his NYU Dorm and reviewing some ‘safety guidelines’ in his Freshman Orientation packet. It was something like, “The Lower East Side is a dangerous Drug Den Crack Alley No Fly Zone. Stay Away if you want to live to see your parents on Christmas Break.” Good times!
I couldn’t help but think back to these wonderful college years when I heard the rumblings in the NYC Sake Underground that a new Sake bar/restaurant had opened up on the Lower East Side. “Sachiko’s on Clinton” adds a splash of Nihon-shu to the mix of Bodegas, three star restaurants, nail salons and upscale boutiques to this gentrifing hodge podge stretch of Clinton St. between Housten and Delancy
I made a plan with Sake buddy Rob to meet up at Sachiko’s and give this New Kid on the Block the once over. Sachiko’s was deserted when we arrived around 6pm.
The Bar area, kinda crammed into the entranceway, was a little cramped and in need of a little leg room.
Rob and I started with a recommendation from Sachiko herself. She said she had a highly recommended nama that just arrived in from Japan the day before and wasn’t on the menu. Where do I sign?! This sake was called Echigo Tsurukame Nama Junmai (SMV +3.0, Niigata Prefecture) We were served with a beautiful tokkuri and cute little serving glass. This was an elegant nama.
I knew right away that Sachiko didn’t steer us wrong. She explained that the turtle and the Crane on the label of the bottle were symbols of long life and that this sake was favored by rulers who lived long ago. makes sense to me! Echigo Tsurukame had a clean taste with a strong melon-fruit flavor and that freshness that Nama is known for. Needless to say, our Tokkuri quickly disappeared.
Without too much of a pause, we picked our next selection off the menu again with Sachiko’s help. Her next recommendation was Sato No Homare “pride of the village” Nama Junmai Ginjo(SMV +3, Ibaraki Prefecture, Sudo Honke Brewery).
Since June is Pride month, I thought Pride of the Village would be a sure fire hit. Sachiko described this one as a “wine lover’s Sake”.
I would say it’s more of a fruit-bomb lover’s sake. The flavor was sweet – perhaps like a riesling: Peachy, pear-y, candied flavors… let’s just say, fruit salad. I could see how a white wine lover would dig this stuff. This sake definitely had a personality. Towards the bottom of my glass, however, I was thinking I had overdosed on bubbleyum.
When We had slightly recovered from the fruit bomb, I thought we needed to downshift into something more clean and classic and I immediately thought “daiginjo”. Ah… yes. Well, since Sachiko was off helping dinner guests, I made this call on my own and chose the Kagatobi Ai Junmai DaiGinjo (SMV +4, Ishikawa Prefecture) off the menu.
This was the perfect way to wind down our tasting. Kagatobi Ai was noticeably drier that the fruity parade we’d seen march by so far this evening. The taste was even, crisp and sublte. Subtle! Yes, that is the magic of Daiginjo.
The Namas can be a hit-you-over-the-head flavor party, while a junmai daiginjo like this can teach you the joys of an even tempered flavor.
Kind of like enjoying even-keeled (Daiginjo) Emma Thompson as a 19th Century Masterpiece Theater heronie vs. Flamboyant (Nama) Carmen Miranda as the “the lady in the tutti-frutti hat.” Right? Kagatobi Ai was a treat and was a crisp and delicious treat. um, Yum!
So, as I bid farewell to Sachicko and thanked her so much for the tasting suggestions, I couldn’t help but think ahead and start planning my next visit to the lower east side for sake. And this time, I know I’ll make it home alive for Christmas break.