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11 Jan 2020 By

This Chinese New Year, Break With Tradition and Serve Something Borrowed, and Something Brewed: Sake!

So, another season for feasting is almost upon us. Yep, I’m talking about the CNY reunion dinner (and ensuing festive gorging). Whether your usual go-to drank is a boatload of orh gao, some well-priced XO or that special bottle of whisky you’ve been saving for a special day, consider this (not so) newish proposition – sake. Food-friendly, and (mostly) wallet-friendly, sake just about goes with any type of cuisine, but especially Asian. Crisp, dry styles like junmai ginjo pair well with stir fries and other heavier, oilier dishes, whereas lighter, sweeter styles are great with the more delicate flavours in lo hei or steamed fish. These are just a few new-to-Singapore bottles we’ve tried and tested.


Rakuya ($98++ for 720ml)

Homegrown Japanese restaurant and sake bar Rakuya recently launched its own bottled sake on “Nihonshu no Hi” or World Sake Day (1st October) last year. The Tokubetsu Junmai (special junmai) sake is a collaboration with Sekiya Brewery Co Ltd, located in the Aichi prefecture, which has been in the sake-making business since 1864.

The sake is quite special, made with a mixture of koji rice (sake rice) and kake rice (table rice), uncommon in sake. The result is a smooth, dry junmai, with notes of ripe fruit and grains, full-bodied enough for richer foods like tempura or a luscious A4 wagyu, but light enough to pair with sashimi or sushi. Try it this Chinese New Year with the Rakuya’s new Salmon with Hokkaido Scallop Yusheng ($58.80++).

And you don’t have to worry about keeping this sake chilled – as it warms out of the fridge to room temperature, its flavours awaken and deepen, with a subtle tartness that adds nuance – it’ll taste as good, if not better, throughout the meal.


 Kamoshibito Kuheiji

In case it’s not clear from the bottle, cult sake label Kamoshibito Kuheiji is influenced by owner Kuheiji Kuno-san’s appreciation for French wine culture and techniques. Banjo Jozo, the heritage brewery established in 1647, has been run by the Kuheiji family for generations, producing mainly junmai daiginjo.

 15th generation owner Kuno-san believes that Kuheiji sake should be enjoyed with different cuisines, whether it’s Japanese, Italian, French or even local fare like chicken rice and fried carrot cake. From there, it’s no big leap to include Chinese delicacies. The Omachi 50 Sauvage ($66) is a nice accompaniment to the rich flavours of pen cai – a rich, savoury dish of abalone, sea cucumber, scallops, prawns, roast pork, fish maw etc. Full-flavoured, smooth and expressive, it holds its own against the gamey dish, whilst cutting its richness with a nice acidity.

The Yamadanishiki 35 Betsu Atsurae ($128), on the other hand, pairs perfectly with the equally decadent Buddha Jumps Over the Wall – both having a delicate, aromatic flavour that does not overpower the other, while their natural sweetness complements. On the nose, its floral veil of jasmine and delicate melon aromas refresh, while its dry, almost tonic acidity counterbalances the rich broth.


Gasanryu Junmai Fuka 


At sake bar Orihara, you can pick up a bottle of bar-exclusive Gasanryu Junmai Fuka from the Shindo brewery in Yonezawa city, Yamagata. With a lovely nose of floral bouquet and full-bodied, prominent flavour, Sake sommelier Maria Luisa Satou recommends serving it alongside the popular roast suckling pig. Fermented at very low temperature, its versatility sees it hold up well at any serving style, whether warmed to 40 deg., chilled or even on the rocks.

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