The Taru Trap

Yakatori Sake Menu.So scott and I went to a fun little Japanese restaurant called “Yakatori Taisho” we got there around 8pm and waited about an hour for our table which was not as bad as it sounds. we had fun people watching all the wacky japanese youth hanging around outside also waiting for tables. I stuck it out as I thought it was a good sign that young cool native japanese wanted to eat there. the joint was jumping and we got a seat at the yakatori bar right next to the grill. great for warming up. Even better for warming up is some yummy sake. So we get our seats and the waitress comes flying by wanting our drink orders. the place is jammed and the waitstaff is busy so this was no time to pussyfoot about what saké to order. I follow my gut and ordered a small bottle of “taru sake” for about $9. scott goes for the obvious choice of the giant house recommended saké, kaisho honjozo. Scott is SO much better at ordering on instinct. he always seems to zero in on what is good even when we have no idea what anything on the menu will really taste like. this happens all the time, but it’s even more disturbing when he orders better sake than me. (“hey! that’s my department!”) Well, it happened again on this night. I’d like to think I’m some big sake expert, but I’m still such a novice in knowing what to order and what to expect. good to keep my ego in check and my mind focused on learning about sake.

Taru Sake Bottle and sake cupScott ordered a glass of the house special after seeing it was the “recommended” sake on the menu. It cost about $5 for a really full 8 ounce glass. I thought, if they’re pushing it that hard, it must be old or not so good. I looked at the other selections and found this taru sake. I had heard that term “taru” before, but was kinda forgetting what it meant. My Taru arrived and had a slight yellow tinge and I poured. I sipped it out of a tiny ceramic cup. It tasted funny, but I couldn’t but my finger on it. a few more sips… still tasted funny. Scott gave me a sip of his selection. now that tasted good. Also it was a beautful crystal clear color. it looked clearer than water.

What had I done?! hmmm. so I checked out the taru bottle and realized what that funny taste was! Taru is sake aged in cedar barrels. Cedar! that’s what I was tasting. I sipped some more – yes cedar – it tasted just like a cedar closet or my grandmother’s cedar hope chest. Now, just like nigori, I’m sure there are people out there that just LOVE this cedar infused aged taste, but i’m not one of them. SO, I screwed the cap on the bottle and stuffed it in my jacket pocket. I flagged the waitress and got my own glass of what scott had. ah… that’s better. we left the restaurant feeling over-stuffed and a little tipsy. in any case, now I know what TARU means and I don’t think I’ll ever forget.