Sake 101 at Kata Robata

April 09, 2015
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I attended Kata Robata’s Sake 101 class this month - lots of fun! Did you know that while we call sake rice wine, it is more like beer because it is brewed? Did you know that the type of rice used and the amount of the rice that is milled away truly “makes” the taste of sake? Did you know that there are seven grades of sake and that Ginjo means it’s among the best? There are over 1,200 breweries in Japan and less than 2% is exported and of those exports, the US gets 1/3. Those are just some of the things you will learn after taking this class! Sake is clearly popular in the US but honestly, I never liked it, until I took the Sake 101 class at Kata Robata. General Manager, Blake Lewis, led the tasting where we sampled sake from each grade. We also learned that each grade has a sake meter value (SMV) that indicates in a very general way the sweetness or dryness of sake - ranges from -5 and +15. Higher is dryer and I like my sake right in the middle.

Once seated in Kata Robata's new patio, we were served the typical table sake or Futsuu-shu - which is the lowest grade and typically served warm. I tasted the sake in that little cup and thought, oh no, this is going to be bad - it was the sake I knew and dis-liked. Now I know why I never liked it: It is cut with pure distilled alcohol solely for economic reasons and tastes like the alcohol it is cut with, and the lowest grade made.  My favorite? Sake with a Daiginjo grade, which is the highest grade of sake and the most expensive (of course). According to Blake, with sake you truly get what you pay for. It is all in the milling. Milling is how the outer layer of the rice is removed leaving a percentage of the kernel remaining and more milling results in a more refined and smoother sake which, of course, costs more money.

Each sake was paired with a tantalizing tidbit prepared by Chef Hori - including sushi, tartare, grilled cauliflower and ice cream to name a few. Chef Hori’s pairings let both the food and the sake shine - balancing the flavors of the food with the acidity profile of the sake. My tablemates and I showed incredible restraint as we shared the two extra portions that came with every pairing. I left with a belly full of amazing food and a desire to try different sakes because now I have a better understanding of the sakes I like. I urge you to try this for yourself because it is an experience you won’t want to miss!

Blake Lewis and Chef Hori recently took sake education classes and both received certificates. They will be doing these Sake 101 courses again - the next one is in June.  Join their mailing list to make sure you get their invite. It is a class you won't want to miss.

Kim Korth
Owner/Publisher, Edible Houston

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