When it comes to wine lists, I'm fairly certain I know what I like, what’s a good deal and what to avoid (ahem, white zinfandel). But sake menus are a bit of a wild card – all those syllables and not enough clues as to what actually goes well with tuna tataki and miso cod. Luckily Midori Roth, the sake sommelier at Sushi Samba, is well-versed on the finer points of navigating a sake list. I sat down with her recently and gleaned a few nuggets of info on how to order sake like a pro.
Rule #1: First things first, drink up, sake doesn’t cause hangovers.
Rule #2: Sake is not like wine, meaning the younger the better. In fact, most sakes should be consumed within a year of bottling.
Rule #3: Hot vs. cold. The less complex (meaning cheaper) sakes are suitable for heating but when ordering a refined variety you’ll want to drink it chilled, in order to preserve its subtleties and aromas.
Rule #4: There are three main types of sake going from the least complex (and inexpensive) to the most elegant and pricey.
Junmai – budget-friendly
Ginjo – if you have a little more to spend
Daiginjo – if you want to impress
Rule #5: A junmai is sturdy enough to stand up to heavy sauces, oily fish and steak. If you’re ordering spicy foods like curry go for a gingo which tends to be sweeter. Daiginjo is best with pricier dishes like pristine cuts of sashimi and raw seafood.
Rule #6: Daiginjo is like the Dom Perignon of sakes; smooth, crisp and, depending on the brand, bursting with aromas of pear, dried grass and ripened fruit.
Rule #7: If there is one type of sake you remember for all eternity it is the Wakatake Daiginjo. Loosely translated as “the demon slayer” this beverage is like the Ferarri of sakes. If you see it on the menu, order it.
Midori will be offering her Sake 101 tasting class Wednesday March 11, at 7pm. Cost is $75 which includes dinner.