Saturday, May 1, 2010

Echizenya, Kiyosumi Shirakawa

Heavens, how many times have I bemoaned the lack of availability of 720ml bottles of really excellent sake? Yes, far too many times (internally if not in writing or verbally). Well, look no further. It turns out the alley-like space squeezed in next to a Sankus a few blocks from my apartment has an astounding selection of really excellent nihonshu from all over.

By their signage shall ye know them. You know why I didn't notice this place for the first 5 years that I lived near it? Well, in large part because I wasn't very interested in sake, but also because I couldn't read the banner. Now that I've gotten into it, a huge 'Dassai' banner is like a red flag to a fool. Or something.

It is not a big place. In fact, this is the whole store. And yet, it is easily, without doubt, the best selection of nihonshu I've ever been in the same room with (retail, I mean). And there's more in the special -4 Celsius fridges in their warehouse (or their basement, I wasn't clear).

They're super-serious about sake here, keeping it in those basement fridges to age, and telling you all about what came in most recently, what they've been aging for a while, what year things were brewed, etc. It's a cool place. As you'd expect, the bald, earring-ed master was initially a little standoffish, as in "What the hell are you doing here?" but we had a good ol' chat about the recent popularity of Dassai, the awesomeness of living in Fukagawa and going to the festival in August, and the meaning of life. On subsequent visits I've chatted with the other staff; in particular I was talking to the woman about going somewhere, and she said "Oooh, isn't that really far?" When I said no, it's just 10 or 15 minutes by train, she said "Ah. Well, I never get on the train. We just stay in Fukagawa!"

When they say "Dassai" on the banner outside, they aren't kidding.  This is a whole shelf of different versions, including 'limited production fresh sake that you can't get in Tokyo except here' and most of them are also available in 720's!  Hidden on the bottom is a big selection from Shichida, a brand I haven't had before (but will soon since I bought a bottle [update: oooooog, my head]) that's from one of my favorite sake prefectures, Saga.

Just some more awesomeness. If you blow this up you'll see Fukuiwai that I had at Ichi, Yuho that we had at Kawashima, Azakura that I haven't had but whose kanji I love and thus plan to try soon [update: oooooog, my head], and a bunch of other seriously high-quality stuff. Laifuku, Kakurei, Senkin (LOTS of Senkin), Kaiun, Hassen.

Let me just rehash this one more time - sake is awesome because even the very best sake is dead cheap. These top-quality brands, carefully kept, are generally Y1500 or less per 720ml bottle.

Fun stuff!

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