After our first day of class of the Saké Professional Course, many of the attendees met at Ozumo restaurant, for food, Saké and fun. I have dined there before, and had a terrific meal, both food and drink. So I was excited to return, especially as I would be mingling with other Saké lovers.
We dined together in the lounge area, which is fairly large, and the restaurant was nice enough to offer us a discount on food, as well as to provide a very generous discount on some of their Saké. But my first drink was actually not Saké, but a Awamori, a liquor that I had not previously tasted. Awamori is a distilled liquor made from rice, and produced only on the island of Okinawa.
I tried the Ryukyu Ohcho, on the rocks, and found it to have a more unique taste, with a strong alcohol taste like a vodka. There was a certain earthiness to the taste and I was a bit torn about the flavor. It was ok, though did not impress me, and I would have to taste other Awamoris before being able to determine whether I liked that spirit or not. But it certainly was worthwhile trying it for the first time. Be adventurous in your drinking!
As for the Saké, there was plenty to savor. They carry a fairly good-sized list, with a diverse selection. Plus, they have several samplers, where you can try three different brews. I began with a bottle of Taiheizan Tenko Kimoto Daiginjo, from Akita, which thoroughly impressed and pleased me. It was silky smooth, with a complex blend of flavors, including some apple and pear, and a mild earthy undertone. It was so good, that I later bought a bottle to take home with me.
The Kubota Sampler included the Kubota Senju Tokubetsu Honjozo, Kubota Manju Junmai Daiginjo, and Kubota Hekiju Junmai Daiginjo. I enjoyed all three of these though my top choice was the Manju. The Shiboritate Sampler included Otokoyama Yukishibare, Gokyo Arabarshiri, and Urakasumi Shiboritate. The Gokyo was just ok, and I much preferred the other two. These all had a brash freshness about them and were not as subtle or complex as the Kubota.
The food menu at Ozumo is extensive, everything from sushi to robata, and many of the ingredients are local, organic and/or natural. I should note that Ozumo also has concerns about sustainability, and though not all of their seafood is 100% sustainable, they are doing much more than other sushi restaurants.
I found their Nigiri to be excellent, and better priced than other high-end Japanese restaurants. Besides their usual menu, they had some specials, including kinmedai, golden eye snapper, and beni tori, salmon belly from Loch Duarte salmon. Their Tempura, Black Tiger Prawns, was also quite good, an excellent light and crispy tempura batter covering quite large prawns. The Miso Soup was intriguing and flavorful, a blend of Koji, Red Miso, Tofu and Wakame Seaweed.
The Robata Yasai and Skewers also were very pleasing. The Satsuma Imo, sweet potato with shoyu butter, and the Tomorokoshi, yellow corn kakiage, were both delicious and bursting with fresh, clean flavors. The Beef Skewer and Tsukune Skewer, a chicken sausage, were like BBQ meats taken to the next level. Moist, tender and quite tasty.
I am sure the camaraderie of my classmates enhanced my experience about Ozumo, but my prior visit here had been just as compelling. Service was excellent on both visits and I feel it is reasonably priced for the quality and quantity you receive. Add to that their extensive Saké list, and you have a recipe for great gustatory pleasure. If you are in San Francisco, I definitely recommend a visit here.
161 Steuart Street
San Francisco, CA