Even though there is a fairly large Japanese community in Amsterdam, it is hard to come by good sake. Sure, people know about sake and the Japanese restaurants have it on the menu. But there is never any choice – you either have the house sake or no sake. And few shops carry sake and the ones that do only have a single option, the rather average Gekkeikan.
I wish we had a more vibrant sake culture like in New York where Asian restaurants have a sake list much like the customary wine list. And wine stores frequently have an entire aisle of sake, kept cool in a large fridge and with detailed descriptions for you to choose and then take to one of the many bring your own bottle restaurants.
There is hope though and I recently discovered two shops and one restaurant with at least somewhat of a sake selection!
Meidi Ya on Beethovenstraat, Amsterdam outpost of the Japanese retailer with the same name, has the most impressive selection and is also able to provide good advice. Meidi Ya has more than 20 types of sake on offer, complete with an explanatory chart rating the available sake by their classification and dryness. We tried a medium dry Yukidoke Ginjou (Japanese), which was quite good and fairly priced at € 20,=. We liked its smoothness and subtle flavor and will try for a similar but dryer sake next time.
Then there is Roppongi on new hip neighborhood IJburg. Roppongi is a self-proclaimed Japanese lifestyle store that among other things sells sushi and sake. They even have a web shop where you can order sake online for Amsterdam delivery. We tried their Kizan (Japanese), a nama (unpasteurized) Junmai (pure) sake from the Nagano prefecture. We didn’t like it as much as the Yukidoke and thought it was expensive at € 27,50.
The restaurant that lets you pick your preferred sake is Kaiko, a very traditional Japanese restaurant in the Rivierenbuurt that is popular with the Japanese business crowd and has four or five kinds available. It seems that sake importer Yoigokochi is facilitating some of the improved availability.
The picture above shows the two sake bottles described above – the blue color is pure coincidental… I hope sake catches on a lot more in Amsterdam!