Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tasting Counter: Putting Sake On The Menu

It can be paired with appetizers, entrees and dessert. It works well with a myriad of cuisines from Italian to French, Mexican to Spanish. It is an excellent accompaniment to a diverse selection of foods, from burgers to pizza, seafood to poultry, mushrooms to cheese. Its versatility is without question yet few restaurants, except for Asian spots, take advantage.

That needs to change.

I'm talking about Sake, that wondrous Japanese alcohol made from rice, which is unfortunately neglected by most non-Asian restaurants. I've previously written about how well Sake pairs with food, in articles such as The Science Of Sake & Food Pairings, Pairing Cheese & Sake, and Sake For Thanksgiving. I've presided at Sake dinners, pairing it with Italian cuisine at Prezza and French cuisine at AKA Bistro. Despite these inroads, Sake is still scarce on the menus of non-Asian restaurants in the Boston area. You're extremely lucky if you can even find a single Sake on such menus.

That has begun to change. 

Last December, in my year-end Favorite Restaurants post, I noted that my Most Anticipated Restaurant Opening was the Tasting Counter, owned by Chef Peter Ungár. As I said then, Chef Ungár "is a highly skilled chef, who I believe is one of the best in this area, and has remained beneath the radar for many diners in the Boston area." The Tasting Counter will be opening soon, offering a twelve course tasting menu, with ten drink pairings. I've seen the initial menu and it should be an exceptional meal.

In addition, the Tasting Counter will also have the largest Sake menu of any non-Asian restaurant in the Boston area! That is quite an accomplishment, one showing a passion for Sake and confidence in its ability to pair well with a variety of dishes. With the tasting menu, you will have the option of pairing it with 10 different Sakes, from Sparkling Sake to Nigori, Honjozo to Junmai. The Sake list will change over time, offering new experiences with the various dishes.

When is the last time you tasted ten different Sakes? When is the last time you drank Sake with a non-Asian meal? Many people have probably never had either of those two  experiences so the Tasting Counter is offering something unique. At the Tasting Counter, you can opt for a wine or beer pairing, but you also can choose to expand your horizons with a Sake pairing.  

Recently, Chef Ungár retained my services to create the Sake program for his new restaurant, and we worked together to put together an initial list of 10 Sakes, obtained from Classic Wine Imports and Ruby Wines..The Sakes are generally from small, artisan breweries, and include Sakes which may be organic, made from heirloom rice, use traditional production methods, and more. The list is diverse, showcasing a wide range of Sake types and styles. It will be an excellent introduction to Sake for any diner, and the pairings will expand your palate and mind.

The change needs to continue.

We need more non-Asian restaurants to place Sake on their menus. They need to understand that Sake can pair well with any cuisine, and it may even pair better than wine with different foods. Sake is still a niche beverage and to help it become more mainstream, it needs to be available at more non-Asian restaurants. Most consumers think Sake is only for Asian food, but that misconception needs to change and restaurants can help destroy this myth by adding Sake to their menus. Let's hope that the Tasting Counter is but the first of many restaurants to take this great leap forward by showcasing Sake.

If your restaurant is interested in adding a Sake program, feel free to contact me and I can assist you with that endeavor.

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