What better way to kick off part 2 of my Kyoto adventure than with some #nom food, delicious sake, and David Bowie. I (didn’t) know much about sake but, I wanted to delve deeper into it; little did I know I would get a 2 for 1 deal since this establishment I found doubles as a soba restaurant during the day and a sake bar by night!
So let’s kick off with the soba first! Soba is Japanese for buckwheat but refers specifically to these thin noodles that can be eaten hot or cold in a variety of ways. Soba has been a popular dish since the well known Edo period, in fact many establishments doubled for soba and sake… just like this one! The restaurant is small, serving maybe 10? The chef is welcoming but busy as it’s a popular destination. The menu is short and sweet, as it should be; I decided to go ahead with the classic mori soba (chilled soba noodles served on a flat basket). Open from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm, there was a constant flow of local traffic, looking to slurp down the delicious chewy goodness that are these hand cut soba.
It’s funny enough that I should choose to eat soba in Kyoto because it’s known as a typical Kansai dish, meaning it’s more popular in Tokyo (for example). It’s also a staple New Year’s eve dish that I’ve been fortunate enough to have in the past for that very occasion.
Now on to the sake! As I mentioned earlier, the establishment is shared and turns into a sake bar at night. It’s open from 6 pm to 12 am, from Wednesday to Saturday. If you do decide to go, I suggest reserving ahead of time as it’s quite popular and small. Why is it popular? Well it might have something to do with the owner being able to speak English (Yoram is not Japanese, he hails from Israel originally) AND him being very well versed in the ins and outs of sake.
Sadly I don’t remember the names of what I tasted BUT I did take pictures of the bottles I liked with my phone so I’ll include them below. First important element of note: We’ve all been drinking sake wrong! Following Yoram’s instructions you must take a sip, keep it in the front of your mouth for at least 5 seconds and then swallow. IT. CHANGES. EVERYTHING. To be honest, before this I’ve always found my sake experiences to be very hit and miss and quite frankly it wasn’t really a go-to drink of mine. With this method however, you can really appreciate the individual and unique flavour that lingers in your mouth and doesn’t burn you in the back of the throat. Really eye opening!
Second important element of note: sake is not always pale or clear in colour! The reason behind this is of course oxidization, however it is not an indication of the age of sake. In fact, sake changes overtime in the bottle and doesn’t necessarily reach a cap; that is to say it can go from good, to bad, to good, to bad and on and on. Unlike wine, sugar is not responsible for the change in flavour, but rather the amino acids. Sake is produced by a brewing process similar to that of beer, where starch is converted into sugars which ferment into alcohol. Tasting sake through time is how to know if it’s ready to be consumed.
Last important element of note: warm sake is not of superior quality to cold sake. Yes temperature does have a role in the overall flavour, but to say warm sake is superior is equivalent to saying white wine is inferior to red, or white Porto to amber (for example). So drink up and enjoy!
Yoramu was attentive and kindly answered the many sake questions that were thrown his way. But his most important quality? He’s got good taste in music! I spent a delightful evening noming on grilled mochi (with butter and soya sauce) and yuzu chrysanthemum petals, sipping wonderful sake, all to the tunes of David Bowie. It doesn’t get much better than that.