Pairing sake with food

Think sake is reserved for sushi? Think again.

It's surprisingly versatile and works well across menus from all corners of the globe. Steak, chocolate or cheese boards, sake offers a great way to make your menu stand out from the crowd. We visited Yuu Kitchen in London to find out how they serve and match sake with food.

Yuu is the brainchild of Icebar London’s Stephen Low and Nobu’s Jon de Villa, serving up an array of South East Asian-inspired food. Bar manager Keira Page says, “I first experienced sake when I began managing a Japanese restaurant in Sydney. I had never worked with Japanese products before, let alone tasted sake. I was most surprised at how many steps are involved in the sake-making process, and how much dedication and pride the brewers take in the product.

“Since including sake on our menu at Yuu Kitchen, we have been very surprised at how many of our customers are curious about tasting it. Most of them have never tasted sake before, which is why our sake flight is perfect: three glasses of different styles.”

When pairing sake with food, Keira explains, “Sake can be very delicate, so it will never overshadow the food. Sticking to the basics is key – we pair more oily dishes, such as our raw fish Hawaiian-themed Poke, with a drier sake. Spicy dishes, such as our spicy chicken wings, go best with a more fruity or aged sake with natural acidity.”

And what about dessert? “I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so I like the Kishinamien Umeshu (plum liqueur) or Earl Grey Tea Sake Liqueur,” she says. “The Atago no Matsu ‘Waiting Love’ sake is also great with dessert – it’s fruity, sweet and lightly sparkled.”

Four sake and food pairing ideas from Yuu Kitchen:

Hawaiian-themed Poke + Niizawa Hakurakusei Junmai Ginjo

Yellow fish, salmon, octopus and cobia drenched in a sesame and citrus dressing with soft avocado and corn: these subtle, fresh and spicy flavours match perfectly with the delicate Junmai Ginjo. The freshness of this sake cuts through the spice and complements the delicate fish, while its creamy texture is enhanced by the avocado.

Australian sirloin steak with homemade chilli dressing + Akita Takashimizu Honjozo

This fuller-bodied sake pairs well with the aged sirloin steak and its lightly-spicy dipping sauce. More of a wine-like sake, the Honjozo has lovely savoury and umami characteristics that complement the meat, rounding the dish off perfectly.

Chocolate spring rolls + Niizawa Earl Grey Tea Sake Liqueur

Sweet ganache chocolate spring rolls with raspberry sorbet garnished with coconut, nuts and a shiso leaf, paired with the luxurious Earl Grey Tea Sake Liqueur – this is a dessert-lover’s dream. The two match each other’s sweetness, the sake adding a freshness to the sweet chocolate and acting as a palate cleanser alongside the sorbet.

Download our educational sake booklet to discover more from our range

Jess cut her teeth in the drinks industry throwing muddlers around behind the bar at Be At One. After a brief stint as an education journalist she found her way back to booze in the rather more sophisticated arena of wine, and was shown the ropes by the very best wine educators at Bibendum.

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