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Sake Sommelier

A Decade of Spreading The Love For Sake — Yuki Mori

In the early 90s, Decibel in the East Village was one of the first places to introduce sake to New Yorkers. The dark, dungeon-like space located below street level with hardly a sign out front can be a challenge to find, but every aspect, including their eclectic taste in music is an added richness to the whole sake experience here. Today, more than a decade later since opening its doors, this small, dingy, gem of a place stacked with sake from all over Japan is still where all levels of sake drinkers in New York flock to. Yuki Mori is the new manager here that has now taken on the task of spreading the love for sake to westerners, and with great enthusiasm.

What made you want to pursue the field of sake?
In college I majored in Japanese Folkloristics, which is like anthropology with a concentration on Japanese culture. So I studied Japanese traditional festivals, and the stuff the average Japanese people do. But it wasn’t until I came here to work three years ago that I decided to go into the field of sake. After working here, and seeing non-Japanese people react to sake, I realized I wanted to pursue this field because I want the people outside of Japan to know the Japanese culture, and I thought sake could be a great gateway towards that. If people enjoyed sake, they would be more likely to learn other things about Japan. Also sake is a very important part of the culture, too. Most of the customers here are non-Japanese, so it’s a great opportunity for me to introduce people to the Japanese culture.

What is your personal favorite these days?
My taste is always changing, so I have many favorites, but one of those favorites is Kansansui from Fukuoka. The first time I had it, the softness of the flavor really struck me. It’s not a strong impact, but the subtleness of it is really nice. I think it would go well with sashimi. My current favorite is Ugo no Tsuki. It’s a ginjo from Hiroshima. It’s very fruity but smooth, and clean at the same time. I think it would be good with ohitashi (marinated spinach).

If a sake beginner came to you and said they want to learn about sake, what would your suggestion be?
I’d tell them to find a sake that they really like. Or it doesn’t even have to be a sake that they like, but just to pick one. Then start comparing other sakes against it. Gradually, they’ll start understanding their own taste. I started with Kansansui.

Also, the first thing that I was taught in the sake class for being a licensed sake advisor is to understand that sake can be dangerous. They emphasized on how to drink it safely, because if you consume too much of alcohol, it can have terrible consequences.

Are there any general rules when it comes to pairing sake with food?
The general rule of thumb is, rich taste with rich tasting sake. But I think sake generally goes with everything. I’ve had pizza with sake, and it was pretty good. I personally think sake goes well with cheese.

How is it different from wine?
It’s the acidity of wine that makes it tricky to pair with food, but with sake, you don’t have that. There’s really no limits.

What is the trend that you see in your bar? What is your hope?
I think ginjo is popular these days because it’s fruity, and many people who are interested in sake compare it with wine. The East Village has changed a lot. Before, people would come in and ask for the cheapest sake, or the house sake. Now people ask for a specific taste, like dry ones, or fruity ones because their knowledge of alcohol is more sophisticated. We currently have 80 sakes, 18 shochu, and some awamori (alcohol from Okinawa). I want to expand it to at least 100 sakes in the near future.

240 E. 9th St. (bet. 2nd & 3rd Aves.),
New York, NY 10003
TEL: 212-979-2733