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Favorite Japanese Holiday Foods

Anyone who has traveled to Japan, or eaten in an authentic Japanese restaurant knows that the Japanese enjoy a rich, diverse and carefully prepared cuisine. In a country with thousands of years of history and many different regions, each with their own style and specialty dishes, many dishes have long cultural significance. Like most people, the Japanese associate certain foods with family occasions, holidays or festivals. Here are a few special Japanese dishes that are associated with important days on the Japanese calendar.

Japanese New Year’s Favorite: Osechi Ryori

A traditional mix of Japanese New Year's foods called Osechi Ryori.

Oshogatsu (New Year) is the most significant day of the year in Japan. Celebrated on January 1 and usually extended a few days into the new year, Oshogatsu is a time to celebrate and contemplate the New Year. It’s a day when people usually return home to be with their families and gather at the shrines to greet the gods.

On New Year’s Eve, families prepare osechi ryori, a special meal that includes a variety of foods, including dishes like sweet rolled omelet, fish cake with salmon roe, candied sardines, daikon and carrot salad, smashed chestnut and sweet potato paste, and simmered chicken and vegetables. These are prepared in advance to avoid cooking during the first three days of the year according to custom, so they are often vinegared or sugared to keep during that period.

Springtime: Hinamatsuri and Chirashi Zushi

Chirashi sushi bowl

Chirashi

Hinamatsuri or Girl’s Day in Japan, is celebrated each year on March 3rd. It is one of several ancient annual celebrations that go back over a thousand years.  The day is dedicated to girl children and features the display of ornamental dolls representing the Emperor, Empress and their royal court. Hinamatsuri celebrations feature their own traditional dishes with some variety based on the region of Japan. Sushi is usually part of the meal, as well as hishi-mochi, or diamond-shaped rice cakes colored in spring colors representing fertility and good health. as well as hamaguri-zushi which is a small rice ball wrapped in a thin omelet shell, giving it a clam-like shape. Chirashi-sushi is a collection of colorful sushi usually in colors of yellow, green, white and pink.

A Spring Ritual: Cherry Blossoms, Sakura Mochi, Onigiri and Miso

Sakuramochi, japanese confectionery wrapped in a preserved cherry on white background.

Hanami or Cherry blossom festival is one of the most popular holidays celebrated in Japan. The whole country stops work to enjoy and celebrate the blossoming of the cherry trees, called sakura. Most of the parks open their gates for families who hold their parties below the trees. The Hanami celebration includes preparing homemade foods, including onigiri (rice balls wrapped in seaweed), miso (bean paste) and sakura mochi (preserved cherry sweets). Bento meals may also accompany the family  as they picnic among the blossoming cherry trees. The meal may also be supplemented with sake or even a tea ceremony with special teaware and a blend of organically grown sakura, green and black teas.

And, then, there’s KFC for Christmas

In a country whose 99% of the population is non-Christian, the secular side of Western Christmas has been widely adopted and is celebrated with decorations and gift giving. American fried chicken icon, KFC, played a part in the popularization of Christmas. And now, each year, it seems locals can’t get enough of KFC chicken. “Kentucky for Christmas”, a 1974 marketing campaign in Japan introduced KFC, and a holiday tradition took off from there. Today on Christmas, the locals make long queues at KFC or even order in advance to escape the waiting time.

End the Year with Toshikoshi Soba

Japanese toshikoshi Soba noodle ramen in ceramic bowl, Japanese food

At the end of each year, Japanese make sure to have a meal of soba noodles in a dish called toshikoshi soba. The custom can be traced to the Edo period when it is believed to have started at one Buddhist temple that fed soba to poor people to celebrate the coming of the New Year.  Because noodles are easy to cut when chewing, a dish of soba noodles symbolizes the end to the hardships the Japanese people had to undergo as they labored all year round, and it let’s them start the New Year fresh.

To make toshikoshi soba, the soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat flour, are cooked with a blend of soy sauce, mirin and sugar, and then garnishing using onion. The mixture is then heated over a flame until the broth simmers. Once ready, it gets apportioned and served in bowls.

Japanese Pancakes: Enjoy Okonomiyaki Year Round

Japanese food okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a savory version of the Japanese pancake prepared using a variety of ingredients. The dish originated in Osaka but is now popular everywhere and enjoyed year round The term okonomiyaki in Japan means ‘grilled how you like it.’  While Okonomiyaki are enjoyed during matsuri, or festivals, they are popular year round. There are even restaurants that specialize in okonomiyaki where patrons can select and mix their own ingredients. Normally, okonomiyaki is prepared by blending flour, eggs, cabbage, pork belly slices or meat, and then decorated with a variety of toppings for an excellent flavor. Great chefs and homemakers all love to come up with new combinations and topping ideas for this versatile pancake which is also a great way to use up leftovers.

For Your Holiday Celebrations Enjoy Authentic Japanese Food with Osaka

WIth one of the biggest and most authentic Japanese food menus in Las Vegas, Osaka Japanese Bistro offers an extensive selection of Japanese dining for every taste and event. Whether you want to celebrate New Year’s with a late night sushi party or a birthday with a Teppanyaki feast, springtime with a fresh chirashi sushi bowl, or just enjoy the taste of homemade Japanese food like okonomiyaki or a steaming bowl of tasty chicken udon, stop by either of our locations open late in Las Vegas and Henderson and step into a festival of delicious food.

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What to Look for in the Best Japanese Restaurants

Osaka meal including sushi pot stickers

A great Japanese restaurant invites its patrons to share in the full sensory experience that is Japan. From the purposeful presentation of each dish to the soft lighting and tranquil environment, each element of service is meant to heighten the culinary and cultural experience. An authentic Japanese restaurant will hold true to featuring menu selections that use seasonal market ingredients and ocean-fresh fish. Even the basics of rice and noodles are cooked and served with a masterful touch of perfection and taste.

Osaka Japanese Bistro Award-winning Local Las Vegas Icon

For over 50 years, Osaka has been delivering world-class cuisine in Nevada as one of Las Vegas’ oldest Japanese restaurants. Osaka embraces a heightened sense of respect for quality and authenticity – which has earned this locals favorite repeated recognition on the “Best of Las Vegas” restaurants, being honored 20 times. Osaka Japanese Bistro has even  garnered acclaim in Japan with the Asahi Shukan 50 best restaurants award.

Best Japanese Food Restaurants: Obsession and Art Form

Osaka sashimi platter of fresh sliced fish arranged in beautiful display

The best Japanese restaurants never happen by chance. The challenge requires careful consideration of many factors beyond an authentic menu and highly trained chefs. From the initial tea service by a warm and welcoming staff, the entire meal experience will resemble a grand ceremony of Japanese cuisine and culture. The best restaurants must successfully incorporate a combination of quality elements in order to achieve worthy applause.

The Best Japanese Food Ingredients

Fresh seafood is crucial with the numerous dishes that include eel, squid, shellfish and a wide range of fish species not commonly served in other cultures. A keen and deliberate knowledge of every aspect of ‘marine catch’ is brought to bear on fish market selections, such as knowing the collagen content of each species which determines whether the prepared fish is sliced thin (sashimi) or served thick-cut (tuna).

Seasonal produce is really an approval of taste, crispness, and bright appearance. Some may feel as if vegetables take a back seat in Japanese cooking, but actually, they are skillfully combined with dishes to accentuate taste or heighten texture. There is no lack of respect for hearty Japanese vegetable dishes which often include Napa cabbage, carrots, onions, leeks, tofu, onions, and shiitake mushrooms.

Perfect Rice a Foundation for the Best Japanese Food

Osaka steamed rice

A discussion of authentic Japanese cuisine would not be complete without mentioning the skillful perfection that goes into preparing the menu’s most basic staple – that is, the rice. Sticky, short-grained, and of as many varieties and uses; as a base for capturing the liquid nuances of flavorful dishes, in the rolling of sushi, in the making of rice cakes (mochi) and in the fermentation of rice wine (saki), a good Japanese restaurant will always serve its rice cooked to perfection.

Unique to Japanese dishes are its seasonings such as miso (soybean paste), mirin (sweet rice wine), goma (sesame oil), wasabi (Japanese horseradish), and shoyu (soy sauce) – and its spices, which include uniquely Japanese combinations of red chiles, orange peel, ginger, Japanese pepper, and sesame seeds. Soup stocks made from kombu kelp, dried shiitake mushrooms, bonito flakes, or bones and vegetables create the depth of flavor in Japanese cuisine. These are all essential pantry items in any good Japanese kitchen.

Best Restaurants Have Skilled and Masterful Chefs

Japanese teppan yaki master chef at the grill with meat and veggies

And finally, the best japanese restaurants will embrace the most skilled chefs trained in the art of sushi, teppanyaki , tempura, stir-fry, and a host of other stylized cooking innovations using cookery, tools, and knives unique to Japan. The food, techniques, and the tools used in Japanese cuisine are common to no other Asian culinary region. The overall dining experience as enjoyed in a premier Japanese restaurant is immersive, satisfying, and a memorable experience.

Restaurant Open Late

Long a hangout and night spot for Las Vegans, from Strip entertainers to casino staff stopping by for a late night meal, Osaka Japanese Restaurant has always had a special flare for providing great fare for late night diners. Sushi and other Osaka specialties are perfect for a light, late night meal. Osaka Henderson features jazz nights with live music by local entertainers, adding atmosphere and fun to dining out.  Visit one of our two locations in Las Vegas (open until 2:00 AM) and Henderson (open until 12:00 AM Mon-Thu and Sun, open until 2:00 AM Fri and Sat)

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Traditional Favorite Japanese Foods

What are the Foods that Japanese Eat at Home?

Japanese are known to have one of the world’s longest life expectancies,and they have very few case of obesity which contributes to health problems. Japanese women live an average 87 years with men following closely at 80 years. The longevity of the Japanese people is mainly attributed to their healthy diet which is largely made up of fish, vegetables, and plants. One defining quality is that Japanese cuisine emphasizes quality and not quantity.

Traditional and popular Japanese foods for sale in food market in Tokyo, Japan.

The Japanese eat food in moderation and with a lot of variety. Eating lots of different foods is a natural way to get the benefits of a balanced diet. For example, a typical Japanese meal is comprised of 1 soup, 3 side dishes, and a main dish. Japanese often practice the rule to eat until you are 80% full and then stop. Their cuisine and dining focus on the beautiful presentation of food, encouraging people to eat with their eyes. And, chopsticks, unlike the Western fork, tend to slow the eating process, as food is lifted to the mouth in smaller bites, delivering more taste and enjoyment.  All these habits help the Japanese maintain healthy eating habits.

These are the seven pillars of the typical Japanese meal:

  • Rice
  • Noodles (ramen, soba, somen, and udon)
  • Vegetable including sea vegetables and daikon radish
  • Soy (soy sauce, tofu, miso,edamame)
  • Fish such as salmon, mackerel
  • Green tea
  • Fruits, like tangerine, persimmons and Fuji grapes
Miso Soup

Miso Soup

Some of the most common types of dishes served in Japanese cuisine are:

Noodles

Noodles are a standard component of Japanese meals and can either be taken cold or hot depending on the season. There are different types of noodles and their mode of preparation differ depending on the kind of accompaniment.

Rice

Osaka steamed rice

Rice is served with every Japanese meal. Daily rice served with meals is usually steamed and lightly seasoned. But, rice may be cooked in a variety of ways and served with different spices and adding delicacies to make it more nutritious. Some popular rice dishes are:

Rice bowl – mainly served at breakfast. You can mix with raw eggs and soya sauce or eat it with traditional and distinctively flavored, fermented soybean-based natto or other toppings.

Donburi –this is plain cooked rice served with some food on top. It’s found in high-end restaurants but is also common in Japanese homes and local restaurants. You can serve donburi with stewed beef (gydon), tendon, chicken and egg and katsudon.

Onigiri (rice balls) – is cooked rice wrapped in nori seaweed. You can season it lightly with salt and filling such as pickled japanese plum, dried bonito shavings or salmon. It is inexpensive and usually available in convenience food stores. You can also get it easily in general restaurants.

Curry rice – plain cooked rice with japanese curry sauce. Serve it with additional toppings to increase flavor.

Sushi – refers to any dish that contains sushi rice flavored with seasoned rice vinegar.

Fried rice – it’s also known as chahan. You can add a variety of ingredients in fried rice and the most common ones are eggs, peas, negi (green onions), pork and carrots.

Kayu – a form of porridge, deemed suitable for sick people because it is easily digestible. Make kayu by slowly cooking rice in lots of water. It’s thicker than any other rice porridge and you can garnish it with umeboshi.

Seafood dishes

grilled fish

There are a variety of seafood available in Japan from its lakes, rivers, oceans and seas. The different fish species are prepared in different ways and play a big role in Japanese cuisine. Eaten as a staple in most Japanese households, fish may be prepared boiled, deep fried, steamed or grilled.

The most preferred variety is yakizakana, or grilled fish. Fish that can be prepared this way are saba, sweet fish(ayu), sea bream, aje, salmon and mackerel pike. You may also enjoy seafood raw, as long as it’s fresh and prepared correctly. A special art and not commonly prepared at home, raw fish is frequently enjoyed as a treat in specialty sushi restaurants, in the form of sushi, sashimi, nigiri and chirashi.

Vegetables

Apart from the predominance of seafood in the Japanese diet, vegetables play a large part in their diet. Commonly, these vegetables are simmered in dashi broth (the base for miso soup) , steamed, simply boiled or sautéed. They may be served with soy sauce or mayonnaise.

Edamame at Osaka Japanese Restaurant

Edamame

Beverages

Most Japanese meals are accompanied with green tea. During warmer months, meals are served with mugicha (cold barley tea). Beer and sake are alcoholic drinks that may be served with dinner.

Dessert

Sweet Japanese-style cakes with fruits and cream.

The most common dessert includes rice cakes, sweet beans, sweet rice cakes, frozen treats, and gelatins. Manju, for example, is a confection made of a filling of sweetened red bean paste and a chewy outside skin made of flour, rice powder and buckwheat.

Japanese cuisine is very varied and highly refined over centuries of Japanese culture. In a culture that values simplicity, beauty, good health and moderation, no wonder the Japanese cuisine is one of the world’s healthiest and most admired. Whether you have the opportunity to try native Japanese cuisine in Japan, or visit an authentic Japanese restaurant near you, like the original Osaka Japanese Bistro in Las Vegas, we hope that you will get to know and enjoy a variety of Japanese foods.

 

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Hibachi or Teppan Grill: What’s the Difference?

Osaka teppan yaki grill lobster onion and veggies with open flame

Here at Osaka, after 50 years of hard work to be not only the first but the best Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas, our commitment to excellence means providing an excellent experience for our guests, whether they’re seated at our lively sushi bar, relaxing in a quiet tatami room, or gathered around one of our exciting teppanyaki grills.

Teppan or Hibachi Grill?

Guests are sometimes curious about the difference between teppanyaki and hibachi. The confusion is understandable as both refer to grilling over open flame. “Hibachi-style” is sometimes used in the United States to refer to teppanyaki cooking. At some point in the past, English speakers in North America started to use the word “hibachi” to refer to a small and portable barbecue grill usually made of cast iron that featured an open-grate design. Hibachis typically use charcoal to heat food and are called “shichirin” in Japanese. Some contemporary models of hibachis in the United States are electric and are used to cook Japanese dishes indoors.

Old Japanese charcoal hibachi (charcoal brazier / fire bowl), isolated on white.

Traditionally, the Japanese hibachi is a heating device with an origin that may date all the way back to the Heian period (794–1185 AD). “Hibachi” translates to “fire bowl,” referring to the round or cylindrical shape of this open-top container designed to burn charcoal or wood for heat. The container is made from ceramic or wood and is lined with metal. Hibachis were sometimes also used as portable heaters or built into furniture for ready cooking. Many models are highly decorative.

Teppanyaki-style cooking, on the other hand, uses a solid, flat iron griddle to cook food, most often in a restaurant setting. These grills are typically heated with propane. Diners sit around these large, gas-heated hot plates and enjoy the culinary display of talent and skill as specially trained teppan chefs grill seafood, beef, pork, and chicken dishes to perfection. The flat surface is also well suited for cooking small and finely chopped accompaniments such as rice, vegetables, and eggs.

Teriyaki Cooking

What about teriyaki cooking, another popular Japanese food style? Teriyaki is a method of cooking with a sauce of the same name. Teriyaki translates as “glossy grilled.” During preparation, the meat is coated with this thin, light sauce that’s actually a sweet glaze made from soy sauce, sugar, sake, and mirin — a sweet rice wine. As the meat cooks, the chef continues to brush on more teriyaki sauce to keep the meat evenly coated and give it the very appealing glossy look. The result is a dish with a salty, slightly sweetened, rich taste. Teriyaki cooking is traditionally used in Japan to flavor fatty fish like tuna and eel, but its popularity in the US has meant it is also now also widely enjoyed with chicken, salmon and beef. Originally used only for cooking, a thicker version of teriyaki sauce is now popular on the Western dinner table as a dipping sauce.

Enjoy Osaka Japanese Bistro Teppanyaki Grill and Tempting Teriyaki Dishes

Osaka japanese restaurant teppan yaki chef over flame cooking lobster, steak and other foods

The Osaka teppan grill is a popular spot on any evening at Osaka Japanese Bistro. Our talented teppanyaki chefs grill up the most tempting and tasty freshly grilled dishes from steak and lobster to chicken, salmon and shrimp, along with a mouthwatering selection of appetizers, grilled vegetables, rice and other side dishes. Bring your family and friends and enjoy an exciting authentic teppanyaki grill experience.

Looking for great teriyaki dishes? At Osaka you can also enjoy enjoy chicken, beef, and pork dishes grilled in our own carefully crafted teriyaki sauce. One of our most popular selections is the yakitori: grilled chicken on skewers brushed with aromatic and perfectly seasoned teriyaki sauce. Our popular house combination dinners allow you to combine beef, chicken, or pork teriyaki with our delicious shrimp and vegetable tempura, or opt for the beef and chicken teriyaki combo dinner for twice the enjoyment.

Stop by Osaka Japanese Bistro on W Sahara in Las Vegas, or our restaurant in Henderson for a truly authentic Japanese meal, or give us a call to reserve a teppanyaki grill experience today.

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Making the Best Sushi is All in the Training

Kai's special sushi roll at Osaka Japanese sushi restaurant

As you sit back and enjoy that exquisite sushi roll at Osaka in Las Vegas or your favorite Japanese restaurant in your hometown, have you ever wondered just what it takes to learn and master the delicate art of making great sushi? Turns out that making sushi is a lot more complex and subtle a specialty than you might think. Skilled sushi chefs who prepare truly authentic Japanese sushi go through years of rigorous training, often up to 10 years, to become an itamae, or sushi master.

Becoming an Itamae or Sushi Chef

In Japan, the title of a head sushi chef, or itamae, is an exceptionally prestigious and revered title. It is not loosely awarded and only the best of the best get to have it. The term Itamae translates to “in front of the board”, that is this is the person in charge of all that happens on the board where sushi preparation takes place. They are charged with the responsibility of preparing sushi, ruling the sushi kitchen, and pleasing the guests. An itamae in Japan is highly revered and honored.

Fresh mackeral and hocho japanese knife on sushi master cutting board

Aspiring itamae students must come prepared for grueling training and the challenges of the trade. To begin with, great sushi making demands excellent manual dexterity. Sushi makers must have expert knife skills and be able to achieve absolute precision. And the art of sushi making demands creativity in order to build a distinct and memorable sushi menu and reputation.

Expert knife skills are important to be able to cut fish different types of fish expertly and precisely in order to bring out the best pieces of the fish. In sushi preparation, rice and the careful mixing of sauces and arrangement of other ingredients must also be very exact. Neatness and accuracy are crucial.  Each sushi making session must result in perfect rolls, including carefully prepared sushi rice with exactly the proper balance of vinegar and salt, that present a visually stunning and deliciously perfect piece of sushi for the guest with each bite.

Mackarel fish sliced on sushi cutting board

 

 

With so much to master, the road to attaining the itamae standard is long, tough and requires complete professional devotion of time and skills. Here is the path the future itamae will most commonly take:

Sushi training school and apprenticeship

There are many schools today offering courses on how to train as a sushi chef. However, while these courses may equip students with the concepts and some mechanical skills of sushi preparation, the journey to becoming an expert and revered itamae requires extensive experience and apprenticeship. Programs limited to school training often fail to engrain the intense devotion and discipline, or allow time for learning, making mistakes and trying again, that makes for a truly master sushi chef. In Japan, the real way to become a respected sushi chef is to learn on the job; starting from the very bottom and working your up to the top.

Start with cleaning duties

In Japan, an aspiring itamae must learn the discipline of hard work.  He will start in his first sushi kitchen job with cleaning duties which include washing, scrubbing and general clean-up.  These duties are part of the training and prove the student’s devotion to becoming an itamae. This period may go on for a few months depending on the master, who will assess the young worker’s abilities from afar and know whether he has what it takes to become an itamae.

Graduate to preparing perfect sushi rice

Preparing sushi rice is a special process that requires precision and consistency.  Every master sushi chef has his own unique and secret recipe for the sushi rice preparation. In this step, the student learns how to make the rice, a careful blend of rice, vinegar and salt. The student’s itamae master guides him in each step, under careful supervision, until the student’s work meets the master’s own high standards. After demonstrating the ability to make perfect sushi rice consistently without supervision, the student will be rewarded with a move to the level of wakiita.

Sushi chef apprenticeship as a wakiita

Reaching the level of wakiita is one step closer to becoming a sushi chef. In Japanese, wakiita literally means “close to the chopping board”. However, it’s good to note that some wakiita may work for years and years under their itamae before they can become an itamae on their own right because there is plenty to master.

As a wakiita, the trainee can expect a wide variety of duties in the sushi kitchen, all of which may have to be completed rapidly and with precision. The tasks typically vary depending on just how much his itamae trusts the trainee. The duties may include preparing ingredients, preparing fish, slicing scallions, or even preparing sushi takeaway orders.

Also at this stage, with adequate experience, the junior sushi chef may have the capability of wielding his own sushi knives, referred to as “hocho” in Japanese. Permission to wield a hocho in a professional sushi kitchen is a sign from the itamae that the student is ready to go to the top.

cucumber roll sushi spring green on traditonal green mat

A new itamae is born

After many years of training and apprenticeship, the sushi master student will finally have the skills and experience to be appointed as an itamae. The new master sushi chef will have by now developed his own style for how to handle ingredients and wield the hocho. He will also have become very comfortable interacting with guests and working closely within the sushi preparation team. The world awaits the new itamae who will surely leave his mark on sushi menus somewhere around the globe and be remembered by many happy, satisfied sushi fans.

To see a great sushi chef in action, view the Food Network’s video that shows Osaka’s master sushi chef at work at our Sahara Ave Las Vegas restaurant, or stop by our West Sahara or Henderson locations and watch our master sushi chefs prepare the most authentic Japanese sushi in town.

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All About Sake

Planning to dine on Japanese food in Las Vegas?  Consider making your Japanese meal even more of an authentic and enjoyable experience by adding a glass or two of your preferred sake. Sake is a popular Japanese alcoholic drink made of fermented rice, koji yeast, and water. It occupies a special place in Japanese dining, with its distinguished history and it even offers some health benefits.

Sake: An Ancient and Enjoyable Japanese Tradition

Japanese sake barrels stacked in a Shinto shrine.

In Japan, sake is known as nihonshu (sake is a broader term that means liquor).  Local Japanese may also commonly call it seishu (“clear liquor”) when ordering. Sake is actually a beer and not a wine, since it is a beverage fermented from a grain (rice) and not from fruit. However, it is not carbonated and is closer in taste to wine than beer.

Typically, sake carries an alcohol content of 15% to 20%. Sake has a more delicate flavor when compared to wine which is more acidic. The minerals in Japanese water lend their own distinctive flavor.  These elements help make sake a bit gentler on the stomach than wine or other alcohols, although it still carries a full alcohol hit that you will discover if drinking it on an empty stomach. A health benefit of drinking sake in moderation is its selenium. As soybean dishes also offer a healthy amount of selenium, your thyroid will benefit from a visit to a Japanese table.

Originating in China, sake was first popularized in Japan and has been brewed there for at least 2,000 years.  Brewing methods were perfected in monasteries in the 12th to 15th centuries. After the invention of wooden brewing vats, mass production was now possible outside monasteries, resulting in widespread availability of the brew. There are over a thousand active sake brewers today, providing a wide variety of fine sakes to choose from. Regional varieties, based on unique combinations of rice varieties and types of yeast, have developed their own flavors, characteristics and fan bases.

Sake varieties for every meal or occasion

Among the many choices of sake, some favorite types stand out and are well enjoyed in Japanese restaurants, sushi bars and homes:

Tasty sake in black ceramics or tokkuri on black tableDaiginjo is a fragrant and highly sought-after sake. Served chilled, it has been painstakingly made from rice that’s highly polished. The percentage of the rice grain remaining is stated on the bottle.

Junmai daijinjo is its “pure rice” edition. Junmai is brewed strictly without additives like sugar or distilled alcohol that occur in Honjozo sake. Junmai sake—robust, traditional, often with memorably floral tones—is usually enjoyed at room temperature.

Nama, a sweet sake, is unpasteurized. It must be kept refrigerated. Nigorizake is creamy, sweet, and ricey—you’ll even find tiny rice bits in it.

The nihonshu-do (Sake Meter Value) is the specific gravity of a sake. It tells how much sugar created through fermentation turned from sweetness into alcohol. A high number such as 10 has traditionally indicated dryness in the dry-to-sweet scale.

Sake might remind those who enjoy it of apples or pears, or citrus zest, perhaps melon or cucumber. Some might be more reminiscent of nuts or caramel, and some has a captivating, vanilla-like scent. Other varieties have a mouth-feel like sherry, and, infused with yuzu or berries, can be served in the style of a dessert wine.

Enjoying the Sake Experience

Brought to the table in flasks called tokkuri, sake is paired with, of course, Japanese food or salty snacks. And most sakes go very nicely with Asian food in general.

Interestingly, as with grape wine, the drinking vessel will impact the taste. Connoisseurs may serve fine sake in crystal, to celebrate the aroma, much as wine-tasters do. Drinking from the elegant, saucer-like sakazuki, or perhaps a little, round ochoko, or even a wooden masu can add flair to festive occasions.

The most popular sake in Japan, soshu, is served cold. In contrast, junshu, a richer brew, can be enjoyed cold or warm. The pricey, aromatic jukushu is served at room temperature.

No matter how it’s served, when it comes, pour it out as an offering to others, and let others pour for you. After your dinner partner pours for you, take a sip before placing your sake back on the table.

As we’ve already noted, many fine sakes are best when chilled. Others might be perfectly delightful when gently warmed in a water bath. Different temperatures draw out different characteristics. Our experienced restaurant staff will be able to describe the nuances in temperatures.

Kamisama sushi roll and a glass of sake

Enjoy your sake with food like your favorite sushi rolls, or with a complete meal or a teppanyaki grill experience. Drink it with a delicious Osaka dessert, or enjoy it as a before or after dinner drink. However and wherever you enjoy sake, you will find it a satisfying and enriching experience. And when dining with us, please don’t hesitate to ask your server for recommendations for a fine sake to accompany your meal at Osaka Japanese Bistro.