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Suspicious Minds

Azia_bar.jpgRecently, Scott invited me to travel with him to Minnesota for his college reunion. I know… Minnesota is out there, but I knew deep down there would be some sake adventure somewhere to be had, so off I went – and I’m glad I did. After a little research and a few emails with our friend Valerie of the sake diaries blog, I found out about a restaurant called Azia in Minneapolis. This place caught my eye in particular as their website boasts the “Biggest Sake List in Minnesota”. Just how big is the biggest sake list in Minnesota? Is it any good? Can Minneapolis put some ‘Urban’ in their sake? Inquiring minds want to know! So, we made a reservation and I hoped for the best.
We arrived at Azia and we were promptly seated. The decor was pan-asian. The menu was pan-asian and the sake list was, luckily, all japanese.

Rihaku_wandering_poet.jpgWhen I got my hands on the “Biggest Sake list in Minnesota”, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. They offered 21 sakes ranging from $10 – $34 for a 5 oz serving. The menu had a great explanation of basic sake terms and it seemed this place really put some thought into the way they present their nihon-shu.

Azia lists most of the sakes they serve on their website. All the brands are well known and solid. Included among them are: Onikoroshi, Ichinokura, Otokoyama, Tentaka, Mukune and more. I decided to keep focused for the evening and centered my attention on Rihaku. My first glass of the evening was Rihaku “Wandering Poet” (Junmai Ginjo, shimane Prefecture, SMV +3, ALC 15.2%, Seimaibuai 55%, Acidity 1.6). This junmai Ginjo is delicious and a wonderful warmup for the food of the evening. I actually ended up drinking the Rihaku Ginjo with a selection of Oysters that we ordered for appetizers. This was actually perfect because the sake did such a good job of ‘resetting’ my palate after each briny swig of oyster, it really added to my enjoyment.

Rihaku_Nigori.jpgWith my sushi main course, I stuck with Rihaku and ordered the Rihaku Nigori “Cloudy Dreams” (Tokubetsu Junmai, Shimane Prefecture, SMV: +3, ALC: 15.6%, Seimaibuai: 59%, Acidity: 1.6) With a little extra Wasabi mixed into my soy sauce, nigori goes well with sushi. I really enjoyed the Nigori from Rihaku. It was surprisingly light and smooth. Even a touch fruity, which you don’t usually get from nigori. Above all it was so food friendly and enjoyable. I will be looking for this one again!

I was so excited about the Rihaku Nigori that I wanted to get the perfect picture to include in the blog. It turns out that my picture taking (without the flash!) caught the eye of the owner who came over to our table and asked how we were enjoying the sake. I later discovered he thought I was trying to steal the sake list! That’s a very cold-war east-german-spy way of making off with a sake list, eh? Luckily our waitress figured out that I was just a sake obsessed blogger and she quickly smoothed things over. By the end of the evening I’d even been given a copy of the sake list to take home!

If you’re ever in Minnesota and looking for a little (or big) tipple of sake, Azia is hands down THE place to go. They take their nihon-shu seriously and it shows. Go thirsty and leave happy, but be sure to practice your covert secret-spy undercover camera operation before you go.