Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mini Joy of Sake

The Joy of Sake is, overall, San Francisco's best annual sake event. But it changes from year to year: some years it's huge, with hundreds of sakes and many restaurants cranking out food.

This year's event on Sept. 10 could be the smallest since Joy of Sake started up six years ago. There's still expected to be about 100 sakes, which is surely more than anybody -- even my very thorough buddy Alder Yarrow -- can taste in three hours. Moreover, many of them are not available in the States, so this is your only chance to taste them unless you visit Japan.

But the venue, Yoshi's restaurant in San Francisco, is not as large as in past years. That's because this is a satellite event of a larger one held last week in Honolulu. Moreover, as it's in a restaurant, there will be only one food provider, unlike in past years when many local restaurants chipped in with sake-friendly dishes.

I am a fan of Yoshi's chef Shotaro Kamio's food. The tentative menu includes Okinawa Rock Sugar Braised Short Ribs with peach compote and yellow onion veal jus; Kakiage Tempura Fritters with fall vegetables, baby shrimp and Monterey Bay scallops; Steamed Halibut Wrapped in Konbu Seaweed with Dengaku sweet dark miso sauce; and Oven Roasted American Kobe Beef Tri-Tip with caramelized shallot teriyaki.

You'll want to get there early because the food runs out fast. Joy of Sake is usually under-organized, and this year's downscale version is likely to be more frazzled than usual.

But at $50, with plenty of sake and food if you get there in time, it's still good value -- especially because you can pour the sake yourself. Take my advice and be there before the door opens, and grab some food right away: it will be gone before the sake is.

And although they don't usually provide spit cups, I spit anyway (I use whatever plastic cup I can scrounge.) Most sakes are more than 15 percent alcohol, so it's easier to get messed up on it than on Zinfandel.

One other tip: write down the names of the sakes you like, including whether they're ginjo, daiginjo, junmai, honjozo. It's hard to take good tasting notes in a crowd, but it's easy enough to find three or four new bottles to pick up later.

Joy of Sake
Sept. 10, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Yoshi's restaurant, San Francisco
Tickets $50 advance, $60 at door

To buy tickets click here.


Unknown said...

Have lived in SF for 6 years. I am now back in Japan, and by chance saw your book in a bookstore (great book! congratulations!) and learned about your blog. Never been to Yoshi's. Hopefully someday when I visit the Bay Area. Your old friend, Carla!

Jack Everitt said...

I went to this event twice; both times it was a circus. It's no fun going to an event where they oversell the tickets, so that you're constantly jostled when tasting.

Perhaps they've learned from the past?

W. Blake Gray said...

Hey Jack, I'm going to say probably not. This is often a flawed event -- too crowded, no spit buckets, the food runs out in 45 minutes. But until somebody else steps up to do a major sake-tasting event (anybody interested?), it's still the best one in town.

I think San Francisco's big enough for two major annual sake tasting events. But I'm not going to stake my own cash on it, and apparently I'm not alone there.