Fact: sakes are for cool people. Yakuzas drink it, James Bond drinks it, and if you’ve been meaning to get in on this too, then head no further than Sake Bar Ginn – a shiny new enclave dedicated to the best nihonshu from Japan.
Tucked away in a small commercial building in the middle of LKF, this homey, terraced bar stocks more than 70 bottles, close to 40 of which are available in single-glass tasting pours. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise most of the names listed in the menu – Sake Bar Ginn’s founder Ayuchi Momose (a Sake Service Institute certified sommelier and instructor who also used to work at the famed Sakagura sake bar in New York) has gone to extra lengths to source lesser-known sakes from small, boutique breweries around Japan. It can be a dizzying list for first-timers, which is why the first two pages of the menu are designed like a crash course on sakes, breaking down the difference between the junmai and honjozo families (the former has no added alcohol while the latter does) before going on to categorise them by grade (determined by the percentage of sakamai rice husk that’s polished off before processing) and basic flavour profiles.
But the best way to learn is by drinking (of course) and at Ginn, a sake tasting flight is the best place to begin. There are four sets to choose from, each one built from 50ml tasting portions of three different sakes from a single brewery. The Shichida set ($126) includes a junmai daiginjo (the highest grade of junmai sake), junmai ginjo and junmai, each glass tasting drier and progressively less floral than the last. Also try the Fuchu Homare set ($170), which includes a brilliant junmai daiginjo spun from watari bune – an ancient variety of sakamai rice that is now exceptionally rare due to its delicate nature.
It also helps that Momose and her assistant Glen Fung are excellent teachers. They’ll happily talk guests through each drink, explaining the back stories (including how one brewery came to be named after otters) and they’ll do the ritualistic steps to help draw out the rice wines’ distinct personalities. For example, floral sakes are served in Riedel nosing tumblers with rounded features to help the drink release its full aromas. In contrast, the light and dry Urakasumi Zen ($115/100ml) is poured into a chilled, narrow flute to accentuate its crispness.
Ginn also boasts a small nibbles menu with sake pairing suggestions. A bold flavoured trio of raw squid, wasabi-spiked chopped octopus and bonito intestines arranged on blocks of cream cheese ($80) goes well with richer, stronger tipples like the Shichida Migaki 75 percent junmai (67/100ml) from Saga prefecture. Likewise for the grilled ox tongue served with a side of spicy yuzu kosho ($60). Fukuoka-style cuttlefish cakes ($55) on the other hand, twin better with lighter, smooth options like the Tentaka Kokoro ($80/100ml).
A visit to Ginn is likely to be one of the most interesting sake lessons you’ll ever receive. Whether you’re already a connoisseur or just trying to channel Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice, you’ll leave here with a greater knowledge and finer appreciation of this beautiful beverage. Dorothy So
Unit C, 4/F, Ho Lee Commercial Bldg, 38-44 D’Aguilar St, Central, 2536 4355; www.sakebarginn.com.
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