Japan’s Storied Sake Takes Center Bar at Cafe Japengo’s New Monthly Tasting Series

Tucked away in the mystical, foggy landscape of the Japanese countryside is a series of breweries whose walls house one of the country’s most sacred drinks: sake. The 2,000-year old alcoholic beverage, which traces its roots back to the Buddhist Ceremony and Japanese Royal Family, boasts a rich history and an extensive variety of tantalizing flavors. To help decipher the complexities of its palatal language, Café Japengo is launching a monthly sake tasting series beginning Thursday, June 7.

“Every month, guests will have the opportunity to sample a selection of premier sakes. For example, one of the sakes to be featured at our first tasting comes to us from Ichishima Shuzo, one of the most prominent breweries in Niigata,” said Monia Tonazzo, general manager at Café Japengo. “It has been owned and operated by the Ichishima family since 1790 and continues to draw on its access to local ingredients to produce some of the highest quality sakes available.”

Sake Tastings

The inaugural sake tastings are scheduled for Thursday, June 7, and Thursday, July 12, at 5 p.m. on the outdoor patio of Café Japengo. The cost is $25 per person and includes:

  • Tastings of five different sakes, including Ichishima Tokubetsu Honjozo (Niigata, Japan); Yuki No Bosha, or “Cabin in the Snow” (Junmaj Ginjo, Akita, Japan); and Dewatsuru, or “Cranes of Deva” (Kimoto Junmai, Akita, Japan)
  • An opportunity to learn about the history, tasting notes, pairings and fun facts from Kris Elliott, one of the country’s top sake specialists
  • Live entertainment

Café Japengo is located at 8960 University Center Lane in the Aventine complex. For more information and future tasting dates, please visit www.cafejapengo.com or call 858-450-3355.

Sake Specialist: Kris Elliot

These tastings also present a rare opportunity to chat with one of the country’s top sake specialists, Kris Elliott from Young’s Market Company. Born and raised in Japan by a Japanese mother and an American Father, Elliot’s background is a blend of Eastern and Western cultures. One of the most profound experiences of his career included working for an entire sake brewing season at the award-winning brewery, Nanbu Bijin in Iwate, Japan, where he developed a deep respect for the traditional methods of handcrafted sake.

“Despite the fact that sake is known as the ‘Drink of the Gods’ in Japan, it’s crafted from the humblest of ingredients,” said Elliot. “It shares a similar brewing process to beer, using four main ingredients: rice, water, yeast and koji, a mold used to convert starches in rice to sugar.”

When asked if there is a proper way to drink sake, Elliot said that there is a proper way to do everything in Japan. The bottom line: it doesn’t matter whether you use a small ceramic glass or white wine glass doesn’t matter, as long as you’re having fun.

Café Japengo is one of San Diego’s top restaurants for sushi and Asian-fusion cuisine. Featuring innovative menus for lunch and dinner along with a series of gluten-free options, the restaurant also boasts an award-winning sushi bar, a hot happy hour scene and an extensive selection of the world’s best wines and sakes. Behind each culinary masterpiece is the talent of Executive Chef Jay Payne and Executive Sushi Chef Jerry Warner, who began his career at the restaurant when it first opened 22 years ago. Café Japengo is located at 8960 University Center Lane in the Aventine complex. For more details, please visit www.cafejapengo.com or call 858-450-3355. To stay up-to-date on the latest news and offerings at Café Japengo, follow them on Facebook or on Twitter at @Cafejapengo.