Best Sake in La Jolla

Posted by bmountain | Posted in Restaurants, Sake | Posted on 09-01-2010

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Roppongi Restaurant, La Jolla

Roppongi Restaurant, La Jolla

It’s had to believe that it’s 2010 and that I haven’t made a post in Sake World since before Thanksgiving!  The combination of the holidays, some crazy travel, and an insane year-end at work has unfortunately kept me away from the blog, but the good news is I’ve had several great sake experiences and thus have some good material to write about.

Just before Thanksgiving I had the pleasure of visiting my clients, the good guys from TierraNet, in San Diego.  San Diego is a pain to get in and out of, non-stop flights are scarce from Boston, but once you’re there it’s a different world.  While everyone talks about the weather, to me the biggest difference is the stress level which is noticeably lower than back east.  The other big difference is the price of hotels.  I got a sweet room in the Sheraton overlooking the San Diego marina with a balcony for under $100 a night.  I pride myself in being able to find cheap rooms anywhere but this was way beyond my expectations.  And having brought a few Correnti Cigars with me, I was in heaven on my smoking balcony each night.

My first full day there I spent the morning on conference calls at my hotel, gazing longingly out the window at the beautiful harbor – I think if I lived in San Diego I’d work a lot less.  Then spent the afternoon with John Matthews and Brian Scott from TierraNet.  Brian and a few friends started TierraNet as a hosting company while in their dorm room in college and now it’s one of the 50 biggest Internet domain registrars in the world.  TierraNet has been a long-time partner with my company NameMedia and our businesses are closely integrated.  We had a very productive afternoon and then headed out for dinner.  John had the challenge of finding a Japanese place worthy of a post in SakeWorld.com and he didn’t disappoint.

We headed up to La Jolla which is a beautiful town on the coast about a half hour north of San Diego.  I’d only been through La Jolla once before and that was 20 years ago so I was quite taken aback by how pretty the town is, especially entering the holiday season with all the lights.  We entered Rappongi which is a good sized, modern restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.  The menu includes sushi, asian tapas, entree salads, and entrees such as Mongolian grilled shrimp, Hoisin Barbecue Roast Quail stuffed with shrimp and lobster, and pan-seared local halibut.  We started with a selection of tapas which were all excellent and also had what was probably my favorite sushi of the decade, the Kobe Roll which included lobster, crab, asparagus, white truffle aioli, and yes , KOBE BEEF.  I’ve never had sushi with red meat on it and it was inspiring.

As good as the kobe beef sushi was, the saké was event better.  Brian’s choice was the Nigori Genshu saké from the Murai Family.  Nigori means “cloudy” and Nigori saké is unfiltered leaving the rice sediment in the bottle.  This gives the saké its cloudy look.  Nigori is also the sweetest of all sakés with a fruity nose and a mild flavor, making a great drink to complement spicy foods or as a dessert wine. Before serving, the bottle must be shaken properly to mix the sediments with the sake, to obtain the full range of flavor and its “signature look”. It is advised that it be served well-chilled, storing it in an ice bucket to keep it from warming up between servings. It is also recommended, as with most sakes, to consume the entire bottle once opened as it begins to oxidize, altering its flavor.  Genshu means undiluted and unlike most sakés, there is no water added at the end to reduce the alcohol content.

The Murai family has been brewing saké for almost 200 years, and have won 57 consecutive gold medals for saké brewing excellent, a Japanese record.  Their sakémaster Yoshio Koizumi has been awarded the lifetime achievement award by Japan’s leading association of industry, government,  and consumer groups and is considered one of the top five saké brewers in Japan.

I’ve never been a huge Nigori fan but after this I was converted.  The sensation I had when drinking the Murai Nigori was Pina Colada.  It had a rich creamy texture with a hint of coconut.  I felt like I could have put an umbrella in the top and drunk it with a straw on the beach up the street.  Other Nigori’s that I have had have had the sediment swirling around but were flaky and thin.  The texture of this saké is what really made it work for me.  We liked it so much, we ordered a second bottle between the three of us.

All in all a great saké experience and one I hope to return to soon.

Rappongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar
875 Prospect St.
La Jolla, CA
+1 858-551-5252
http://www.roppongiusa.com

Murai Family
Nigori Genshu  Saké
SMV:  -22
Alcohol 19.9%
Rice Milling 75%
Rice:  Mutsuhomare

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