The Saké Place
Appreciating saké one sip at a time
BY JACQUELINE BENITA PAUL
Unlike other types of alcoholic drinks, the first-time experience of saké drinking is often spoiled by the lack of options on the house pour menu (or the only one on the menu). It is usually a basic saké with added acidifier, amino acid and alcohol that is served warm to mask the impurities of an inferior product. To relieve his customers from such experiences, master sake sommelier, Danny Leong opened The Saké Place in Plaza Arkadia, Desa Park City. Here, customers are guided through the process of appreciating the premium varieties of saké. Danny and his wife, Samantha also take pride in introducing food pairings with geographically-specific ingredients to give their customers a unique experience.
“Saké is not a drink to down like it’s a shot or consumed with the purpose of getting drunk. It’s meant to be appreciated in your own time and the right food pairings add nuances to enjoy saké in more ways than one,” Danny said as he prepared the Dewazakura Ginjo Ouka from Yamagata Prefecture.
Instead of using a small flask (tokkuri) or a flat saucer-like cup (sakazuki), we were served with a designated saké glassware that looked like a mini champagne glass which showcased the sweet aroma that first permeated our nostrils.
He also presented us with a basic saké that was from a can instead of a bottle, the Ozeki One Cup from Hyogo Prefecture. Before we were told what to expect, we already could smell the intense aromas. I appreciated the saké for its engaging properties and the bitter aftertaste, but my guests had their hearts set on their first option. This is where The Saké Place tasting set comes in handy. With the set, guests can discern their own preferences when it comes to saké.
“Just like how people would bring their favorite bottle of wine to a restaurant, saké is a drink that can be enjoyed the same way; it is not exclusive to be paired with Japanese cuisine,” Danny said when asked about the “why” of his selection. According to him, saké has properties to highlight the flavours of dishes with seasonal ingredients. Evident from the pairing with the Ice Vegetable Topped with Strawberries and pine nuts and drizzled with Yuzu.
Overall, we felt the experience at The Saké Place was more than the consumption of saké as we were also introduced to the saké culture. It is the kind of place to enjoy an elegant evening away from the noise and bustle, with a master saké sommelier on hand to take you through an exciting culinary journey.
Dewazakura Ginjo Ouka, polishing rate 50%, Yamagata Perfecture. Punchy melon taste with a citrus undertone made this saké easy to like.
Lightly Torched Mackerel
The freshness of the mackerel was elevated by the smooth and fruity nature of this saké. For first timers, you might fall in love with saké if this was your induction to it.
Ice Vegetable Topped with Strawberries and Pine Nuts and Drizzled with Yuzu
The unique natural frosting on the thick texture of the South African Ice Vegetable resulted in a refreshing flavour with a sweet finish boosted by the melon and citrus notes of the saké.
Seikyo Junmai Takehare, polishing rate 65%, Hiroshima Perfecture. The saké offered a mouthful of sweetness with notes of lychee, honeydew melon and pear.
Seared Tuna on a Bed of Fresh Greens
If we had closed our eyes, it would be easy to mistake the tuna for a type of red meat.
Salmon Smoked in Cherry Blossom Wood Chips
We also enjoyed the second pairing with this saké, served with a quail dip. While there were various layers with a bit of smokiness, sweetness and a savoury flavour from the quail dip, the saké acted as a conduit to unify the flavours and did not overwhelm our taste buds.
Toko Junmai Ginjo Genshu Dewanosato, polishing rate 60%, Yamagata Perfecture. The saké that was served cold was quite approachable and easy to drink. It’s a simple saké with a slight sweet, rounded finish punctuated with a slight bitterness.
Asam Laksa Glass Noodles with a Twist
The glass noodles offer a unique texture that highlighted the flavour of the asam laksa soup. Mussels and clams offered soft bites complimenting the spicy nature of the asam laksa. Sips of the complex Toko Junmai Ginjo Genshu Dewanosato created a powerful effect which reduced the heat from of the asam laksa noodle when paired together.
Fettucini with Creamy Turmeric Sauce –
The saké took a different approach with the Fettucine with Creamy Turmeric Sauce by boosting its rendang-like flavour with a luscious smooth finish.
Fried Akita Kamachi Rice with ScallopsThe pairing left an indelible impressionon us. The Akita rice enveloped with adelicious combination of garlic and eggwas comforting with every bite. Whenwe visit The Saké Place again, thereis a high chance you may find us withthe same combination. Before then, weordered a second helping to have athome.
F-1-16, Block Faraday, Plaza Arkadia,
Jalan Intisari Perdana, Desa ParkCity,