For your sake

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2007, 12:00am

Japanese cuisine has long been popular in Hong Kong but while most local diners have no problem ordering sashimi, sushi, tempura or udon, they are often stumped when it comes to selecting an accompanying sake. To the rescue is the prosaically named The Sake Shop in Hung Hom.

'Owner Kiyama Manabu was disappointed to find most restaurants don't carry a good selection of sake and are unable to give decent recommendations,' says Chak Suk-mui, a saleswoman at the shop.

The store, which is an extension of Manabu's wholesale sake business, carries more than 150 varieties. 'We've seen an increase in the demand for sake,' says Chak. 'The choice in supermarkets is limited so our owner decided to open a retail branch. It's the first of its kind in Hong Kong.'

Most of the sakes are imported from Niigata, a prefecture in northwest Japan. The area, home to the majority of sake breweries, is known for its top-quality rice and plentiful spring water, both of which are essential for good sake.

'Sake from Niigata is as highly appreciated as red wine from Bordeaux. It's fruity, mild and smooth,' says Chak, who is happy to offer a few tips. 'The Japanese like to drink genshu in the winter because it has a strong, rich flavour. In the summer, the Japanese prefer namazake because it hasn't been pasteurised and the taste changes in the bottle. It's best served cold.'

The shop also sells shochu (distilled alcohol; sake is fermented), yogurt sake (which tastes like Yakult) and sparkling sake. Prices range from HK$160 for a basic 720ml bottle to more than HK$1,800 for a seasonal one (for summer, winter, etc). Delivery is free with purchases of three bottles or more.

The Sake Shop is at room D2, 12/F, Phase II Hang Fung Industrial Building, 2G Hok Yuen Street, Hung Hom, tel: 2127 4208;