Food: Asia and japan and Travels25 Nov 2010 09:20 pm

After our meal at Wagokoro Izumi, Mike and I were not quite ready to return to the hotel. The previous night we had visited a (very hard to find!) sake bar and enjoyed the experience, so we thought we would try another one while in the Kyoto region.

Sake in Japanese is the general word for booze, so when you tell a Japanese person you like sake, you are effectively saying “I like alcohol.” Nihon-shu is the correct term for rice wine, or what we call sake in the west. For the sake of simplicity I will just use the term sake in this post.

The sake bar we ended up at was a small place up several floors in a rather plain looking building. When we walked in, the only person there was the proprietor and he was on his computer at one of the tables. Anytime that happens I fight the urge to just turn around and bolt. Even though I am so inept at Japanese, I still want to enjoy the pleasures that come from living here, so that usually takes over any fear I have. I am very glad we stayed.

He confirmed that we were there for sake, and invited us up to the bar. The bar was quite stylish given the scary building it was in. There was a small stone garden, low lighting and a lot of wood. Of greatest interest was the huge cooler holding many, many kinds of different bottles of sake however.

Jizake specializes in local sake, which is why we were there. I guess it would be comparable to visiting a microbrew beer bar…only stronger!

Sadly most people have had pretty terrible experiences with sake, I think.  POOR FOOLS. They need to give namasake a try. Namasake is unpasteurized so must be kept refrigerated. It offers a complex flavour profile that would rival most wines. It can taste fruity, smell fragrant and floral and will most likely blow any poor opinions you have of sake out of the water. It can be hard to procure outside of Japan because of the difficulty transporting it, so if you ever make it over here you should seek it out.

The man running the show (his nickname is Punch) did not know much English, but that was okay as we did not know much Japanese. Thankfully, he took charge and poured us each a different kind of sake which was exactly what we had hoped for. In return, I used his website on my phone to help steer things and find out what we were drinking.

Punch likes to super age fresh sake, which is not the normal practice. People normally drink it quite quickly after it is bottled. What we drank was very mellow, crisp and delicious, and really excellent. They went down really easily, which explains why Punch puts the turmeric drink up front and center when you grab a seat at his bar. (Turmeric drink is a popular preventative precaution against hangovers here in Japan.)

We had three rounds, the first two being Furosen brands I believe, and the final was the “custom” round. No, seriously, that is what he called it. It was extremely pleasing to drink such amazing sake, made all the more special by the likelihood of what we drank we may never drink again. Okinawa is very much awamori central, whereis Kyoto is very sake based, which is a shame since we really love sake. You can still get it here on Okinawa, but it is difficult to find the quality refrigerated fresh stuff.

Although I thought I would remember what we drank that night, my sake brain must have forgotten. Perhaps someone can help me remember? The menu is online if it helps…

And then the “custom” round. This one I have an easier time recalling.

The glass of my tinged pink 2006 Nipponia nippon sake from Toyama prefecture. This is a daiginjo sake, or a very premium offering. Daiginjo sake must use rice that is at minimum polished 50%.  This creates a very fragrant, a bit sweet and soft drink with a very full flavour. This sake in particular is hard to find I came to find out, which makes it even more amazing that he let me polish off the bottle AND keep the label.

This looks and smells like a rosé wine which is NOT what you think of when you think sake if you are from the west. The pink colour comes from the rice, which is actually red. Crazy, right?  Special, for sure.

Punch poured Mike a glass of Etoile de Hietsu. This is a sake from Toyama Prefecture, and is made from sake stored in barrels of Burgundy wines, and is very sedimented. Again, a very different, unusual experience. I am totally pleased we braved our anxiety and charged into Punch’s peaceful palace.

The very missable entrance to the five floor building Jizake Bar lives in.

Special nods to Eating Out in Tokyo with Jon and KyotoFoodie for their assistance (although they do not know it!) for the suggestion of Jizake, as well as the directions and the post drinking help, both in explaining a bit about Punch and why his bar is different, and in identifying some of what we had. I would definitely like to return there in the future.

And finally a special thanks to Punch himself, for being a very kind host and for featuring us on his blog. (You should go check out the picture!)

パンチ: ご親切なおもてなしありがとうございます!  お疲れ様です。また会いましょう!

Jizake Sake Bar

Open 6pm to midnight, roughly

One Response to “Jizake Sake Bar, Kyoto”

  1. on 29 Nov 2010 at 5:09 am Roz

    Wow Kelly! I love how pretty the bottles are! Make some really nice souviners! 😉