Rice Dreams

Local restaurants add custom-made sake to their lists

There are approximately 1,800 sake breweries in Japan, but only a small percentage of their output is available stateside. Considering how many Japanese restaurants we have in L.A., that's a shame.

To help open up the premium sake universe–and to pair perfectly with their menus–several L.A. restaurants are having house blends brewed exclusively for them. Aroma and a subtle rice essence are the foundations of sake's flavor profile, and Katana's full-bodied Katana-Aizu Junmai Ginjo ($82 a bottle) and its earthy Junmai Roku ($12 a glass) are perfect examples. Both are brewed traditionally at the 160-year-old Suehiro Brewing Company in Fukushima.

Chef Katsuya Uechi visits the Sasaichi Brewery in Japan several times a year to oversee Katsuya's house sake ($26 a carafe). The Sasaichi Junmai produced from Mt. Fuji's pure alpine waters is slightly floral and neither too dry nor too sweet. At the newly opened Katsuya at L.A. Live, match the sake with mini Kobe beef sliders ($7 at happy hour).

A certified master of sake, chef Toshi Sugiura at Bar Hayama (pictured) partners with Akita-based Japanese brewer Kimura to bottle his ginjo-grade house sake, Hayama No Sake ($50 a bottle). The sake is dry and smooth, "with much rice flavor," says Sugiura, and pairs well with tuna sashimi.