Sharpen your sake know-how

Three local restaurants cater to sake enthusiasts

Seven Sushi Lounge
700 Hennepin Ave., 238-7777

In February came the launch of Seven Sushi Lounge, just two blocks from Musashi, located one level above r. Norman’s steak house and under the same ownership. The sleek space has a clubby feel with a long, low-lit bar, and the sake menu keeps things interesting, with sakes like the sparkling Hana Hou Hou Shu, which is bubble gum pink in color with a sweet flavor that is softer than champagne.

Seven has chosen to focus only on small batch, artisanal sakes, and one sake on the list represents Seven Spearsmen, the oldest sake brewery in Japan, over 14 generations, according to manager Joe Goodin. Its Shichi Hon Yari sake has an earthy front with a fruity finish.

Goodin encourages customers to ask questions if they are new to sake drinking, and he continues to hold tasting sessions with staff to educate them on the finer points of enjoying sake and pairing it with Seven’s Japanese- and Asian-fusion food items.

2500 Nicollet Ave. S., 813-1200

Azia has been luring in sake fans with its sake list and creative sake cocktails for a few years now. General manager Paul Boyum says the list has been crafted based on principles similar to creating a wine list. Some are younger, affordable, fun and hip, while others are more refined.

One sake that Boyum says is palatable to most sake drinkers and consistently popular at Azia is the Onikoroshi (“Demon Slayer”), which he describes as having a deep taste, with a slight sweetness and a silky texture.

Boyum also encourages customers to be inquisitive, and states that the restaurant strives to build a rapport with all customers by learning their likes and dislikes. Servers can make recommendations, but sake drinkers can also test the waters for themselves with one of the sake flights, which are $10 for the low flight or $18 for the high flight. The milling of the rice, the water and the locale in which the rice is produced all bear an influence on the characteristics of the sake, says Boyum.

Musashi Japanese
533 Hennepin Ave., 332-8772

With a light, clean decor and a menu of sushi and teppanyaki-style dining, Musashi started with a basic sake list when it opened in January. Most of the brews were ones that are commonly found at Japanese restaurants around town, according to bar manager, April Johnson. Since she joined the team, though, she and the general manager revamped the sake menu to include several artisanal sakes, including the Yuki No Bosha, a limited release junmai ginjo (a premium classification referring to the amount of rice that is milled away in the brewing process, in this case, 40 percent). Johnson describes the Yuki No Bosha as floral, with a dry finish.

This month, Musashi is giving sake enthusiasts even more incentive to embark on a sake adventure by holding a sake festival, offering deals throughout April that include special prices on premium sakes, a $30 menu that offers a choice of specialty chef’s rolls and two glasses of sake from the premium sake list, and sake cocktails like the curutini, made with Hendricks gin, Hoshi sake, mint and muddled cucumber.