At the new Tokyo sake bar, Kurand Sake Market, it’s one price tastes all.
Guests can sample approximately a hundred sakes from across Japan for a set fee. The novel approach allows Kurand to showcase a wide variety of sake styles and producers—important, says owner Yasuro Ogiwara, because in Japan, “people typically only purchase or drink well-known brands.”
Try and Try Again
For Ogiwara, the best way for guests to find the style of sake they like is through trial and error. So Kurand, open since March 2015, doesn’t cap consumption at an hour or two limit. Instead, Kurand allows guests to taste as long as they want and to B.Y.O.F. (bring their own food). “We want our clients to enjoy sake with their favorite foods, with no rules or restrictions,” says Ogiwara. That even means pizza and cheese sometimes.
The space has room for 50 to 60 guests, standing room only. Reservations are taken for two thirds of the guests, and the rest is reserved for walk-ins. The system is self-serve: Grab a glass and drink.
He adds that clients are strongly encouraged “to drink water in between rounds of sake. This tradition is called Yawaragi-mizu. “Yawaragi” means easing and relieving, and “mizu” stands for water. The bar even encourages guests to toast with water once an hour.
It’s All in the Serving
Many sake bars encourage guests to choose their shape and type of glasses. Kurand is no exception. “Sake is a fascinating liquor because the taste changes depending on the vessel used to drink it,” notes Ogiwara. Sakes with fruity fragrances shine best in the trumpet-shaped glasses, in which the mouth is wide and spread open. Wine glasses are great for this kind of sake, too. For sakes with subtler aroma yet deeper flavor, shot glasses are recommended.
The temperature at which sake is served also can create complex changes in its fragrance and flavor, so Kurand features a sake-warming machine. Many of the sakes are also unusual, regional and seasonally brewed. Nama Sake is an unpasteurizedsake, often referred to as raw and produced seasonally. It’s the flagship drink of Kurand.
Have Sake, Will Travel
Kurand’s clientele has mostly been locals or people visiting Tokyo from neighboring areas on business. Ogiwara adds that so far the bar has barely hosted any foreigners. Any intrepid sake fan should consider a Kurand detour. “We would love to welcome them!”
Tokyo, Toshima 西池袋3丁目27−3 S&Kビル4F
Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about drinks for two decades. She is the principal of the San Francisco–based Liza the Wine Chick consulting firm and regularly contributes to publications such as Wine Business Monthly, DrinkUpNY and the SOMM Journal.