The best sakes to buy in 2023
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I love being bossed around when I’m eating, and also being told what I’m going to drink – so what sakes are sommeliers pouring at the world’s hot new omakases?
At Jōji in Manhattan, head sommelier Junxi Chen has given the sake list a vinous spin – he favours sakes with strong varietal or geographic character and serves them in wine glasses. A favourite is Kamoshibito Kuheiji 2022 Eau du Désir ($42). “This brewery has been around since the mid-1600s, but Kuheiji Kuno’s sakes are new-wave,” says Chen. “Having made wine in Burgundy and run a negociant in Morey-Saint-Denis, he has a vigneron mindset. He is one of the few brewers trying to find terroir in sake. It’s floral, driven by jasmine and stone fruit, and has a spritzy crisp finish.” At the Michelin-starred Kaneyoshi in Los Angeles, sake comes with a dusting of A-list glitz – a popular recent addition is Ohmine 2 Grain ($135), a modernist sake co-owned by Pharrell Williams and Nigo, the artistic director of Kenzo.
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Sushi master Endo Kazutoshi takes a keen interest in the sake list at his 10-seat omakase Endo at the Rotunda in London. He’s one of the few to have an allocation of Hakkaisan’s Junmai Daiginjo Kouwa Gura (£146), which is made from rice polished to its highest grade. Mimurosugi ($54), a refreshingly tangy Junmai Daiginjo that he was introduced to by a pair of guests, and Hayaseura Daiginjo (HK$690 – about £68), a drier-style sake that’s “incredible with eel”, are also his mainstays. “Many of the cups and vessels we have are my own designs,” he adds. “We allow the guest to choose the one that feels right.”
Vessels play a central role at Sushi Kanesaka, Shinji Kanesaka’s ultra-luxe new omakase at London’s 45 Park Lane hotel. On arrival, guests are invited to choose their first glass from a coffret containing 20 coloured edo kiriko, or cut-glass, cups. A sparkling Dassai 45 Junmai Daiginjo unfiltered sake (£24) comes in a champagne flute; and an umami-ish Noguchi Naohiko Limited Edition (£519) in a trumpet-shaped tin cup; a pure, almost minty Yamahai Aiyama 2018 (£75) is served in a doll-sized Kimura coupe to enhance its delicacy.
Bowie Tsang, sake sommelier at Taku in Mayfair, proposes Juyondai Tatsuno Otoshigo (S$1,060 – about £620), by Takagi Shuzo, a producer he describes as the “sake equivalent of Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. They have their own rice strain. The strain’s name means the bastard son of a dragon. It is fragrant, opulent, fruity with a spicy finish.”
The jewel in the crown of Tokyo’s Bulgari Hotel is Sushi Hōseki, an eight-seat omakase by three Michelin-starred chef Kenji Gyoten. The sushi master feels the greatest attachment to the sakes of Aramasa, a “cutting-edge” maker in the Akita prefecture he has worked with “since my apprenticeship”. I’ll have what he’s having.