The world’s love affair with sake has escalated to a point of obsession. Its influence has rippled far beyond the shores of Japan. How else can you explain the epicureans smitten with fermented rice alcohol? Exceptional sommeliers and top chefs have created pathways for the beverage to find its way onto top tables in cities like Paris and Hong Kong.
What’s distinct about sake is how it pairs beautifully with food, and there are times when it fares even better than wine.
As in the case of asparagus. The organosulphur compounds in the vegetable gives wine a funky aftertaste, which only mimics the taste of a wine fault. Sake, on the other hand, is more forgiving. Like rice, it goes well with most cuisines.
Enter Twelv Sake Bar
For a broad sampling of top sake, swing by Twelv, one of our favourites in Tokyo. Tucked away in the Nishi Azabu district, it is all about immersive atmosphere, impeccable service and really good tipple. Designed by those who did work for Prada and Alexander Wang, it is exceptionally stylish.
The menu is a celebration of homemade Japanese tapas and quality sake. There are seven kinds of sparkling sake and a selection of three very rare vintages such as the Yukihime 2015 (¥50,000/S$621 a bottle). There are also five different naturally-made ones, including the Terada Honke (¥8,000/S$100 for a bottle of Drop of Daigo 2016), which has been brewing for over 330 years. It follows the kimoto method, an ancient art that relies on cultivating wild microorganisms without the help of machines.
But don’t just take our word for it. Everything in Twelv Bar has been curated by Dmitry Bulakh, the bar’s spirit guide and Russian sommelier who’s lived in Tokyo almost his entire life.
Engage him in conversation and he’ll school you on sake origins, brewing technologies and trending practices. Book the signature tasting course (available at 6pm or 8.30pm on weekdays) or an Airbnb experience, and discover how the pairing capabilities of the drink goes beyond traditional Japanese cuisine.
Twelv Sake Bar is located at The Wall Building B1F, 4-2-4 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0031 Japan. Book a table via the Keyyes Membership App
Opening image: Dmitry Bulakh