Shochu Superiority Complex

Birthday Cake Suprise Sometimes, you just have to believe in good omens. On my first trip to Uminoie Japanese restuarant (86 E. 3rd St.) the neighboring table handed me a piece of their birthday cake just after Scott and I were seated. I took it as a sign that our experience at this place was going to be SWEEEET! …and it was.

The food was home cooked and excellent, the sake interesting and the service/atmosphere was what I would call ‘refreshingly odd’.

First things first… be aware that the sake selection on the menu is limited. As soon as you take one look at the drink menu – it’s obvious: this is a Shochu joint. There is an entire page of the small drink menu that is devoted to every strain and variant of shochu you could imagine. If you bring your own Shochu, they even offer to store your bottle and have it ready to pour for your next visit. What about the sake? well, here is what Uminoie offers in the way of sake to those customers that are not yet ready to board that bullet train to Shochu-ville:

Hakkaisan (honjozo)
Kubota (senju)
Koshinokanbai (muku)
Shiwakawago (unfiltered)

Sake servered at UminoieWhenever I look at a new sake menu, I’m always instantly drawn to the sakes i’ve never heard of (or… maybe don’t remember). When the waiter came around for our drink order, my first question was about the Koshinokanbai (muku). What does muku mean? never heard that term before. He quickly informed me that they were out of Koshino Kanbai Muku and he strongly recommended I try some shochu. Undeterred, I asked if they had the Tengumai on hand and he said, yes, they did have that sake, but I should really consider the shochu… it is the specialty of the house. Seeing that my questions about sake were getting me nowhere, I needed to take action. I looked him in the eye and firmly ordered the Tengumai Junmai sake and Scott, in a clear sign of sake solidarity, ordered a glass of the Kubota Senju Junmai.

I sensed our waiter was a tiny bit dissappointed he didn’t ‘convert’ us. However, if they are as passionate about shochu as I am about sake, I can understand the motivation at least. Our sake arrived in decidedly dowdy little cups. As you can see by the shape, they may have had a previous incarnation as an airwick scented candle. I don’t mean to be a grouch, but presentation is such a big part of the sake experience IMHO. On to the tasting:

Tengumai JunmaiMy selection was the Tengumai Junmai brewed by Shata Shuzo Co., Ltd. from Ishikawa Prefecture. The name for this sake in English is Dance of Long Nosed Goblins. love that.

Some other stats:
ALC : 15.5%
Nihonshu-Do : 4
Sake Rice : Gohyakumangoku

I found this sake to have a thick, full and pungent flavor. This sake has the backbone to stand up to fuller fare when pairing with food, which is good. However it does seem to lack that understated essense that draws people to premium sake in the first place.

Kubota Senju JunmaiScott’s choice of the Kubota Senju Junmai was the evening’s winner. It’s brewed in Niigata Prefecture by Asahi-Shuzo Sake Brewing Co., Ltd. with an ALC content of 15.5%.

This was a delightful junmai that I would describe as crisp and light and oh so drinkable. it was an excellent match to all our delicious food. When chilled, it really had that taste of drinking fresh moutain spring water on a hot day. refreshing!

All in all this was what I would call an “away game” in terms of sake friendliness. But, it was a great sake learning experience. I got to try some new sakes and get some fresh perspective on what other types of drinks people are passionate about. Well, I realize sake can’t be everyone’s favorite drink. After all, It Takes a Village! If you get the chance, check out Uminoie. Tell them Urban Sake sent you – and keep your eyes peeled for cake.